On Tu B'Shvat, the New Year for trees, there is a custom to eat fruits that
are native to the land of Israel. A distinguishing factor of the "native to
Israel" fruits - grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates - is the
blessing one recites after having consumed them. After consuming any other
fruit, one recites the blessing of "Borei Nefashos," a short blessing.
However, after eating the native-to-Israel fruits, we recite the "Three
faceted-blessing" of "Al ha'etz," a lengthier blessing.
In this lengthier blessing, we thank G-d for the fruit, for the land whence
it came, that was given to our forefathers as a heritage, to eat from its
fruits. We ask G-d to have mercy on the nation of Israel and on Jerusalem,
and to allow the rebuilding of Jerusalem. We further request that we should,
after the exile has ended, be brought into the land, be able to partake of
its fruit, be satisfied with its goodness, and bless G-d for these things in
holiness and purity.
Asking G-d for the privilege of eating the fruit of the holy land in this
blessing is actually a point of disagreement mentioned in Halacha (Jewish
law). In Tur Orech Chayim 218, it states that not all agree that the passage
concerning partaking of the fruit should be recited. Th Sefer HaMitzvos feels
that the praise of the land of Israel should be confined to the spiritual
realm - that our desire to return to the land of Israel should be so that we
can observe those commandments that are exclusive to the land of Israel.
Therefore, we should ask G-d for the other items mentioned in the blessing,
but not to "partake of its fruit and be satisfied with its goodness."
The B"ach explains why we should (and why indeed we do) request the ability
to partake of the fruits of Israel. There is an intrinsic holiness to the
land of Israel. This holiness is not restrained to the spiritual realm. The
holiness actually manifests itself in a physical form as well. The fruits
that are nurtured from the earth of the land of Israel not only extract water
and nutrients from the land - they extract the holiness of the land as well.
When partaking of the fruits, we ingest physical nourishment as well as
spiritual sustenance. However, this added holiness of the land of Israel does
not exist when we are in exile. It is only apparent when we have the Bais
HaMikdosh, the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, and we are able to serve G-d there.
It is therefore appropriate that when we ask G-d to bring His nation out of
exile and to rebuild the Bais HaMikdosh, we request the ability to partake
of the fruits of the land, which provide us with a spiritual boost, as well.
May we all merit to eat the fruit of the land of Israel, be imbued with its
innate holiness, be satisfied with its goodness, and bless G-d for it in
holiness and purity, speedily, in our days.