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The Third Pomegranate

by Rabbi Yerachmiel Tilles

www.kabbalaonline.org

  

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Nissim Kinouri lived not far from Tiberias in a humble village on the shore of Lake Kinneret, which gave him his family name. He was extremely poor. He had no fields or orchards; all he had was a pomegranate tree, which stood alone next to his small cottage. The pious Reb Nissim would sit in the shade provided by its thick and leafy branches and learn Torah throughout the long sunny days. In season, the majestic tree would become laden with deep red, juicy globes of fruit, and the whole family would be overjoyed. Selling its pomegranates was their main source of income, and there was always enough for them to enjoy the delicious fruits too.

By the Three Weeks [in the summer, between the Fast Days of 17 Tammuz and 9  Av], the tree would already be covered with fruit. Nevertheless, no one would ever pick any until after Tishah B'Av. Then, with the weeks of mourning over, the season of joy could begin. Before Shabbat Nachamu, the "Shabbat of Consolation" [after the fast of 9 Av], Reb Nissim, with his son to help him, would approach the tree and select bikurim, the choicest ripe ones. On Shabbat, trembling with the holiness of the occasion, he would recite the blessing  Shehecheyanu in joyous intensity. Only then would he finally enjoy the taste of his delicious produce.

He had no fields or orchards; all he had was a pomegranate tree, which stood alone next to his small cottage
The quality of the fruit of Reb Nissim's one and only tree were well known throughout the Tiberian region. Jews and Arabs alike would flock to purchase them. It was said to be exceptionally beneficial for health to eat these pomegranates; the more one ate of them, the better off one would be. Many women reported that the compote they made from them had strong curative qualities.

Of course, there is a limit to how much income can be derived from only one tree. The famous pomegranates commanded a good price, but with the money need to cover a whole year's expenses, Reb Nissim barely managed to eke out minimal support for his large family. Indeed, it often seemed that Reb Nissim had nearly as many children as he had pomegranates. As time went by they grew and matured, just like the fruit on the tree. The years flew, and his older daughters were blossoming into young pretty women whose time to wed was fast approaching. It was imperative to start to seek appropriate mates for them, but there did not seem to be even the remotest possibility to provide each of them a respectable dowry (as was the custom then). 
 
Then, to make matters even more difficult, tragedy struck. The Three Weeks had already begun, and lo, the tree was totally bare of fruit. Its branches drooped toward the ground, as if embarrassed about what had happened.

The Three Weeks passed, and the advent of famine reared its ugly head. There were no pomegranates to eat, no money to buy other food, and certainly nothing to set aside for dowries. On the eve of Shabbat Nachamu, Reb Nissim stood under the tree and scrutinized its branches. If he could only find one fruit so at least he could make the Shehecheyanu blessing, as every year. He looked and searched, with tears welling up in his eyes; not even one pomegranate was to be found.

All of a sudden, he had an idea. "Avraham," he called to his bar Mitzvah-age son. "Please come over here and climb in the tree. Maybe between the leaves you'll find a pomegranate, and then tomorrow, G-d willing, we can make a blessing over it."

Avraham was a lively, energetic boy. He certainly did not have to be invited twice to climb a tree! In no time at all, he was up in its branches. His father waited below, holding his breath.


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Mitzvah
(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Shabbat
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Shehecheyanu
A blessing recited on joyous occasions. The blessing thanks G-d for "sustaining us and enabling us to reach this occasion."
Sephardic
(adj.) A Jew whose ancestors stem from Southern Italy, Spain, Portugal, North Africa or the Arabian countries.
Hashem
"The Name." Out of respect, we do not explicitly mention G-d's name, unless in the course of prayer. Instead, "Hashem" is substituted.
Av
The fifth month of the Jewish calendar, normally corresponding to July-August. The saddest month of the year due to the destruction of the Temples, and the many other tragedies which befell the Jews in this month.
Tammuz
The fourth month on the Jewish calendar, normally corresponding to June-July.
Psalms
The Book of Psalms. One of the 24 books of the Bible. Compiled by King David; mostly comprised of poetic praise for G-d. A large part of our prayers are culled from this book.
Yisrael
1. Additional name given by G-d to Patriarch Jacob. 2. A Jew who is not a Kohain or Levi (descendant of the Tribe of Levi).
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.