In the midst of the Holiness Code, the section of the Torah that we read this Shabbat with our double portion of Aharei-Mot/Kedoshim, we find an agricultural law that seems contrary to a farmer’s instincts. “When you enter the land and plant any tree for food, you shall regard its fruit as forbidden. Three years it shall be forbidden for you, not to be eaten” (Leviticus 19:23). If the purpose of planting the tree was for food, what good does it do the planter for the food to be forbidden for so long?
What’s more, the term denoting forbiddenness is ‘arelim, a word that has a very different meaning in a better-known context. An ‘orlah is a foreskin, and an ‘arel usually refers to an uncircumcised male. What, then, is the Torah teaching us?
To make sense of the farming category of ‘orlah, it would help to understand the ultimate meaning of ritual circumcision. On Shabbat morning, we’ll talk about both laws, and I’ll make an attempt to talk about our recent trip to Israel in ways that expand on the holiness of this passage.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,