Study and Theory/
Tu BiShvat

The Date Palm Tree - From The Bible

Zohar, Part 2, Page 221:1

"And they saw the G-d of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a brick of sapphire stone" etc. Rabbi Yehudah stated (Song of Songs 7:8): "This is your height - likened to a date palm tree" etc. How precious is the nation of Israel to the Holy One Blessed be He, that he does not detach himself from them, just as a palm, in which the masculine element does not separate from the feminine element forever, and they don't arise without each other; likewise, the Jewish people does not detach themselves from the Holy One, blessed be He.

 

Tanchuma, Numbers, 15:40:

"And G-d said to Moses in the Desert of Sinai, count the Levites", this is what the scripture mentions: "A righteous person shall flourish like a palm tree" (Psalms, 92). Just as the date palm tree gives off its shade to a distance, so the reward of righteous people reaches far. Just as the date palm tree produces both wilted fruit that are not stocked, and fruit that is stocked, so the Israelites, when they are in the desert: Some of them entered the land of Israel and some of them did not enter the land of Israel. "A righteous man shall flourish like a date palm tree" – just as when a date palm tree is cut down or uprooted, another does not replace it, and just as the cedar tree, when it is cut down or uprooted it is not replaced, therefore the righteous analogous to the date palm tree and to the cedar tree.

"A righteous person blooms like a date palm tree", just as this date palm tree produces dates and produces thorns and whoever attempts to steal the dates, is attacked by the thorns, so are the righteous and wise people who study Torah, and anyone who is not careful with them, falls to Gehenna and is also plagued in this world. Why? Since their bite is like the bite of a fox and their sting is the sting of a scorpion, and their hissing is like the hissing of a snake and all of their words are like coals of fire.

"A righteous person blooms like a palm tree", this is said of the tribe of Levi, whom the Holy One, blessed be He had set aside due to their good deeds, and why were they likened to a date palm tree? To tell you, just like the date has no more than a single heart, so the tribe of Levi has only a single heart – to the Holy One, blessed be He, as it is written (Exodus 32): "And Moses said, whomever is for G-d, join me, and all the Levites gathered around him".  And what is written following this? "And they are planted in the house of G-d in the courtyards of our Lord they will blossom" (Psalms, 92), to teach you that they would not budge from the Holy Temple as it says (ibid. 109): "My eyes are set on the faithful of the land who sit with me, one who goes in an impeccable way, he shall serve me."

Therefore, it is said, "Those planted in the House of G-d", that the Temple Court did not lack their presence as it says: "In the courtyards of the Lord they shall bloom". What is meant by the courtyards of the Lord? This is what the scripture states: "Praised are those whom you have chosen and have brought close to you, who will rest in your courtyards; we shall be satiated with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your Temple. The Holy One, blessed by He said to Moses: "Since they are my legions, who do not budge from my house, go and count them. Thereupon it says, "Count the Levites".

Midrash Tehillim, Psalm 92:

Just as this date palm tree – her heart faces upwards, so are Israel, whose hearts are directed to their father in heaven. Another interpretation: Just as this date palm has a strong will, so the children of Israel have a strong will to the Holy One, blessed be He. Our rabbis said, it is told of a female date tree, who was in Hamatan, and there were attempts to graft it but it would not produce fruit. So an arborist told the workers that this date tree sees a match from Jericho and wishes to have it. They went out and got it and they combined the two, it immediately gave forth fruit. In this way, the children of Israel have a strong will for the Holy One, blessed be He.

 

But we may claim that this date palm tree is not used for making vessels, and the same way – the children of Israel. Yet we noticed the scripture mentions, "Like a cedar in Lebanon". Says Rabbi Tanchuma, I had posed this question to Rabbi Huna, and he told me, "We've seen it in Babylon and vessels, tables and lamps were created from it. So we may postulate, that just as a cedar tree does not produce fruit so Israel. Yet we are taught in the Talmud, that it states, "a date palm tree", just as a date palm tree produces fruit, so does Israel.

 

Yet we find that it is written "A cedar tree". Just as in case of a cedar tree, its trunk is replaced, so is the case with Israel. And just as the Lebanon cedar tree has multiple roots below the earth so that even if all winds of the world blow and bend  it they would not be able to move it from its location, so Israel are planted in the House of G-d and the Holy One, blessed be He, shall gather them in the future from the four corners of the earth. And just as a garden is planted from one garden bed to another, so are Israel. And in such a way, shall the Holy One blessed be he, replant them from an impure land to a pure land, as it is written, "planted in  the House of G-d".

 

Yalkut Shimoni, 92:845

"A righteous person shall flourish like a date palm tree", just as this palm is beautiful in its countenance and all of its fruit are lovely and sweet, so is David beautiful in his look and in his honor and all of his deeds are good and sweet in the eyes of the Holy One, blessed be He...

Another interpretation: "A righteous person shall flourish like a date palm tree", this is Aaron, 'and behold, the rod of Aaron of the tribe of Levi blossomed'. Just as this date palm tree, when it is planted its roots grow from all of its sides, so Aaron, Elazar, his son, Pinchas, his son, and Avishua, his son are planted in the House of G-d and 'do not exit the entrance of the Tent of Meeting'.

Just as the trunks of date palm and cedar trees are replaced only after a long period, so the replacement of a righteous person is done after a long period. Just like date palm trees and cedar trees do not have cavities nor excrescences, likewise, do not have deformities in their character. Just as a date palm tree and a cedar tree give off an extended shadow, so do the rewards of righteous people reach out far: "And it will be due to your adherence etc. and G-d shall safeguard for you". Just as the date palm tree and the cedar have a strong desire, so do the righteous people have a strong desire? And what is their desire? The Holy One, blessed be He, as it says, "I have hoped for and sought out G-d".

Said Rabbi Tanchuma: it is told of a female date tree, who was in Hamatan, and there were trials to graft it but it would not produce fruit. A person walked by and looked at it and said: 'this date tree sees its match from Jericho', so when he grafted it (with the matching one) it gave off fruit. So we may think that just as this date palm tree is not used for making vessels, and righteous people are like this as well? The scriptures tell us: "As a cedar". Says Rabbi Huna, there - vessels are made of it. Just as the date palm has no wastes, rather: The dates are for eating, the fronds to praise with, its branches used as a cover (for the Sukkah), its strings for ropes, its stems - for creating sieves, its beams - to build (and furnish) houses. Likewise, the Children of Israel have no wastes. Some of them are well versed in the Bible, some – in the Mishnah, some with Talmud, some – with the Legends. And just as a date palm and a cedar tree, whoever climbs to their tops and is not careful falls and dies, so does anyone who attempts to combat Israel, it is the Israelites who take from the offender that which is coming to them. Know this,  since Sarah, by being upheld by Pharaoh one night, he and his household were plagued, as it says, "And G-d plagued Pharaoh".

 

Just as this date palm tree does not produce less than three fruit, so Israel does not lack less than three righteous people in the world, likened to Abraham, Issac and Jacob, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. Just like the date palm tree is larger than the rest of the trees, so are Israel, "Mordechai became exalted in the house of the king", and it says, "and King David was progressively becoming greater".

 

Another interpretation, "a righteous person shall flourish like a date palm", Rabbi Chia the son of Luliani taught: If it states date palm, why does it also mention cedar, and if it states cedar why does it also mention date palm? But if we mention date palm and we do not mention cedar, we my assume that just as the trunk of the date palm is not replaced, so, the righteous person does not lose his 'trunk', therefore there is a need to compare him to a cedar as well, and if we would mention cedar and not a date palm, we would say, just as the cedar does not give off edible fruit so the righteous person does not give off fruit therefore a date palm is also mentioned.

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