Achrei Mos Kedoshim - Focus on the fifth

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There are many different mitzvos and rituals discussed in our parsha this week, from instructions for the Holiest day of the year to the commandment to have accurate scales and measures in business, Acharei Mos Kedoshim has a little bit of everything. One peculiar Halacha though strikes an unexpected balance between the holy and the mundane – the spiritual and the physical. The pasuk (19:25) in Kedoshim tells us that when we plant a fruit tree in Eretz Yisrael its first three years of produce are forbidden for consumption. Its fruit in the fourth year may only be eaten in Jerusalem for the fruit of the fourth year are holy and must be eaten and treated with holiness. From the fifth year and on though things go back to normal, you can do whatever with the fruit as they’re no longer holy.

It seems odd that after all that buildup we go from holy fruit to plain fruit as if the fruit were never holy to begin with, even more so is the pasuk places a focus on the mundane produce of the fifth year rather than focusing on the holy purpose of the fourth year fruit.

There are many ways that a person can connect to God, some of them are so holy and pure it is clear to see how doing “x” results in “y”, a basic cause and effect scenario. Then there are other things that seem so mundane and far from holiness we may have a difficult time seeing the strings that are attaching this mundane object or activity to Heaven. We know that in order to get reward out of something we have to put some work into it, Rashi on our pasuk tells us that the reward for the farmer’s diligence and work on this tree is he will yield a large crop in the fifth year. So when we have these holy tasks in front of us it is very easy to feel spiritual, to beat our chest on Yom Kippur enumerating our sins, or giving Tzedakah; the spirituality in those mitzvos are relatively easy to relate to. Where the challenge lies is finding the holiness in the mundane, and that is why the Torah places the emphasis on the fifth year and on its fruit production rather than the fourth, holy year. It shows us that our goal in life is not to chase after all the things we know to be holy, it is to also pursue these mundane activities and fill them with an amazing, unparalleled holiness. Each and every person walks on the earth, the cold hard ground, yet despite the lowliness of the dirt it is filled with nutrients that support plant life. And if we dig even deeper we can find the most amazing treasures of gold, silver, and beautiful gems. So too with the things we may see as mundane, the things that we decide are not holy. We will walk all over it, underestimating the true value of what lies underneath, from the powerful nutrients that can support life to the most amazing treasures – within the mundane there is much to be found. So too with our tree, the Torah is tasking us to find the treasures within the mundane and to bring those treasures to the world and share them, for holiness, like gold and silver are cherished by all. The extra blessings of the fifth year are the reward of the farmer for working to imbue the mundane fruit with something more, seeking out a spark that is buried within. Likewise we can reap beautiful blessings by striving to find a balance and infuse even the most mundane things with holiness.