Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Why Does Torah Call the Fruit From Young Trees "Uncircumcised"?

"23 And when ye shall come into the land, and shall have planted all manner of trees for food, then ye shall count the fruit thereof as uncircumcised: three years shall it be as uncircumcised unto you: it shall not be eaten of.24 But in the fourth year all the fruit thereof shall be holy to praise the Lord withal.25 And in the fifth year shall ye eat of the fruit thereof, that it may yield unto you the increase thereof: I am the Lordyour God," (Lev. 19:23-25)

The word "uncircumcised" is orlah in Hebrew.  It's the same term as in "On the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin (besar ha-orlah) shall be circumcised."

This is interesting, yes?

The flesh represents all of our sinful desires, the disobedience to the Divine Will.  The passage calls to mind the story of the forbidden fruit that appealed to man's yetzer hara.  

The rationale for the command appears to be that the fruit is untouchable because the firstfruits belong to HaShem.  But is there a deeper level of meaning?

Here's some questions to consider (and I don't claim to have the answers):

  • Does HaShem consider orlah (foreskin) to be an impurity? Notice how it is only the circumcised fruit that is called a "praise".  
  • Why does HaShem require the male members of His People to undergo brit milah?


  1. I don't know what happened. I typed a long comment and when I pressed, "publish," it just disappeared! Okay, this time I will save before I send.

    It is intriguing that the way that the people are told to not eat of the fruit for 3 years is explained in light of circumcision, rather than just saying that the fruit would belong to the Holy One for that time, or something of that nature. So, there is a reason for everything. I suspect that it has to do with the covenant blessings belonging to those who are willing to trust and be obedient, which brings good fruit, rather than follow their desires and do what seems good.

    I don't believe the orlah is an impurity, but a sign that one's flesh has been left to itself and not dedicated to the way of holiness.

    We know that the word for male is, "zachar," which means, "to remember." Men have a hard time remembering, if we look to the garden and also to Avraham, as well as others. The Holy One added a, "heh," a divine breath to Avram and Sarai's names. But, since Avraham needed a little extra help, a heh was cut into his flesh. He couldn't get away from it; this is permanent.

    1. You also might want to read Rabbi David Fohrman's insightful book, "The Beast that Crouches at the Door." I am still in the process of reading it, and will do a review when finished.

    2. Re: "I don't believe the orlah is an impurity, but a sign that one's flesh has been left to itself and not dedicated to the way of holiness. "

      But if something has not been dedicated to the way of holiness then is it not, by definition, impure?

    3. The Fohrman book does indeed look very interesting. I'll try to obtain a copy of it. And please share a link to your review when it's completed.