In this week’s Torah portion of Behar , the verse states:1 “When you buy or sell [land] to your neighbor, do not cheat one another.” The Rambam says2 that implicit in this verse are the laws of buying and selling.

Among these laws is the principal that “One cannot sell something that has not yet come into existence.”3 Thus, while selling a tree’s existing fruit is a simple matter, selling the tree’s future produce can only be done by selling “the tree itself for its fruit” — the tree already being in existence.4

There are thus three different types of acquisition: acquiring the thing itself — a tree, for example; acquiring the produce — the tree’s fruit; and acquiring “the tree itself for its fruit.”

How are we to understand all this in terms of man’s spiritual service?

The overall quality of Divine service is that of selling and acquisition — a Jew so totally binds himself to G‑d that his entire being is under G‑d’s dominion and ownership. This is accomplished when all of one’s thoughts, words and deeds are in consonance with G‑d’s desire.

This form of spiritual acquisition can take place in one of two ways: acquisition of the object itself, or acquisition of [the object’s] produce.

In terms of a human being, the “actual” object refers to the person’s soul and body and their powers, including intellect, emotions, and the powers of thought, speech and action.

“Produce” alludes to the results of man’s soul and body and their powers — the actual thoughts, words and deeds that are a direct outgrowth of man’s intellect, emotions and other powers.

“Acquisition of the produce” thus refers to a Jew who dedicates all his thoughts, speech and actions to G‑d, being scrupulously observant in assuring that they are all in accordance with G‑d’s will.

However, in such a person the “object itself,” i.e., the essence of his intellect, emotions and other powers, have not become G‑d’s acquisition. In other words, the person’s mind and heart have not been liberated from their capacity to think evil thoughts and harbor sinful desires; the person merely vanquishes these thoughts and desires, preventing them from coming to fruition in thought, word or deed.5

“Acquisition of the object itself,” however, refers to the service of a truly righteous individual whose intellect, emotions and very being have become G‑d’s acquisition; he has rid himself of all vestiges of evil, so all his desires are holy.

We can now understand in spiritual terms the concept that “One cannot sell something that has not yet come into existence.” An individual who is only able to make his thoughts, words and deeds into G‑d’s acquisition must know that he can guarantee only his present thoughts, words and deeds; he has not gained enough mastery over himself to “sell something that has not yet come into existence.”

Thus, when such a person resolves to do something good and holy in the future, that “acquisition” has not yet taken place, for since he must constantly strive against his evil inclination, his future actions may not be in accord with his good resolutions.

However, even such an individual can offer G‑d “the tree itself for its fruit,” i.e., he can “sell” his fruit — his future good thoughts, etc. — that has yet to come into existence by letting G‑d acquire his body itself, similar to the truly righteous individual.

For during prayer even the individual who is merely on the level of “acquisition of the produce” can elevate himself to the point where his evil will lie dormant,6 thereby enabling him to offer G‑d “the tree itself for its fruit.”

Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. XXVII, pp. 176-179.