Tu Bishvat-Trees & Humans Part Three
Transcribed by Michael Beller: The Beit haMikdash is referred to as a forest, based on a verse. The Gemara of Yoma asks, “Why is the Beit haMikdash referred to as a forest, as it says in a verse from Kings, this is to tell you just as when you plant trees it produces fruit, so too, in the Beit haMikdash, trees would grow with fruit of gold and the wind would blow and the gold would fall and there would be money for everyone.”
Obviously, we don’t take this literally, but it is trying to tell you something about the Beit haMikdash. There is another verse, from the Shabbat night prayers, ”the tzaaddik will sprout like a date palm planted in the house of God.” So even the Beit Hamikdash is referred to as a forest.
So to say that there’s no real connection between human beings and trees, the land and trees, and the Beit haMikdash and trees, in the eyes of the sages would be ridiculous, and certainly it means that trees must represent much more than just beautiful things that grow delicious fruit and provide us with fruit.
This is taken so literally that there is a law that you cannot plant trees in the Beit haMikdash because you would be implying that it does not have its own trees.
The Gemara on Pesachim says, “anyone that chops down fruit bearing trees will never see any blessing in anything that he does forever”. The Gemara on Sukkah says, “someone who chops down young trees, before they’ve had the chance to go through their natural life, damages the constellations”. This is said only of trees so we see that trees are the highest form of plant life, and human beings are considered the highest form of animal life.
In fact human beings are described as having come from the ground, that’s why the first human being is called Adam, because he comes from the Adama.
There is a significant difference between men and trees, man is a hybrid between two worlds, and man can make a choice to distance himself from the Adama, trees, on the other hand, whatever they do is a direct expression of the Adama. There is only one environmental law in halacha, don’t cut trees, so our whole relationship to the environment is expressed, in halacha, in terms of trees.
Cutting ourselves off from the world is also expressed in terms of trees. For example the Gemara on Bava Kama, Rebbi Chanina says, “The only reason my son, Shivchat, died early is because he cut down a fruit bearing tree before its time, so he deserved to die”.
When we say that man comes from Adama or when we say that the esrog represents a certain kind of human being, what we are actually saying is that the same power of the earth that produced the esrog is the power that produces Tzadikkim in this world, the earth actually produces people. As the Midrash Rabbah says, “See what God has done: at the time God created the primal human being, He took him and pointed out all the different trees in the garden of Eden and He said to Adam, “See what I have done, how beautiful they are, and everything I created I created for you.”
So how is it that God shows man the world? Through all the trees in the Garden of Eden.
Where do we get eternal life? Through a tree, the Tree of Life, and the Tree of Life in our time is Torah.