By Rabbi Berach Steinfeld
The Torah enumerates the seven minim of Eretz Yisroel in Devarim 8:8. The Gemara in Brachos 41b tells us that when it comes to which fruit comes first regarding brachos and chashivus we look to see which fruit is written first in the posuk. In addition, the posuk mentions the word eretz twice, so we say that whatever fruit is closer to the word eretz comes first. If there is a tie, then the one closer to the first eretz comes first. The Rema brings this down lehalacha in Orach Chaim 211:4. The question is, why does the posuk depict it in this way that whatever fruit is closer to eretz comes first? We could have written the fruit in the following order: wheat, olives, barley, dates, grapes, figs, and pomegranate.
We could explain that the reason each one of these fruits have kedima before the others is dependent upon how close they are physically to the land, not just closer to eretz in the posuk. We know that the peel of the wheat gets eaten with the wheat as seen in Yerushalmi Klayim Perek Bais. The peel of barley does not get eaten as we see at the end of the first perek in Tvul Yom. The wheat also gets planted without its peel, whereas the barley gets planted with its peel as we find in the Tosfos HoRosh Chullin 117a. We see that the wheat is closer to the ground than the barley. In Moed Koton 12b we find that barley that is fully ripe will get ruined if they are not cut, whereas wheat can stay fresh on the ground uncut for a while. Wheat is therefore more connected to the ground than barley.
Grapes are positioned farther since they grow on a tree. Figs that are not harvested and cut when they become ripe start to become full of worms on the tree as we find in Yerushalmi at the end of the second perek in Brachos. We only eat the seeds of the pomegranate, not the outside of the fruit. Olives have a dual purpose; you can eat the fruit, but its main purpose is for the oil that is produced from it. That is why the olive is written right next to the second time it says eretz in the posuk since its use is a little farther from the ground. Grapes are used in a similar way to the olives, but have less purpose than the olives. Olive oil can be used for lighting purposes, whereas the grapes cannot. Dates are mainly used for honey as seen when the posuk calls it dvash. Date trees are the tallest trees as discussed in the Medrash in Tehillim 92 that says that a tzaddik will sprout like a tamar; this shows it is the farthest from the ground. That is why the dvash was written last. The reason the tamar comes before grapes is because there is no use for the branches of a grape tree as seen in Yechezkel 15, whereas the branches of a date tree could be used for building purposes. The branches of the tree, not the fruit, are closer to the ground.
We see from here that the order is dependent on how close the fruit is to the land. We clearly see the chavivus of the land of Eretz Yisroel. May we be zocheh to settle in Eretz Yisroel and emulate Hashem who together with the Torah and Klal Yisroel are designated for the land of Eretz Yisroel.
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