Saying “Thank You” like you Mean It: Hakaras Hatov
Taste of Parasha
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev arrived at a small town one evening without a place to rest. Being that he was not known to the people of this town, no one welcomed him to stay overnight in their home. Having nowhere else to turn, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak approached a small, run down home at the edge of town and asked if he could stay there over night. The poverty stricken man gladly welcomed R’ Levi Yitzchak into his home and graciously shared all of his meager belongings. Many years later, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak found himself in need of lodging in that same town. In stark contrast to his previous visit, upon entering into the town on this visit he was recognized as being the great scholar and leader of the town of Berditchev. Everyone vied for the opportunity to have Rabbi Levi Yitzchak spend the night in their home. Much to their surprise, the great Rabbi responded, “I owe a debt of gratitude to the simple man at the edge of town who took me in many years ago. Therefore, it is in his home that I will stay.” The attribute of gratitude is one of the pillars of human society. Without it, we would be insensitive individuals; with it, we establish satisfying relationships with others. It was this attribute that prevented Moshe Rabbeinu from striking the river and the earth that had protected him in his youth.
Taste of Talmud
According to the opinion of Bais Shammai, the first of Shevat is the beginning of the year for trees. Bais Hillel is of the opinion that the new year for trees begins on the fifteenth of Shevat (Rosh Hashana 2a). This dispute has ramifications with regard to the law governing the fruit produced by a fruit bearing tree in its first three years, halachicaly termed “Orla”. “Orla”, literally translated means covered up. In regards to fruit trees, the Torah writes, “For three years the fruit of the tree shall be Orla to you, it shall not be eaten (Leviticus 19:33).” The Ramban lists two different ideas to help us understand the significance of this law. Firstly, the produce of a young tree is not healthy. Secondly, the Torah gives us a number of commandments which train us to have good attributes. One of the most important and basic of all positive attributes is the attribute of gratitude. To this end, G-d commanded us not to partake of the fruit of a new tree until we first use its fruit to serve him. In as much as G-d wants us to learn to be grateful, He also teaches us that when we show our gratitude it should not be with low quality items. Therefore, since the produce of a young tree is not tasty, it is unfit to be used to show our gratitude to the Almighty. So, for the first three years of a tree, its fruit are not eaten (Orla). On the fourth year, when it first becomes worthy for use in the service of G-d, the produce is brought to Yerushalayim and is used to serve G-d in His holy city (Neta Revai). In this way, we are trained in the significance and proper expression of the attribute of gratitude
Taste of Halacha
How do we calculate the age of a tree? At which point are its fruit permitted for consumption? The Talmud (Rosh Hashana 9a) teaches us that a tree is deemed to have been alive for a calendar year as long as it was planted thirty days before Rosh Hashana of that year. Its fruit, however, are deemed to be Orla, and therefore prohibited until after Tu’ B’Shevat (the fifteenth of the month of Shevat) passes three times; in accordance with the opinion of Bais Hillel.
The question arises: If a tree were planted well before Rosh Hashana, does the owner still have to wait until after Tu’ B’Shevat on the third year to partake of this tree or is he allowed to partake of it right after Rosh Hashana? The Rambam is of the opinion that, in this case, he does not have to wait until after Tu’ B’Shevat, where-as the Ran is of the opinion that, even in this scenario, the fruits are prohibited until after the new year for the trees has passed, Tu’ B’Shevat (YOD 294:5).