The Ripe Fig

The Ripe Fig


After the captivity of the ruling classes in 597 BCE, Yirmiyahu is shown a vision of two baskets of figs: one basket has good, ripe figs, the other has rotten figs that cannot be eaten. Until this time, exile from the Land of Israel, the source of all goodness and blessing, was considered the worst possible punishment.


Jeremiah 24:1-2

1 Hashem showed me two baskets of figs, placed in front of the Temple

of Hashem. This was after King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon had exiled

King Yechonya son of Yehoyakim of Yehuda, and the officials of Yehuda, and

the craftsmen and smiths, from Yerushalayim, and had brought them to

Babylon.

2 One basket contained very good figs, like first-ripened figs, and the other

basket contained very bad figs, so bad that they could not be eaten.


Those who remained in the Land thought they had been spared, while those who were exiled thought that Hashem had abandoned them. Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) explains that in reality, the opposite is true; those in exile will rediscover the ways of God and return (represented in the image by the ripe figs), while those who remain in the land (the bad figs) will eventually be destroyed. The use of the fig, one of the seven agricultural species unique to Eretz Yisrael, is significant in this metaphor, as the Bible also uses the image of a fig tree to denote peace and prosperity in the land (see I Kings 5:5). In the Talmud (Eruvin 54), Rabbi Yochanan asks why the words of the Torah are compared to a fig tree as it says in Mishlei (Proverbs) 27:18, "He who guards the fig tree shall eat its fruit."


Rabbi Yochanan’s answer is that in the case of the fig tree, every time a person handles it, they find a ripe fig, the same is true for the words of Torah: Every time a person studies them, they find flavour in them.

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