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What Is So Special About the 7 Species of Fruit With Which Israel Was Blessed?

What Is So Special About the 7 Species of Fruit With Which Israel Was Blessed?

The Significance of the Shiv'at Haminim

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In describing the extraordinary beauty and uniqueness of the Land of Israel, Scripture tells us, “For the L‑rd your G‑d is bringing you to a good land, a land with brooks of water . . . a land of wheat and barley, [grape] vines and figs and pomegranates, a land of oil-producing olives and honey [from dates] . . .”1

This isn’t just a flowery verse. These seven species are specifically connected to the Land of Israel, and in fact there is a mitzvah to bring the first of these fruits to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. (For more on this special mitzvah, see All About Bikkurim.) And there is a special after-blessing for when one snacks on one of these fruits.2

Israel produces many other fruits (Jaffa oranges, anyone?). What is so significant about these seven species?

The commentaries offer several explanations. On a basic level, these fruits are unique in that they provide the necessary nutrients for sustenance.3 Some commentaries add that the Land of Israel is the only place where all these very diverse species naturally grow in close proximity.4

The Seven Attributes

The Kabbalists explain that there is a much deeper significance to these fruits. Each corresponds to one of the seven sefirot (Divine emotive attributes):5

  • Wheat: Chesed—Kindness
  • Barley: Gevurah—Severity
  • Grapes: Tiferet—Harmony
  • Figs: Netzach—Perseverance
  • Pomegranates: Hod—Humility
  • Olives: Yesod—Foundation
  • Dates: MalchutRoyalty

Every soul possesses all seven of these sefirot. But for each person, one of these traits is most dominant, shaping the individual soul’s unique path to G‑d. Thus, these seven fruits correspond to our serving G‑d with our personal attributes, as well as with all seven general modes of Divine service.

For more on how each fruit corresponds to a specific attribute, see The Seven Species and Seven Attributes.

Blessings to All Vegetation

The mystics explain that just as the Divine blessings for the entire world flow via the Land of Israel, so too the Divine energy and blessings for all growing things flow via these seven special species of fruit that the land of Israel is blessed with.6

Pleasure From the Get-Go

The Lubavitcher Rebbe gives a deep insight into the seven species and their relation to the New Year for Trees on 15 Shevat:

In general, the seven species can be split into two types: 1) grain; and 2) fruit from trees. Grain is necessary for sustenance. Fruits, on the other hand, are not necessary, but they add pleasure to life. Both are important, and therefore both are included in the blessing for the land of Israel.

In a spiritual sense, the “Israel” of our soul also contains these two elements, necessity and pleasure. On the 15th of Shevat, the New Year for Trees, we customarily eat from all seven species, but we celebrate the five fruit that grow on trees (pleasure) even more than the grains (necessity).

The lesson for us is that even when a person is in the early stages of spiritual growth (i.e., the level of trees and all growing things), he must already have the goal of serving G‑d “with all [his] might,” which includes the all-encompassing attributes of desire and pleasure. For a Jew’s service of G‑d cannot be purely mechanical or intellectual. Only when one’s service of G‑d is truly pleasurable can it be truly complete.

The New Year for Trees teaches us that, from the start, we must set out to serve G‑d with all seven Divine attributes. Every morning as we start our day, we must resolve to serve G‑d not just out of rote and necessity, but with pleasure—giving it all we got.7

Footnotes
1.
Deutronemy 8:8.
2.
The text of the blessing can be found here. For wheat or barley, one would recite Birchat Hamazon or Al Hamichyah.
3.
Don Isaac Abarbanel, commentary on Parshat Eikev; see also Ibn Ezra on Deuteronomy 8:8.
4.
Teshuvot HaLeket 2:55.
5.
See Likutei Torah and Sefer Halikuteim from the Arizal on Parshat Eikev; see also Likutei Torah (Baal HaTanya), Parshat Behaalotechah.
6.
Lev Sameach, Parshat Yitro.
Rabbi Yehuda Shurpin responds to questions for Chabad.org's Ask the Rabbi service.
Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many Chabad.org pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom.
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adele mandagie jakarta February 15, 2017

Yes, first serve God with all our might. Thank you for sharing this. Necessity and pleasure. G-d is good.

Adele Reply

Alice Torrance February 10, 2017

Tre-men-dously enlightening. Really so.
Thank you. Reply

Dinah Austin, TX February 10, 2017

I beg to differ You wrote: "Grain is necessary for sustenance. Fruits, on the other hand, are not necessary, but they add pleasure to life."
After much study in addition to experimentation, I have concluded that you have this absolutely backward. It is the fruit of the tree that is necessary for human sustenance and health and it is the grains that are not only not necessary, but which damage us, cause us to become obese, make us ill with diabetes, enslave us and cause us to want to eat bready stuff several times each day. Who wants to live without bread, right? Well, that is the addiction speaking. Didn't G-d say He was cursing us by having us eat bread by the sweat of the brow? Until we die? That was the first mention of bread ever in the world! A curse! When G-d curses it sticks so good we enjoy it. And he said men would lord it over us women and we would long for our husbands. That happened too for the most part except women were smart enough to get monogamy instituted after a while. Clever. Reply

John C Fernandez Orlando February 9, 2017

A land flowing with milk and honey When the Most High declared a land that would flow with milk and honey, He declared sufficient rain and favorable seasons that would yield Lush Green Pastures where all milk producing (cattle,sheep,goats,camels,etc) livestock can graze and reproduce. It's only when they reproduce and multiply that they yield nilk. W WHoney is the end product then as it is now of the pollen and nectar collected from fruit trees and many flowers by bees. In order to have honey there has to be free trees capable of producing fruit.
when you consider the land of Israel much of Israel is Barren and desert like in declaring there would be milk and there would be honey it becomes clear that the Israelites would be going to a place that guarantees great prosperity where food would be abundant, not only meat, but healthy massive crops the result of adaquate rain fall in that barren arrid desert like environment. Reply

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