Jan 13, 2013

Interesting Psak: Virtual Trees, Real Bracha

Tu b'Shvat is coming and the organizations are getting into high gear with their campaigns for planting trees...

It is a really nice experience to go out on Tu b'Shvat, if you can, and plant a tree. In many of the JNF/KKL forests they will have organized tree planting events where people can come and help plant the trees. You can also sponsor a tree, or often you can even just help by planting trees that were sponsored by others.

The first Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rav Bentzion Meir Hai Uziel, wrote the tefilla, HaNotei'a, that is said when planting trees on Tu b'Shvat (or any other time) in the JNF forests.
(for the text of Ha'Notei'a, see the bottom of the post)

An interesting question was raised and submitted to Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger. With the KKL finding new ways of fundraising, new questions arise, even halachic in nature. The question posted to Rav Metzger was regarding the KKL's recently launched initiative by which people who can't, or won't, go out to an actual KKL forest and plant a tree can still be involved, all via their computer. They go to the KKL website and find the "click and plant" program. For the price of 36NIS per tree, you can virtually plant as many trees as you want. After you submit your virtual planting order, they will have their foresters plant actual trees.

The question asked was can a person who plants virtual trees in this fashion say the actual prayer when he places his order, or perhaps the prayer HaNotei'a can only be said when accompanied with the physical act of planting a tree in the ground?

Rav Metzger responded with his psak that even someone planting a tree virtually via the Internet can say the prayer. The reason being that while it is better for one to actually plant the tree himself, if he cannot then this is a way he can participate and be a partner in the result of building Eretz Yisrael. Even by planting the tree via the Internet he is showing his faith in Hashem and in the mitzva of yishuv eretz yisrael, and should say the prayer.
(source: Srugim)

תפילת הנוטע

אָבִינוּ שֶׁבַּשָּׁמַיִם,
בּוֹנֵה צִיּוֹן וִירוּשָׁלַיִם
וּמְכוֹנֵן מַלְכוּת יִשְׂרָאֵל,
הַשְׁקִיפָה מִמְּעוֹן קָדְשֶׁךָ מִן הַשָּׁמַיִם
וּבָרֵךְ אֶת עַמְּךָ יִשְׂרָאֵל
וְאֶת הָאֲדָמָה אֲשֶׁר נָתַתָּ לָנוּ
כַּאֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּעְתָּ לַאֲבוֹתֵינוּ.
רְצֵה ה' אַרְצֶךָ
וְהַשְׁפַּע עָלֶיהָ מִטּוּב חַסְדֶּךָ.
תֵּן טַל לִבְרָכָה
וְגִשְׁמֵי רָצוֹן הוֹרֵד בְּעִתָּם
לִרְווֹת הָרֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וַעֲמָקֶיהָ
וּלְהַשְׁקוֹת בָּהֶם כָּל צֶמַח, עֵץ וּנְטִיעוֹתֵינוּ.
הַעֲמֵק שָׁרְשֵׁיהֶם וְגָדֵל פְּאֵרָם,
לְמַעַן יִפְרְחוּ לְרָצוֹן
בְּתוֹךְ שְׁאַר עֲצֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל
לִבְרָכָה וּלְתִפְאָרָה.
וַחֲזֵק יְדֵי כָּל אַחֵינוּ
הָעֲמֵלִים בַּעֲבוֹדַת אַדְמַת הַקֹּדֶשׁ
וּבְהַפְרָחַת שִׁמְמָתָהּ.
בָּרֵךְ ה' חֵילָם
וּפֹעַל יָדָם תִּרְצֶה.
הַשְׁקִיפָה מִמְּעוֹן קָדְשֶׁךָ מִן הַשָּׁמַיִם
וּבָרֵךְ אֶת עַמְּךָ אֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל
וְאֶת הָאֲדָמָה אֲשֶׁר נָתַתָּ לָנוּ
כַּאֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּעְתָּ לַאֲבוֹתֵינוּ.

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  1. I apologize for being the killjoy but there might be an issue of saying Hashem's name in vain if you are not actually planting the tree. You se, KKL is possibly doing fraud by claiming to plant a tree for each person. In reality, the money goes to regular budget that includes, other initiatives like building reservoirs, parks, roads, as well as paying for the regular maintenance of office supplies, gas, and equipment as well as planting trees.

    FWIW, planting a tree on Tu Bshvat is a major secular marketing success but bad ecological sense with no religious purpose. The middle of the winter is the worst time for planting. Maybe the earth is wet, but otherwise the earth is too cold to accept roots. Religious wise, Tu Bshvat is also a problematic. With so many planting going on this period of time (not always on that day), who is making sure which year the trees were planted in for orla calculations?

  2. I am no talmid chochom, so I have no problem answeing/commenting out of order...

    1. I dont think orla is much of an issue. The trees the KKL plants, generally, from what I have seen, on Tu b'shvat, in their forests, are non-fruit bearing trees.

    2. the prayer is a tefilla, not a bracha on a mitzva. so, I think, it can probably even be said without planting a tree at all and not be considered l'vatala.

    3. I see it as though the person ordering the trees is appointing the KKL as a shliach to plant x number of trees. the 36 NIS per tree does not have to be the wholesale cost of the tree, but that price can include all the overhead - the salaries and other expenses, with money left over to be used for other things. It is a fundraiser. The tree costs (lets say) 5 NIS, and the rest of the money is used for other things. I think everyone is aware of that and gives knowing that is the case. It is like the shul chargin $1800 to sponsor the chazzans siddur, or $500 for the beit medrash mezuza or $18 per siddur.

    4. I have no idea if what you say about the timing being wrong is correct or not, but it is an interesting point. different trees and plants get planted at different times of year. I always assumed that they are planting trees that are appropriate for the season, but I dont know that to be the case.


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