The Caper Caper
Our daf today mentions a plant we have come across before in rabbinic literature, the caper or צלף. We remember it from Masechet Berakhot where there were discussions about which part is good to eat, what blessing is said over it and are you required to take terumah from it (Berakhot 36). Here the caper stars in a story where it is the reward for a righteous man who does not mend his fence on Shabbat. A miracle happens and a caper bush grows in the open space, not only keeping the area fenced in but also providing a livelihood for the righteous man.
What’s so great about a caper bush? Well, first it has many edible parts: today we eat only the buds (pickled) but in ancient times they ate the flowers and perhaps even the leaves. A profession that we hear about in the Gemara is that of a kapar קפר , i.e. someone who pickles capers. We’ll be meeting up with Rabbi Elazar HaKapar on the next daf. Another quality a caper bush has are its very sharp thorns, the thorns that help create the fence in our story.
Like many plants and animals, the caper is compared to the Jewish people. In Masechet Bezah (25), the Jews are compared in their tenaciousness to animals and plants. The plant chosen is the caper. A caper will grow just about anywhere, under harsh conditions, and return even if it has been uprooted. The parallels to the Jews are obvious. And that is why it is particularly lovely that the plants that grow out of the Kotel are none other than. . . capers!