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(5731) Explanation of (Lev. 19:25) "And in the fifth year, you may eat its fruit; do this, in order to increase its produce for you etc."

The advantage of fruits of the fifth year over fourth year fruits (neta revai).

Explanation of the meeting between the Baal Shem Tov and the gaon porush ("ascetic scholar")
(Sefer Maamarim Yiddish p.138) and the saying of the Baal Shem Tov that "G-d 'subsists' on the
'praises of Israel'"

Synopsis 1:

In the famous 19th chapter of Vayikra, which is a summary of many essential principles of the Torah, the laws about fruit-trees are stated. The produce of the first three years of the tree’s life (orlah) is forbidden. The fourth year produce (neta revai) is set aside as holy, and is to be eaten in Jerusalem or redeemed. But the fruit of the fifth year may be eaten ordinarily, and the Torah tells us that it will be particularly prolific, as a reward for observing the law for the previous four years. The Sicha begins with a problem: If the fifth year’s fruit is the reward and purpose of the laws, why is it the fourth year fruit which is called “holy, for giving praise to the L-rd?” It resolves this by drawing an analogy between the five years of fruit and the five levels of spirituality, and by showing that there is a level beyond even that of holiness. This is a fundamental emphasis of Chassidut: That beyond holiness, which implies withdrawal from the world, is a domain of unity with G‑d in the very midst of a world-affirming life.

1. The Fruit of the Fifth Year

“And in the fifth year you may eat its fruit, that it may yield more richly to you its increase: I am the L-rd your G‑d.’’1

This verse refers to the reward for not eating the produce of fruit-trees for the first three years, and for bringing fourth-year fruit to be eaten in Jerusalem. The phrase which the Torah uses, “that it may yield more richly to you its increase,” indicates that the purpose of the commandments about the first four years’ fruit is so that the fifth year should see a particularly prolific crop.

Rashi offers a straightforward explanation, quoting the Midrash: “Rabbi Akiva used to say, the Torah says this because it has man’s evil inclination in mind: That one should not say, ‘Behold, for four years I must take trouble with it for nothing.’ The Torah therefore states that (because of your obedience) the land will give you produce in larger quantities.”

We can, however, understand the passage at a deeper level. The five years of fruit correspond to the five “universes” or dimensions of spirituality.2 The first three, which are forbidden for consumption, stand for the three lower levels (asiyah, yetzirah and beriah, or the dimensions of “action,” “formation” and “Creation”), where there is a sufficient concealment of G‑d for the possibility of sin, division and forbidden action to exist. The fourth year stands for the dimension of atzilut (“emanation”) where everything is in a state of holiness, and nothing is separated from G‑d.3 Therefore its fruit is called “holy, for giving praise to the L-rd.” But the fifth is the highest level, called keter, the “Crown.” The fruit of the fifth year is correspondingly the most precious, as we saw when we understood that the whole purpose of the commandments of the first four years was for the sake of the fifth.

Why then do we find the fruit of the fourth year called “holy?” Why is it to be eaten only in Jerusalem, and only by a person who is not ritually unclean? Why do none of these things apply to the fifth-year produce, which may be eaten anywhere by anyone?

2. The Baal Shem Tov and the Sage

To understand this, we must begin with a story told about the Baal Shem Tov.4

It was at a time when he had not yet emerged publicly as the leader of the Chassidic movement. He still wore the cloak of anonymity as he traveled through the towns and villages of the Carpathians. It was one of his holy practices to ask every Jew he met—man and woman, the aged and the children—how they were, how business was, and so on. One of his greatest pleasures was to listen to the answers that each of them would give—answers that came from the heart. For they would reply with words of praise and thanks to G‑d. Every answer would contain a “Thank G‑d” or a “The L-rd be blessed.”

Once he reached a small township and began in his normal way to inquire after the welfare of the Jews he met, to get them to say words of praise and gratitude to G‑d, to demonstrate their faith and merit. In the town there was a very old man, a great scholar, who lived in isolation from the affairs of the world. For more than fifty years he had sat and studied Torah day and night, detached and holy. He would sit and learn every day, wrapped in his Tallit and Tefillin until the afternoon service, and would not eat anything all day, until he had said the evening prayers, when he would have a little bread and water.

When the Baal Shem Tov entered his study, a room in one of the corners of the synagogue, he asked the old man about his health and his welfare, but the man did not look up at the Baal Shem Tov, who was dressed in the clothes of a peasant. He repeated his question several times, until the sage became angry and gestured that he should leave the room. The Baal Shem Tov said: “Rabbi, why (as it were) do you not give G‑d his livelihood?”5 When he heard this, the old man was completely confused. A peasant was standing in front of him and talking about G‑d and the need to provide Him with a living!

The Baal Shem Tov read his thoughts and said: The Jewish people is sustained by the livelihood which G‑d provides for them. But what sustains G‑d, that he may continue, as it were, to “inhabit” the world? This is what King David meant when he wrote in Psalm 22, “You are Holy, who inhabits the praises of Israel.” “You”—that is, the Master of the Universe, “are Holy”—that is, You are apart from the world. What then is Your livelihood, that you are able to “inhabit” it? It is “the praises of Israel.” He is sustained by the praise and the gratitude to which the Jews give voice, for their health and their sustenance with which He provides them. And because of these praises, He gives them children, health and food, in plenty.

3. The Dwelling-Place

The Baal Shem Tov’s remark is not easy to understand. It is true that the G‑d of whom we say “You are Holy” (that is transcending the world) is brought to “inhabit” the world only by the service of the Jewish people. But surely learning Torah is part of that service? Surely it brings the presence of G‑d into the world? And, the old sage had studied Torah day and night for more than fifty years. Even at the very moment when the Baal Shem Tov spoke to him, he was preoccupied with study! How, then, could he have said: “Why (as it were) do you not give G‑d His livelihood?” And even if it is the “praises of Israel” and not the sound of their studies that causes G‑d to “inhabit” the world, the Baal Shem Tov could surely have tried to elicit words of thanksgiving from the sage for being allowed by G‑d to study in serenity and seclusion. Why did he need to ask him about matters of physical concern, like his health?

The answer is that the whole purpose of creation was to make for G‑d a “dwelling-place in the lower world.”6 This world was to be transformed into a habitation for G‑d.

How is this dwelling-place built? Not, primarily, through learning or through thanks to G‑d for the opportunity to learn. Study involves the “G‑dly soul” of the Jew, the highest part of his nature. But thanksgiving for food, for money, for health—these involve a sanctification of the body, of natural desires and physical needs. When a Jew recognizes even these as the gift of G‑d then he has truly admitted G‑d into the “lower world.”7

That is why when the Baal Shem Tov saw the sage, sitting in seclusion, disengaged from the world, unconcerned with the state of his body, eating only to survive, not to sanctify the physical, he said: “Why (as it were) do you not give G‑d His livelihood?” For the Divine intention was to have a dwelling-place precisely in the lower world that the sage had forsaken. And this is why he said that G‑d is made to “inhabit” the world “by the praise and the gratitude to which the Jews give voice, for their health and their sustenance with which He provides them.” This justified his interrupting him even in the middle of learning, which is the greatest of the commandments.8 For without this praise, his learning was defective. For, “Anyone who says, I have nothing but (the study of) Torah, even Torah is denied to him.”9

4. Fruit and Thanksgiving

In the light of this story we can see why the most precious fruit is not that of the fourth year—even though it is called “holy” (that is, set aside, withdrawn) and it is to be eaten only within the walls of Jerusalem; and why it is the fifth year fruit, which could be eaten anywhere by anyone.

When a Jew recognizes that even fruit which is not “holy” depends on the blessing of G‑d; when he sees with his own eyes that the land “yields more richly its increase” because of G‑d; and when he offers praises for these things, then he brings the “You,” the essence of G‑d, which is “holy” and beyond all finitude, to “inhabit” the world as His dwelling-place, thus bringing the entire creation to its true fulfillment.



1.    Vayikra 19:25. 6.    Tanchuma, Nasso, ch. 16.
2.    Likkutei Torah, Kedoshim, 30d. 7.    Cf. Tanya, Part I, ch. 37.
3.    Cf. Philosophy of Chabad, p. 82, and footnote 30. 8.    Shulchan Aruch Harav, Hilchot Talmud Torah, 4:3.
4.   Sefer Hamaamarim-Yiddish, p. 138 ff. 9.    Yevamot, 109b.

Synopsis 2:


Parshas Kedoshim discusses the laws of Orlah and the fruits of the fourth and fifth years. The Torah indicates that there is an advantage to the fruit of the fifth year over those of the previous years. This Sicha discusses the significance of the fruits of the fifth year and their implication to the greater purpose of creation.

This week’s Torah portion discusses the laws of Orlah, the prohibition of consuming the fruits of a tree in its first three years, and the commandment to bring the fruits of the fourth year to Jerusalem.

Text 1

When you come to the Land and you plant any food tree, you shall surely block its fruit from use; it shall be blocked from you from use for three years, not to be eaten.  And in the fourth year, all its fruit shall be holy, a praise to the Lord.

Vayikra 19, 23-24

After the Torah discusses the above commandments it relates as follows:

Text 2

And in the fifth year, you may eat its fruit; do this, in order to increase its produce for you. I am the Lord, your G-d.

Vayikra 19:25


The Torah informs us that the reward for keeping these mitzvos (G-dly commandments) of the third and fourth year is an increase in the produce our trees will yield in the fifth year. As Rashi states1, “This commandment which you will observe, will be ‘in order to increase its produce for you,’ because as its reward, I will bless for you the fruits of your plantings.’”

From a simple understanding of the Torah, the reason that there will be additional produce in the fifth year is becauseas Rashi states2  “The Torah stated this to counter man’s evil inclination: so that a person should not say, ‘For four years I suffer with this tree for nothing!’” From a deeper perspective of the Torah, however, it is understood that when G-d states that in the fifth year there is an increase in the produce, this indicates not only a physical increase in the fruit but a spiritual increase as well.

On a more esoteric level of understanding the Torah, there is an advantage to the fruits of the fifth year, which surpasses those of the years previous.

This is expressed in the following statement of the first Chabad Rebbe, R’ Shnuer Zalman of Liadi:

Text 3

The first three years correlate to (the spiritual worlds of) Briya, Yetzira, and Assiya…and the fourth year correlates to (the spiritual world of) Atzilus…and the fifth (regarding which it states), “to increase its produce for you,” is the additional light that is drawn from the top of the (letter) Yud of the name (of G-d) “Havaya,” and is the level of Kesser.

Likutei Torah, 30d


While the fruit of the first four years correlate to the four worlds of Atzilus, Briya, Yetzira and Asiya, the fruit of the fifth year are representative of the level of Kesser which surpasses a worldly revelation of G-dliness.

Yet, this statement that the fruits of the fifth year have a greater spiritual source than those of the fourth, must be understood. For, although the Torah explicitly states that the fruit of the fourth year are holy, no such statement is made concerning the fruits of the fifth year.

Concerning the fruits of the fourth year the Torah states,

Text 4

And in the fourth year, all its fruit shall be holy, a praise to the Lord.

Vayikra 19:24

The fruits of this period are holy and they may only be eaten in a state of purity in Jerusalem. How then, can the fruits of the fifth year, which are not holy and can be eaten all over, even in a state of impurity, be greater than the fruits of the preceding years?

A reclusive sage

This phenomenon, and the concept of how something that is not intrinsically holy can be greater than that which is holy, will be understood from first prefacing with a story that occurred with the Baal Shem Tov3.

Before the holy Baal Shem Tov revealed himself to the world, he would travel incognito from city to city and from village to village. His holy practice was that of being attentive to every Jew, men and women, old or young.

He would take interest into their wellbeing in all matters, including their health, livelihood, etc. The Baal Shem Tov was extremely satisfied when those Jews—the men, women and children—would respond with various versions of praise for the Creator, such as, “Thank G-d,” “Praised is G-d,” or other such expressions.

It once happened that the Rebbe, the Baal Shem Tov arrived at a certain settlement. He conducted himself as he was want to do, striving to bring merit to the Jewish residents there by giving them the opportunity to praise the holy Name of the Almighty.

In this village there was a certain Jew who was extremely old. He was known to be a great Torah scholar and an ascetic from physical pursuits. For more than 50 years, he sat and learned Torah in seclusion and holiness.

All those years, he would learn while fasting and enveloped in his talis (prayer shawl) and tefillin (phylacteries). This would continue until the late evening and only after the nightly prayers, would he partake of a piece of bread and a drink of water.

When the Baal Shem Tov entered the study of this sage, which was located in an antechamber of the synagogue, the Baal Shem Tov inquired as to his wellbeing. He asked the elderly man if he had all that he needed materially. The sage, however, paid no attention to the Baal Shem Tov, who was dressed as a simple villager.

The Baal Shem Tov attempted the question numerous times until the sage became vexed and motioned towards the door to signify that he should leave.

At that point, the Baal Shem Tov turned to the elderly scholar and asked, “Why do you withhold the livelihood of the Holy one Blessed be He?” When the sage heard these words, he became flustered. How could this villager speak in such a manner regarding the Almighty, suggesting the idea that He requires a livelihood?!

The Baal Shem Tov, sensing the thoughts of the sage, responded: “The Jewish people ‘sit,’ relying on the livelihood that G-d provides for them, but the Holy One blessed be He, on what does he sit? This is the meaning of what King Dovid tells us4, ‘But You are holy.’ For which livelihood do you sit and await? ‘You sit (and await) the praises of Israel,’ that they praise You for their health and livelihood. In the merit of this praise that the Jewish people give the Almighty, G-d gives children, life and sustenance in abundance.”

This story portrays the “gain” the Almighty receives, so to speak, from the praises expressed by the Jewish people when they are blessed with their material needs.

Singing His praises

The above narrative though, is not fully comprehensible. The story insinuates that unless the Almighty is praised for the physical nourishment which He provides, he remains removed and exalted from this world and only through praising Him for physical sustenance, do we provide the Almighty with “livelihood.”

This idea that in order for G-d to “sit,” we must praise Him, is expressed in the teachings of Chassidus in the following manner:

Text 5

This is the meaning of the verse, “But You are holy; You sit for the praises of Israel.” Meaning to say, that He blessed be He is inherently holy and removed (from the world), and for him to “sit” and be drawn down, which is referred to as sitting, like a “sitter” that lowers his body, is through the praise of Israel, that through their praise they bring about that G-d should be revealed.

Likutei Torah, 29c

It is because the “sitting” of G-d is (so to speak) dependent on the praise of Israel, that the Baal Shem Tov desired that this sage praise the Almighty. What remains to be understood though, is the following:

Although the Almighty is indeed holy, exalted and removed from the world, and for him to “sit,” i.e. to lower Himself in order to be involved with this world, there must be some act performed in this lower realm by the Jewish people to draw down His revealed presence, why can this not be accomplished by Torah study alone?

Why is the study of Torah not a great enough act that in and of itself it can draw down a revelation of G-dliness into this world?

Furthermore, if Torah can indeed fulfill this motion, why did the Baal Shem Tov find it necessary to tell te sage, who was in the midst of Torah study, “Why do you withhold the livelihood of the Holy one Blessed be He?”

It can be suggested that in order to draw down spiritual sustenance from an exalted level of the Almighty, it must come specifically through praising G-d, and not merely through fulfilling mitzvos and that this is why the Baal Shem Tov desired that the sage praise G-d. Still, the Baal Shem Tov could have inspired the sage to praise G-d for the Torah learning that he was studying.

The idea is further explained in the continuation of the above elucidation.

Text 6

In order to reveal G-d’s attributes—who is in and of Himself completely removed from being classified by them—is through praising Him regarding these attributes…By way of an allegory: when an individual requires kindness from his friend, and at that moment his friend is in great fury and anger and distant from kindness, nevertheless, when his friend calls out to him and praises him concerning his great kindness, this itself awakens within him (his friend) that his attribute of kindness becomes revealed and that he fulfill his request.

Likutei Torah, ibid

While the necessity of praising the Almighty is understood, what remains unclear is the reason to praise Him specifically regarding the physical.

Why did the Baal Shem Tov specifically desire that he praise G-d for physical things, wouldn’t praising G-d for his Torah learning have sufficed to draw down a G-dly revelation?

The purpose of creation

The explanation of this story hinges on an appreciation for the purpose of creation. The intention of the creation of the world was not for the spiritual but the physical.

Text 7

R. Shmuel bar Nachman said, “At the time when the Holy One, Blessed be He created the world, He desired that there should be an abode for Him in the lower worlds just as there is in the higher worlds…”

Medrash Tanchuma, Naso 16

It is specifically from the physical that we can make a dwelling place for G-d and not through the spiritual. This dwelling place is created primarily from the material, and not so much through Torah, or even by praising G-d for the study of Torah.

The reason being, that the study of Torah mainly involves the higher element of the Jew, his G-dly soul, and not the lower parts, his physical body.

Rather, through praising G-d for the fact that He provides physical sustenance, things which the body derives benefit from, it is at this time that we are able to create a dwelling place for Him.

When the Jewish people recognize and feel that their physical needs come from G-d and they praise Him for them, it is then that they create a dwelling place for G-d in this world.

Therefore, when the Baal Shem Tov observed that this sage was an ascetic, secluded from all physical things, and did not at all involve himself from worldly matters—to the point that even his eating was just for basic sustenance and not to refine the physical—he then reprimanded him, questioning, “Why do you withhold the livelihood of the Holy one Blessed be He?”

Meaning to say, that being that G-d desires a dwelling place in this world, why do you withhold it from him? Only when the sage praised G-d in the realm of the physical, could he begin to make a dwelling place for G-d in this world.

The fifth year

According to the above, the advantage of the fruits of the fifth year over the fruits of the fourth year can be appreciated, despite the fact that the fourth year’s yield are holy and must be consumed in a state of purity in Jerusalem.

For, it is specifically when a Jew realizes that even his fruit which are not holy are also dependent on G-d’s blessing, and he praises G-d for what He has given him, does it cause that G-d Himself should dwell in this physical abode.

So, although the fruits of the fourth year are indeed holy, they are not expressive of G-d’s ultimate intent in creating the world. G-d’s objective in creating the universe was not for holiness per se, but to reveal G-dliness in the mundane.

It is therefore specifically the fruit of the fifth year that have a true increase in G-dliness, as it within them that G-d’s purpose in creating the world is most felt.

(Based on Likutei Sichos 7, Kedoshim 1, reworked by Rabbi Dovid Markel.)

1 Vayikra 19:25.

2 Rashi, ibid.

3 The following is a free translation from Sefer Mamorim Yiddish pg. 138.

4 Tehillim 22:4.








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