Three Stages in a Tree
This week's Parshah teaches that for the first three years the fruit of a newly planted tree is forbidden to us. On the fourth year we may eat its fruit but only if we carry it to the holy city, Jerusalem, and consume it there. Only after that, on the fifth year, may we finally enjoy the fruit at our leisure.
The majority of Jews today no longer work in the agriculture, but we are all gardeners at heart. We seek to implant the seed of G-d's presence in our hearts, our children, our home and our environment. We too enjoy the fruit of our labor in three stages.
Three Stages in a Jewish Day
We begin every day with prayer. During prayer our attention is exclusively devoted to matters of the spirit and G-d. It is not a time for stray thoughts, idle chatter or selfish enjoyment.
After prayer we study Torah. Here we interact with the world of physical objects and events and are intellectually stimulated, but all under the banner of Jerusalem, the atmosphere of sanctity and Yirat Shamayim (awe of Heaven).
Finally, we emerge from our spiritual cocoon and venture into the world. Here we can reap the fruit of our labor as we go about our everyday business. We do so for the benefit of our own pleasure, but under the clearly visible signs of the morning’s influence.
The Training, The Process, and The Goal
The First stage belongs to G-d. We are there only on his sufferance. This stage is symbolized by three years because we pray thrice daily. The second stage is equally shared between G-d and ourselves. It is His Torah that our minds engage. This is symbolized by consuming the food for our own pleasure but only in the holy city, Jerusalem. The third stage belongs completely to us.
Stages one and two are prerequisites for stage three. Those who successfully complete the first two stages will find that they are not comfortable with exclusive ownership of stage three. They naturally invite G-d to come and join them.