Torah Tidbits

16 April 2014 / 16 Nisan 5774
Issue 1030
Shabbat Parshat B'Shalach
January 24, 2013

Portion of the Portion

Planting Trees and Planting Ourselves

At the end of SHIRAT HAYAM, the song sung by Israel in thanks to Hashem after crossing the Reed Sea, Moshe prays, T’VI-EIMO V’TITA-EIMO B’HAR NACHALA- T’CHA (15:17). Moshe requests that not only will the nation be brought T’VI-EIMO to Israel but also TITA-EIMO - planted there. We should be planted in the land like trees with strong roots.
This Shabbat is TU BiShvat, referred to as “the birthday” of the trees. Trees play an important part in our connection to the land. There is even a mitzva that when we come to the land we should plant trees - KI TAVO-U EL HAARETZ UNTATEM (Vayikra 19:23). The Tanhuma explains that even if we arrive in the land of Israel and it is filled with everything we need, we shouldn’t just sit back and relax and indulge ourselves - we should go out and plant more trees.
But what is so important about planting trees? Rav Chaim Drukman explains with a halacha brought in the Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat). There it relates the case when the river overflowed (like we saw last week) and someone’s field was filled with too much water, endangering his olive trees. The man transplanted the trees in a friends field to protect them. After everything dried up he wanted his trees back. The halacha says that he may ask for the value of his trees back - but in the land of Israel he may not take back the original trees. Why not? What if they have sentimental value - trees that his great-grandfather planted?
The Halacha explains - MISHUM YISHUV HARETZ - to inhabit the land. If he uproots the trees from the field they are in now - probably the owner will not plant new trees there because he never had trees there in the first place. And if we don’t let the owner of the trees take them back he will surely plant new trees in his field because he had had trees. So this way we gain more trees in the land of Israel.
This YISHUV HAARETZ - sitting in the land doesn’t mean just to sit - but as the Ramban explains on the verse V’HORASHTEM ET HAARETZ VISHAVTEM BAH (Bamidbar 33:53), populating, building, and improving the land. Planting trees is definitely part of that.
Planting trees in the land of Israel is so important that Rav Shimon bar Yochai says that if you are on the way to plant a tree and you see the Moshiach coming - first you should plant the tree - then go to greet the Moshiach. 
Planting trees is one of our ways to be G-d-like and walk in the path of Hashem. The first thing that Hashem did was VAYITA HASHEM ELOKIM GAN B’EIDEN, to plant the garden of Eden.
There is a story told about Rav Kook - when he participated in a tree planting in Magdiel, that he was filled with such spiritual emotion as when he recited the Sh’ma. He was asked why and he replied - this is an opportunity to be like Hashem.
The more we strengthen the land and plant it, the more we can follow in the ways of Hashem and be partners in our history. And may the prayer of Moshe that we should be planted forever in our land, as we ourselves say in our Musaf prayer - SHETAALEINU B’SIMCHA L’ARZEI- NU V’TITA-EINU BIGVULEINU, hold true.
In honor of TU BiShvat, here is a simple salad recipe with olives - a fruit from one of the special trees of Israel - definitely appropriate to serve on TU BiShvat. I tied this recipe from Susie Fishbein’s new cookbook Koshe By Design Cooking Coach this past Shabbat and though I don’t really like fennel, I found it yummy - and so did my guests.

CHICK PEA, FENNEL & OLIVE SALAD
1 small bulb fennel (stalks & feathery frond discarded)
1 can chick peas (rinsed and drained)
1 cup pitted olives,
1 coarsely chopped red onion, thinly sliced
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
3 Tbsp olive oil
tsp fine sea salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
leaves from 5 stems fresh parsley, (about cup loosely packed)
4 leaves fresh mint, chopped

Use a vegetable peeler to shave off the outer layer of the fennel. Cut bulb into quarters, and then use a mandolin to cut into paper-thin slices against the grain. Place in large bowl. Add the chick peas, olives and onion. Toss with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Sprinkle in the parsley and mint. Transfer to serving bowl.
In her cookbook Susie has a very practical Playbook section where she has suggestions how to use the leftovers of selected recipes from her cookbook. For the leftovers of this salad (if there are any), she recommends pulsing it in a food processor until it becomes smooth, but not runny. Then to serve it on sourdough or Italian bread slices.

In This Issue of Torah Tidbits

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