Fruits of Enthusiasm by Rabbi Benny Berlin

I learned a beautiful idea this week from Rav David Silverberg that I would love to share:

Parashat Bechukotai begins with the rewards that God promises Bnei Yisrael for observing the mitzvot, including the promise of abundant fruit: “ve-eitz ha-sadeh yitein piryo” – “the tree in thefield will produce its fruit” (26:4).

Surprisingly, Rashi explains that this refers to ilanei serak –trees that do not ordinarily bear fruit. When we properly observe the commands, Rashi explains, then even those trees which do not naturally produce fruit will do so.

Rabbi Silverberg quoted the Sefat Emet who offers an insight into the significance of this promise. He writes that just as some trees naturally bear fruit and others do not, similarly,people are naturally inclined to bear “fruit,” to experience enthusiasm and display vigor,regarding some areas of Torah study and observance, but not regarding others. Within ourselves, like in nature, there are “ilanei serak,” parts of our being that are emotionally “dry”.

The Sefat Emet interprets Rashi’s comment to mean that if we overcome this natural “sterility,”and succeed in generating “fruit” of enthusiasm even for those areas of Torah and those mitzvot which do not at first arouse interest or evoke excitement, then God, in turn, will produce fruits even from trees that are naturally incapable of bearing fruit.According to Sefat Emet’s insight, Chazal here allude to the importance of devoting ourselves to, and even generating a degree of passion for, those areas of Torah life that are not naturally appealing. There are numerous portions of the corpus of Torah which people tend to find uninteresting, and there are various mitzvot which we might have difficulty feeling passionate about. Chazal, in this passage, urges and challenges us to approach the totality of Torah and the entire range of mitzvot with enthusiasm, to feel passionate about every bit of Torah knowledge that we can acquire, and every mitzva opportunity that comes our way. Even when we naturally feel like an “ilan serak,” incapable of experiencing fervor for a given area of Torah or for a given mitzva, we must try to generate interest and excitement, recognizing the great privilege we have to serve our Creator each moment of our lives.