Talmud Tips

For the week ending 24 July 2021 / 15 Av 5781

Vaetchanan: Succah 6 - 12

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
Library Library Library

Seven Special Fruits of Israel

“A Land of olive oil…” (Devarim 8:8) — This teaches that the size of an olive is the standard measure for all halachic matters.”

In the Torah’s description of Eretz Yisrael being a “good Land,” the verse states, “ALand of wheat and barley, vines and figs and pomegranates, a Land of olive oil and honey (from date or fig trees).” The gemara discusses the significance of these seven species with regards to their sizes and the halachic implications of these sizes. At first, the gemara retracts the assertion that all of the halachic measures are based on the size of an olive (k’zayit), instead saying that only the majority of halachic sizes are based on the olive, but not all.

Eventually the gemara concludes that we do not actually know the various halachic measures from this verse, but rather they are what is known as “halacha l’Moshe m’Sinai” — halacha that was taught orally to Moshe Rabbeinu at Mount Sinai, but not learned from any Torah verse. The verse, originally thought to be the Torah source, is in reality an asmachta — a support and hint to the halacha, without the verse being the actual Torah source.

What is special about these seven species that delegates their status as the fruits with which the Land of Israel is blessed and praised for producing? In fact, their special nature is reflected in the fact that the Torah mitzvah of Bikkurim (first fruits) applies specifically to them.

The Torah commentaries, such as Abarbanel, say that these fruits uniquely provide all necessary nutrition for sustenance. In addition, Eretz Ysrael is the only place these diverse species grow naturally in close proximity. In a kabbalistic sense, each of these fruits corresponds to one of the seven Divine attributes (known as the sefirot). For example, wheat corresponds to Divine Kindness, and grapes to harmony. The human soul possesses all seven of these sefirot, and therefore these seven fruits have the potential to be “soul food” last line: to nourish us and help us align ourselves with the way of Hashem in every aspect of our lives.

  • Succah 6a

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