The Fruits of Our Labor

Accomplishments are more satisfying when we’ve invested our own time and energy into achieving them. Unfortunately, the effort itself may seem unsatisfying – filled with frustration, disappointment, and hard work. How can we resolve this challenge? The sages teach a lesson about this, using the metaphor of fruit trees, which is relevant to this coming week’s celebration of Tu b’Shvat.

Rashi, citing the midrash, explains that when they were created, the trees erred.  G-d instructed the creation of fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.  But instead, what grew were trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it.

The fruit of the tree could be thought of as its result, which tastes sweet to us. Trees also produce bark and wood. Like the effort to accomplish a result, it often doesn’t taste good at all. But in the original plan, the tree itself was supposed to taste as sweet as the fruit.

Rav Kook teaches that at the end of days, when the created world will return to its originally intended state, the bark and wood of trees will taste as good as the fruit. Continuing the metaphor, he asserts that in the future the effort involved in producing a result will be as satisfying as the result itself. (Orot HaTeshuva 6:7)[1]

Meanwhile, we have a challenge in producing meaningful long-term results. The effort may be hard and long. We sometimes would like to skip the difficult part. But skipping straight to the result without expending the effort is not nearly as satisfying at the end.

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