14 February 2006

For love of trees

Had an interesting Talmud class today. We interrupted our regular learning for some Tu B'Shvat insights, discussing, primarily, Devarim (Deuteronomy) 20:19 "ki ha'adam eitz hasadeh - is a man a tree of the field?" It is further written in this passage, "From it you shall eat; you shall not cut it down." And in the next posuk (verse), "You may destroy [the tree] and cut [it] down." Well, isn't that a contradiction?

The Talmud states that the implication is, if a teacher is a complete Torah scholar (my teacher explained, "a Talmid Chocham [Torah scholar] and a mensch [good man]), one may “eat" (Rashi says, study Torah) from him - as in, receive the fruit of his knowledge. If he (or she!) is not (again, from my teacher: "a Talmid Chocham but not a mensch"), one should "destroy" him (says Rashi, cut yourself off from him). The Rabbi also pointed out that we are all of us teachers. If you take the time to teach one person one letter of the aleph bet (alphabet), you are a teacher. You have provided fruit from the tree of your knowledge.

It was all interesting, and the Rabbi's commentary added new insights for me, but primarily, I got distracted when he started talking about the "fruit of the tree" being knowledge. He specifically mentioned Breishit (Genesis) 1:28 "p'ru ur'vu - be fruitful and multiply," which we always take to mean, "go have lots of children."

Understandably, for infertile couples, p'ru ur'vu is a painful posuk. Here we are commanded to have children, and it's a mitzvah (commandment) we are so desperately willing to fulfill, and can't. Thanks to my teacher, I now have a whole new way of looking at that posuk and that mitzvah, so my dread of reading Breishit will be greatly diminished. Instead of being a taunt, a reminder that I couldn't even fulfill the very first mitzvah given, I can now look at it as a commandment to increase my learning. To take every opportunity to improve myself and my Torah knowledge. I know I won't ever become a Talmid Chocham, but I can continually work towards being a "mensch" and enjoy the fruits of knowledge I gain along the way. And G-d willing, I will have plenty of opportunities to use that fruit to feed others on my journey.


At 14/2/06 6:02 p.m., Anonymous wessel said...

There is also a saying that "one who teaches another Torah, it is as if he gave birth to him." I always thought that was a beautiful saying for adoptive parents.

You are so far above me, Projgen -- I just can't get inspired to learn Torah. It all hurts too much.

At 15/2/06 2:40 a.m., Blogger projgen said...

wessel, that's a beautiful saying; thank you for sharing. If we do wind up adopting, it will be very helpful to me.

And to be honest, I have to say I had no inspiration previously. Hubby goes to a Talmud class and started dragging me with him. It's become a good distraction, a way to keep my mind off all this stupid infertility stuff.

The upside is, while being distracted, occasionally I learn something, too. Hugs wessel.

At 15/2/06 5:33 a.m., Blogger deanna said...

That's a wonderful interpretation of an otherwise painful passage. My preferences aside, I think it's a logical, valid reading of it, too. Thanks so much for passing it along....


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