When the Wicked Pharaoh legislated death for all new born Jewish boys the righteous Jewish women went out to the field to give birth. They would find an apple tree to give birth underneath, as it is said, “Under the apple-tree I awakened you.” (Shir Hashirim 8 – 5) When an Egyptian would come the ground would open and swallow the mother and baby. On top of them they could easily plow the field with oxen without any issues. After the Egyptian would leave they would float up to the top. (Sota 11b)
It should be clear that this Midrash makes extensive use of poetic language. It need not be taken in a historical context. Our Rabbis of blessed memory want us to know how difficult life was for the enslaved Jewish people. They had to live and prosper in such a corrupt country that legislated throwing babies into the river. Through tremendous divine assistance the Jewish people thrived even under these circumstances.
Benie Yisrael are compared to an apple tree. Our Rabbis of Blesses Memory said that the Apple tree flowers before its leaves come out. This is contrary to most other trees. When Benei Yisral stood at the foot of Mount Sinai they said “Na’aseh VeNishma- We will do and listen” Only afterwards does one get into scholarly discussions. The Flowers represent the Mitzvot. Many people investigate the reasons behind Mitzvot. Many of the reasons they have come up with are often unacceptable. In these cases we still follow the Mitzvah.
Many Converso Jews lived in Spain, Portugal and more recently in Mash’had in Iran. They lived outwardly as Gentiles and as Jews in their homes. These Jews would give their lives to be able to follow Mitzvot like salting meat, having a Passover Seder, and Lighting Shabbat Candles in the cellar or bathroom. Needless to say that most of them did not know the reasons for these Mitzvot. This is because they had little formal Jewish education.
When they freed themselves of their false identities they happily learned all of the Mitzvot and their reasons. These people are certainly like the analogy between the Jewish people and the apple tree.
I have heard that the first Kosher cook books were published in Ladino in Amsterdam by Menashe Ben Yisrael to help these people easily return to Judaism.
The Apple and the Apple tree are mentioned several times in Shir Hashirim. The Pasuk says, “As an apple-tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons.” (Shir Hashirim 2 –3 ) It seems likely that wild apple trees grew in Israeli forests and they were quite succulent.
Apples are the most widely grown fruit in the world. There are tens of varieties of varying tastes, colors and textures. These varieties range from the sweet Red Delicious to the sour Granny Smith or sourer Crabapple. In addition to just eating them plain apples are processed into applesauce, apple pie, apple cider, cider vinegar and alcoholic Hard Cider.