Thursday, September 20, 2018

Pure, White Yom Kippur Surprise

Herbal Remedies from the Judean Hills
יַסְמִין – Jasmine– Jasminium Officinale

Printable Version

Pure, White Yom Kippur Surprise
This Yom Kippur eve, my dear husband surprised me with a beautiful bouquet of pure, white jasmine flowers with a note asking for forgiveness. Needless to say, the sweet jasmine scent that permeated our home, made me feel enveloped by his love. The fragrant jasmine-blossom, known for its bright, white petals and sensuous scent, promotes spiritual love. It restores optimism and confidence and promotes mental energy and vitality. Its calming properties affect the mind, strengthening marital love and opening us up to the divine splendor all around. What a beautiful way to enter Yom Kippur! The pungent aroma of jasmine flowers facilitates a relaxed, meditative state and improves clarity of vision. The word ‘jasmine’ comes from the Persian word ‘yasmin,’ meaning ‘gift of G-d.’ It was indeed enchanting hearing ‘Kol Nidrei’ accompanied by the scent of jasmine.

Romantic, Paradise Scent of Summer
Jasmine flowers are intertwined within my marital love-story and teshuva process. Their flowers consist of five petals that unfold outward like a star. This jasmine star with its heavenly scent accompanied my spiritual search in my early Yeshiva days in the Old City of Jerusalem. The very first home we lived in after our wedding, had a beautiful jasmine bush climbing up the steps to the entrance of our home. Ever since, wherever we lived, we have yearned for such a plant to grace the entrance of our home, and we finally achieved our goal. It took many tries until we found a viable jasmine that survived the harsh winter of Gush Etzion. Our current jasmine gradually grew, until it clearly made a mark on our garden spreading out on most of the outer wall of the main front of our house. We love it so much that we don’t even mind it covering some of our windows. There are over two hundred different species of Jasminium. I believe the jasmine in front of our home is Jasminium officianale – a hardy a vine-like climber. This species is distinguished by the ability to cling to walls without supports, which makes it great for walled gardens. It is also called ‘summer jasmine,’ as it begins flowering soon after Shavuot and continues to blossom until after Sukkot. Aside from being the main jasmine species and consequently the most well-known, is also the species that best exemplifies this group. This plant will cover an area of forty feet by twenty feet and can transform a garden on a warm summer’s evening into a romantic paradise. 

Love Flowers
ספר בראשית פרק ל פסוק יד וַיֵּלֶךְ רְאוּבֵן בִּימֵי קְצִיר חִטִּים וַיִּמְצָא דוּדָאִים בַּשָּׂדֶה וַיָּבֵא אֹתָם אֶל לֵאָה אִמּוֹ וַתֹּאמֶר רָחֵל אֶל לֵאָה תְּנִי נָא לִי מִדּוּדָאֵי בְּנֵךְ:
“Reuven went in the days of the wheat harvest, and he found dudaim in the field and brought them to Leah, his mother, then Rachel said to Leah, ‘Please give me some of your son’s dudaim’” (Bereishit 30:14).

רש"י על בראשית פרק ל פסוק יד  דודאים - (סנהדרין צט) שיגלי עשב הוא ובלשון ישמעאל ישמי"ן:
Dudaim are called jasmine in Arabic (Rashi, Bereishit 30:14).

I never understood why Rashi explains that the דוּדָאִים/dudaim that Leah traded with Rachel are jasmine flowers. Usually, these love-flowers are translated as ‘mandrakes’ – which is a completely different kind and much smaller wildflower. Mediterranean mandrakes are perennial plants with leaves growing in a rosette, a thick upright root, often branched, and beautiful, bell-shaped purple flowers followed by orange berries resembling cherry tomatoes. However, after learning about the aphrodisiac properties of jasmine, Rashi’s comment makes perfectly sense. Although the biblical dudaim are better known for their fertility properties (Yad Rama, Beniyahu ben Yehoyada, Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 99b), several Torah commentaries explain that they had aphrodisiac rather than fertility properties. “The dudaim had the ability to bring about love between husband and wife. This is why Reuven, who cared that Ya’acov should love his mother, brought Leah these dudaim.  Although Ya’acov’s bed was set up with Rachel, she felt lack of love as a result of not having children. This is why she requested some of the love flowers” (Be’er Mayim Chaim, Bereishit 30:14). Jasmine tea contains benzoic acetate, linalool, indole and jasmon, all of which enhance libido and evoke passion. International Journal of Institutional Pharmacy and Life Sciences 1(1): July-August 2011, >. Some say that jasmine is better than other stimulants because the aphrodisiacs compounds occur in the plant naturally. Thus, jasmine flowers have historically been used in bridal accessories and room décor of the newlywed, especially in India. It also helps cure problems such as premature ejaculation, frigidity, impotence, and other sexual disorders. The Jasmine flower is a complex and mysterious blossom. Respect the power of this compelling flower and if you are married perfume yourself with pure, essential jasmine oil Friday night for the mitzvah of ona (marital intimacy).

Medicinal Properties of Jasmine Flowers
The health benefits of jasmine essential oil can be attributed to its properties as an aphrodisiac, antispasmodic, analgesic, antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, aphrodisiac, sedative, expectorant, cicatrizant, (forming scar tissue), galactagogue, emmenagogue, and uterine. It is beneficial for the skin, reduces muscle spasms, sprains, laryngitis, irregular menstruation, labor pain, frigidity, depression, nervous exhaustion. It also induces relaxation (Sinngh Babita, Aromatheraphy: The best way to relax using essential oils, Agric Watch, 2001, 1 (4), 50-62).

Relieves Depression The aroma of jasmine essential oil has a pleasing and uplifting effect on the mind and it actively fights depression. The aromatic effect of jasmine oil stimulates the release of certain hormones in the body, including serotonin, which results in the boost of energy and the uplifted mood.

Prevents Infections Jasmine is antiseptic and disinfectant when applied to wounds. Its constituents like benzaldehyde, benzoic acid, and benzyl benzoate have very effective germicidal, bactericidal, fungicidal, and antiviral properties. When inhaled, it reduces infections in the respiratory system and can relieve colds and coughs.

Fades Scar Marks Since jasmine essential oil is a cicatrizant that helps fade scar marks and after spots. It can also help eliminate the fat cracks of pregnant women.

Reduces Cough & Treats Spasms The expectorant property of jasmine provides relief from a cough by helping clear out the accumulation of phlegm in the respiratory tracts.
Jasmine essential oil is very good for treating and relaxing spasms. It provides quick relief from spasmodic coughs, cramps, congestion and asthma.

Treats Insomnia The an expectorant, sedative, and antispasmodic properties of jasmine essential oil combine to help induce a peaceful good night’s sleep. 

Calming Effect Jasmine essential oil calms down the body, mind and soul while bringing forth positive and constructive emotions. It gives relief from anxiety, stress, annoyance, anger, and depression. 

Regulates Menstruation The emmenagogue property of jasmine oil regulates period cycles, and makes the periods clear and less painful, while also helping to push back menopause. It furthermore provides relief from other problems associated with menses such as fatigue, annoyance, nausea, and mood swings.

Protects the Uterus Jasmine tones the uterus and by restricting the flow of estrogen jasmine protects the uterus from tumors, particularly after menopause.

Promotes & Eases Childbirth Jasmine reduces labor pains while strengthening contractions and thus shortens the time it takes to deliver a baby. It also shortens the recovery process and makes it less painful. Due to its antidepressant and uplifting qualities Jasmine furthermore prevents post-partum depression.

Facilitates Lactation Jasmine essential oil increases milk secretion of lactating mothers.

Treats Skin Problems Jasmine oil has long been associated with skin care, particularly in terms of treating eczema, dermatitis, dry, brittle, irritated or dehydrated skin. Lotions made from jasmine flowers also treat sunburns and rashes. The juices of the flower are said to restore the skin’s moisture and elasticity, reducing the appearance of wrinkles and giving the skin a healthier look and feel.

Other Benefits
It can also be used to free people from narcotics and other addictions.

Caution: Pregnant women should avoid using jasmine essential oil until the end of term, since it is an emmenagogue, which could cause abortion.

Blending: Essential oil of jasmine blends well with the essential oils of bergamot, sandalwood, rose, and citrus fruits.

Hands On
When your jasmine produces flowers in the spring and summer, you can make your very own jasmine tea from the flower buds. Use a sharp pair of pruners to cut branches loaded with flowers and leaves. Place the stems in water right away to preserve their freshness.

Jasmine Tea and Coconut Popsicles
These pops are almost as creamy as real ice cream but are dairy free, refined sugar free and can be made vegan by using maple syrup in place of the raw honey.

1/3 Cup boiling water
½ Cup fresh (¼ cup dried) jasmine flowers
1½ Cup full fat, unsweetened coconut milk
1 Tablespoon raw honey or maple syrup

1. Pour the boiling water on the jasmine flowers
2. Let steep ten minutes.
3. Add all other ingredients and whisk vigorously for about 30 seconds.
4. Pour into popsicle molds.
5. Freeze about 6 hours.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Castor Oil – The Natural Detoxification Agent

Herbal Remedies from the Judean Hills
קִיקָיוֹן – Castor Oil Plant – Ricinus Communis
Printable Version

Castor Oil – The Natural Detoxification Agent 
A number of stray castor oil plants are growing in various unexpected locations in my garden. I also own a bottle of castor oil, in Hebrew – שֶׁמֶן קִיק/shemen kik. It is hard to imagine any correlation between the content of my bottle and the weed popping up in my garden. Every summer, during my annual liver cleanse, I place a ‘castor oil pack’ over my liver, after drinking a mixture of lemon juice and olive oil. Then I drift off to sleep. This procedure draws out liver-stones, filled with cholesterol and bile. Castor oil is helpful in drawing out toxins from the body, especially from the liver. The late healing psychic, Edgar Cayce, believed that castor oil has a vibrational quality that helps harmonize and promote healing within body cells. He recommended using castor oil packs as an economical and efficient method to absorb the healing components of castor oil directly into body tissues. Today, many medical experts recommend them for effectively helping the body to detox. Recent studies have shown that castor oil packs increase the production of lymphocytes and improve the function of the thymus gland and the immune system. Castor oil packs have the ability to promote both the circulation of blood through an organ as well as increase the flow of fluids through the lymphatic system. This speeds up the removal of toxins surrounding the cells and results in a general overall improvement in organ function, while reducing fatigue and depression. Furthermore, an extract of the leaf was shown, in lab rats, to protect the liver from damage by certain poisons.

The Prophet’s Castor Oil Plant
Castor oil dates back to Egypt over 3,500 years ago. It is also mentioned in our holy Bible. The prophet Yonah had fled from prophecy in order to avoid assisting the repentance of the evil Nineveh nation, which eventually would destroy Israel. After many trials and tribulations including being in the belly of a fish for three full days, Yonah finally concede to do Hashem’s bidding. Yet, after Nineveh’s repentance, Yonah is overcome by regret and grief, anticipating Israel’s dire fate. At the peak of Yonah’s depression, Hashem surprises him by causing a castor oil plant to sprout forth, in order to take him out of his ‘evil’ depression:

ספר יונה פרק ד פסוק ו וַיְמַן הָשֵׁם אֱלֹהִים קִיקָיוֹן וַיַּעַל מֵעַל לְיוֹנָה לִהְיוֹת צֵל עַל רֹאשׁוֹ לְהַצִּיל לוֹ מֵרָעָתוֹ וַיִּשְׂמַח יוֹנָה עַל הַקִּיקָיוֹן שִׂמְחָה גְדוֹלָה:
“Now Hashem, Elokim appointed a kikayon (castor oil plant), and it grew up over Yonah to be shade over his head, to save him from his evil, and Yonah was overjoyed with the kikayon” (Yonah 4:6).

The Message of the Castor Oil Plant
Why did Hashem choose the castor oil plant to teach Yonah a lesson and what was its message? According to Rabbi Rivlin, the main message of the Book of Yonah is to reveal Hashem’s unconditional loving kindness, which greatly exceeds that of human beings. Yonah is seeking justice and feels depressed about the undeserved kindness Hashem bestows upon the Nation of Nineveh. The castor oil plant comes to sweeten his negativity. Hashem appoints it “to be a shade over his head.” This is like the yarmulke – an allusion to the limitations of the human head, helping him change his mind-set and perspective. The two names of G-d written together in our verse allude to the integration of strict justice (Elokim) with ultimate kindness (Hashem). We do not have the capability to understand Hashem’s ways fully and fathom how ultimate kindness and ultimate justice is completely unified in the Divine realm. The heart of the argument between the prophet and his G-d concerns G-d’s overflowing kindness which Yonah perceives as damaging to the future of the Jewish people. Although the prophet does have future perspective, he still doesn’t see the full picture of how Israel’s future exile by the Nation of Nineveh facilitates Israel’s teshuvah and helps them achieve their life purpose and ultimate perfection. Through punishment, one can be healed. The kikayon is poisonous, but also has healing properties. Although Nineveh will later arise to exile the Jews from Israel, this punishment is in itself G-d’s concealed mercy, which ultimately enables the continued existence of Israel.

Trusting in Hashem’s Kindness and Depression Detox 
The Kikayon was also created “to save him [Yonah] from his evil.” I believe this is to teach his heart to be happy by trusting Hashem’s way of running the world. The detoxifying property of castor oil is supposed to cleanse Yonah’s heart from feeling sad and depressed. Alshich notes that it states, “to save him from his evil.” It saves Yonah from thinking sinful doubts about G-d’s mercy, which encompasses all His creatures. The castor oil plant has an internal cleansing effect. The waters surrounding the fish cleansed Yona externally like a mikvah, whereas the castor oil plant, with its strong laxative effect, traditionally used as a remedy to relieve constipation, cleanses him internally, on a more refined level. The kikayon represents Hashem’s mercy, even to the one who is unworthy of mercy. The understanding that Hashem’s kindness extends to all of His creatures regardless of their deeds, fills Yonah with great happiness. Now, Yonah realizes that Hashem needed to add kindness to justice in the creation of the world, in order for the world to continue to exist. His great happiness for the kikayon testifies that Yonah finally internalized the purpose of his mission. “Hashem raised a castor oil plant over the head of Yonah at night and in the morning it grew 275 leaves and the shade of each leave was about 30 cm. Four people could sit in its shade. Hashem designated a worm and it cut the kikayon so it dried up and died. Insects and flies caused him [Yonah] pain from every side, until he asked for his soul to die. At that moment, his eyes flowed with tears like rain before Hashem. Hashem asked him, Yonah why do you cry? Do you feel pain about that which you did not grow? You neither gave it compost nor watered it? One night it lived and the next night it dried up, but you had mercy on it; should I not have mercy on Nineveh the big city? At that moment he [Yona] fell on his face and said, run your world with mercy, as it states, ‘to Hashem your G-d is mercy and forgiveness’” (Daniel 9:9); (Yalkut Shimoni, Yona, Chapter two, continuation of hint 551).

Castor Oil in the Talmud
Castor oil is mentioned in the Mishna as one of the oils disqualified for lighting the Shabbat candles (Mishna Shabbat 2:1). Rambam comments that the castor plant has fatty seeds that produce a thick oil. The gemara (Shabbat 20b) gives several possibilities for the identification of the castor oil plant. The final suggestion is that castor oil is a product of a tree similar to that which grew (miraculously) for Yonah. In accordance with the Talmudic view that castor oil and Yonah’s kikayon are synonymous, the commentaries on the Book of Yonah write that the kikayon is “a plant with many wide and large leaves that grows tall and provides shade” (Rashi, Metzudot, The Book of Yonah 4:6). Its oils are used for its medicinal properties for people who have colds” (Radak, ibid.). The consensus is that Yonah’s kikayon is Ricinus communis or the castor oil plant. This plant grows wild in the Land of Israel it has large shady leaves and can become up to 5 meter tall. Aside from its medicinal benefits and use as fuel, castor oil is used to manufacture soaps, lubricants, paints, dyes, inks, plastics, perfumes, and more (Dr. David G. Williams – Alternatives Newsletter, Vol. 6, No.1, July 1995).

Medicinal Properties of Castor Oil
Castor oil has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antimicrobial, antihistamine, analgesic and lymphatic stimulant properties. It is a triglyceride of fatty acids. Almost 90 percent of its fatty acid content consists of ricinoleic acid, not found in any other substance. The high concentration of this unusual, unsaturated fatty acid may be responsible for castor oil’s remarkable healing abilities. Ricinoleic acid has been shown to be effective in preventing the growth of viruses, bacteria, yeasts and molds.  (J Am Oil Chem Soc 61;37.323-325.)  By rubbing or massaging the oil directly into the skin, castor oil successfully treats ringworm, acne, skin inflammation, chronic itching, abrasions, muscle strains, ligament sprains, warts, ‘liver’ spots, and prevents abdominal stretch marks. It also treats fungal-infected fingernails and toenails by wrapping the area in cloth soaked with castor oil each night, or using a castor oil soaked Band-Aid. Nursing mothers in the Canary Islands applied the poultice of castor leaves to their breasts to increase milk secretion and relieve inflammation and milk stagnation. Taking castor oil orally has traditionally been used for constipation. The recommended dose is 1 tablespoon for adults and 1 teaspoon for children. You can usually expect a ‘purging’ of the system in about four to six hours.

The Beauty Benefits of Castor Oil
Castor oil is one of the most beneficial beauty products. It has been known for ages to treat various skin conditions and infections, and for increasing hair health. It protects hair against split ends and dryness and alleviates scalp itchiness and hair loss. Applying castor oil on the skin around the eyes refreshes the skin and reduces tired look. Daily appliance of castor oil on the skin prevents wrinkles and fine lines. Rubbing it on eyebrows and lashes helps them grow healthier.

Hands On
Castor oil and coconut oil is a winning combination. Mixing them together creates an ideal balanced texture, perfect for skin application, especially for dry skin. It makes a great night face serum that helps prevent acne breakouts. It promotes a clear complexion that stays smooth and moisturized. This same formula is perfect for whole body application too. It also fades stretch marks, soothes sunburn, and is a healing massage oil for stress relief.

Coconut Castor Oil Night Serum
1. Combine ½ cup castor oil with ½ cup coconut oil in a glass container or jar. Mix it well until even.
2. Wash your face with warm water and gentle cleanser to open the pores. You can also try using steam from a pot. Simply drape a towel over your head and lean your face over the steam for 5 to 10 minutes.
3. Apply the solution to the face in a circular motion.
4. Let the oil sit overnight.
5. Rinse with lukewarm water in the morning and pat dry.

Castor Oil Face Cleanser
¼ cup castor oil
¼ cup virgin olive oil
6 drops of any of these oils:
lavender essential oil, frankincense essential oil, geranium essential oil

1. Pour all the ingredients in a dry glass jar.
2. Cover the lid tightly and shake well to mix thoroughly.
3. Pour some of the mixture on your palm. Rub them together and apply the oil on your face. Massage in a circular motion.
4. Wet a cotton cloth in hot water. Wring out excess water and place over your face for about 1 minute.
5. Gently wipe all areas of your face to remove dirt, dead skin cells, and makeup.
6. Rinse the cotton cloth and repeat steps 4 and 5 for 1 to 2 more times.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

The Holy Apple Orchard

Herbal Remedies from the Judean Hills
תַפּוּחַ – Apple – Malus Pumila

Printable Version

The Holy Apple Orchard
The apple has rightfully merited to receive much recognition throughout the times till today.  It has come to symbolize so much more than a crunchy fruit. Its image is significant in the corporal world, from iPhone to the Big Apple. The apple is also central in our holy Torah, from the Bible to our mystical tradition. We eat apples on Rosh Hashana, as a sign that we will merit entering Paradise. Furthermore, the apple, which is pleasing and enjoyable in every way, (taste, appearance and fragrance), is symbolic of our hopes that the New Year will bring joy and success in all areas of life (children, life and sustenance (Ben Ish Chai). The Zohar refers to the Garden of Eden as ‘The Orchard of Holy Apples’ – חקל תפוחין קדישין/Chakal Tapuchin Kadishin (Zohar 3:271a). I have long been wondering about the reason for the common misunderstanding that the Tree of Knowledge was an apple tree. While the Talmud suggests a number of possible identities for the Tree of Knowledge – including etrog, fig, date, grape, and even wheat tree (Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 40a), the forbidden fruit is never identified with the apple neither in the written or oral Torah. However, apple is loosely linked with the Tree of Life, as it is located in the center of the apple orchard (Chatam Sofer, Vayikra 26:3). Although I haven’t found any explicit identification of the Tree of Life in any Torah source, at last the apple orchard is the way to the Tree of Life” (Rav Tzaddok, P’ri Tzaddik, Parashat Mishpatim 4). So perhaps ‘apple’ became the forbidden fruit due to a mix-up between the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life. Another explanation for how the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge Good and Evil came to be an apple in most people’s perception could be due to the translation of the Torah into Latin in the 4th century. Since in Latin both ‘evil and ‘apple’ is called ‘malum,’ the misunderstanding easily arose.

The Apple is a Metaphor for Hashem
Just as the apple heals all, so does the Holy One heal all. Just as the apple has various colors (white, red, green) so does the Holy One have various supernal colors (white, red and green corresponding to the attributes of chesed, gevurah and tiferet (Zohar, 3:74a). The apple tree represents Hashem, Who is distinguished from the false gods. Just as the apple tree blossoms in the spring – in the month of Nisan, and its fruit ripens 50 days later – in the month of Sivan, so was the sequence of Hashem’s redeeming us from Egypt and His giving us the Torah. He redeemed us in Nissan, and gave us His Torah 50 days after (Midrash Shir Hashirim Rabbah 2).

כְּתַפּוּחַ בַּעֲצֵי הַיַּעַר כֵּן דּוֹדִי בֵּין הַבָּנִים בְּצִלּוֹ חִמַּדְתִּי וְיָשַׁבְתִּי וּפִרְיוֹ מָתוֹק לְחִכִּי: (שיר השירים פרק ב פסוק ג)
 “As an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the sons; in His shade I delighted and sat, and his fruit was sweet to my palate” (Song of Songs 2:3).

Just as an apple tree is more beloved than all the trees that do not bear fruit, the Holy One, blessed be He distinguishes Himself above all the gods. Just as most people do not chose to sit under the apple tree, since it has very little shade, so did all the nations flee from the Holy One, blessed be He, at the giving of the Torah. However, Israel chose to sit in the shade of the apple tree – in the shade of Hashem protected by His Torah (Rashi, Song of Songs 2:3). 

Hashem, Who is the Soul of all the worlds, gives life to all, and rules everything. Yet, it is not always easy to notice the Divine supervision, concealed by the forces of nature. Hashem is “among the sons” – amidst the forces of nature that He imbued with ruling powers to the extent that His Divine supervision and influence is concealed. This is similar to an apple tree among the trees of the forest that by their height and large branches, overshadow the much smaller apple tree (Malbim, Ibid.).

Finding Hashem in the Apple
One of my students showed me how to find Hashem in an apple the following way: We can find G‑d’s Four-Letter Name by cutting an apple along its horizontal axis. The letter י/yud – with its numeric value of 10 – is alluded to by the ten dots in the pulp surrounding the seeds. The letter ה/hei is indicated by the five seed spaces in the core of the apple. The shape of the letter ו/vav is drawn by the stem. The second ה/hei is alluded by the five seeds.

Hashem is the Apple Tree, Israel the Apples
The main revelation of G-dliness and the life-giving vitality from Heaven flows into the world through the Tree of Life, which represents Hashem and His Torah. Israel is commanded to grow in holiness, and follow Hashem. Thus, Hashem is called the apple tree, whereas the souls of Israel are His fruits. As written in the holy Zohar “His fruit is sweet to my pallet” – these are the souls of the tzaddikim they are all servants of Hashem… (Zohar 1:85b). Even the congregation of Israel are His fruits, as it states, “You are sons of Hashem Your G-d” (Devarim 14:1); (Rav Tzaddok, Tub’Shevat 2). When our Father, Ya’acov, entered Yitzchak’s tent to receive his blessing, the scent of the Garden of Eden entered with him. Therefore Yitzchak remarked, “My son’s fragrance is like the fragrance of the field which is blessed by Hashem” (Bereishit 27:27). He sensed the fragrance of the Garden of Eden, which entered with Ya’acov. The field blessed by Hashem is the field of the holy apples (Rashi, Bereishit 27:27). The Garden of Eden is called ‘The Field of Apples,’ for the souls of Israel are called apples. The scent of the Garden of Eden – the garden of the holy apples emanated from Ya’acov, our father, who rectified Adam. Likewise on Shabbat, when we receive an extra soul, then the Jewish people are called ‘Holy Apples.’ Shabbat itself is furthermore, a taste of the World-to-Come. If not for the sin of the Golden Calf, Israel’s receiving the Torah, would have been the final rectification and return to the Garden. Therefore, at the revelation at Sinai, the congregation of Israel was compared to the apple (P’ri Tzaddik, Parashat Tzav 8).

Becoming Holy Apples by Accepting the Torah before Hearing It
The Talmud praises Israel for accepting the Torah with complete unquestioning emunah (faith).

מַאי דִּכְתִיב, (שה"ש בּ) "כְּתַפּוּחַ בַּעֲצֵי הַיַּעַר" וְגוֹ'. לָמָּה נִמְשְׁלוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל לְתַפּוּחַ? לוֹמַר לְךָ, מָה תַּפּוּחַ זֶה - פִּרְיוֹ קוֹדֵם לְעָלָיו, אַף יִשְׂרָאֵל הִקְדִּימוּ נַעֲשֶׂה לְוְנִשְׁמָע:) תלמוד בבלי מסכת שבת דף פ"ח/א(
Why is it written “like an apple among the trees of the forest”? Why are Israel compared to the apple? Just as the blossoming of the apple tree precedes the formation of leaves, so did the Jewish people say נַעֲשֶׂה/na’aseh – agreed to perform the Torah’s commandments even before ווְנִשְׁמָע/v’v’nishma – hearing them (Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 88a). Although in my experience the difference between the apple tree and the rest of the fruit trees is not so noticeable in this respect, the apple tree is often covered with flowers before many of the leaves appear. Similarly the apple produces fruiting spurs before the leaves show. “We will do” are the fruits – keeping the Torah and mitzvot. “We will hear” are the leaves – the aspect of awe, as in “Hear O Israel G-d is One…” When we put it to heart that the King, of kings stands before us and sees our deeds, then we receive awe. Even the unlearned who are compared to the leaves merit this (P’ri Tzaddik, Parashat Shelach 7).
Apples Dipped in Honey on Rosh Hashana
נַעֲשֶׂה/na’asehmeans to perform the good act by obediently following Hashem to keep the Torah and mitzvot, without feeling the taste (meaning) of the mitzvot.  However, we still hope to achieve the level of וְנִשְׁמָע/v’v’nishma – the deeper understanding of the meaning of the Torah and mitzvot and everything in our lives. The apple alludes to נַעֲשֶׂה/na’asehthe aspect of good, whereas dipping of the apple in honey alludes to וְנִשְׁמָע/v’nishma – the sweetness of the understanding of the reasons for the mitzvot which brings
שִׂמְחָה /simcha – joy to our hearts. When dipping the apple in honey on Rosh Hashana we pray:
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ הָשֵׁם אֱלֹהֵינוּ וֵאלֹהֵי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁתִּתְחַדֵּשׁ עָלֵינוּ שָׁנָה טוֹבָה וּמְתוּקָה:
“May it be the will of our Heavenly Father to renew for us a good and sweet year!”

The apple alludes to theשָׁנָה טוֹבָה /shana tova – good year – the good deeds, which we hope to be able to do in the new year. The honey alludes to the sweetness and understanding of the good deeds, which we pray to be able to experience in the following year; this is the meaning of וּמְתוּקָה/u’metukah – sweet.
Torah & Mitzvot – Fruits
Awe of Hashem – Leaves
שָׁנָה טוֹבָה /shana tova – good year
וּמְתוּקָה/u’metukah – sweet
תַפּוּחַ/tapuach – Apple
דְּבָשׁ/d’vash – Honey

The apple has only one seed core for the entire fruit. This symbolize that striving for individual perfection is not enough, we are all unified and connected and we pray for the new year that that will be able to play our part in the perfected community of Israel.
שָׁנָה טוֹבָה וּמְתוּקָה – May you all be inscribed for a good and sweet year!

Nutritional Profile of Apples
סַמְּכוּנִי בָּאֲשִׁישׁוֹת רַפְּדוּנִי בַּתַּפּוּחִים כִּי חוֹלַת אַהֲבָה אָנִי: (שיר השירים פרק ב פסוק ה)
“Sustain me with carafes of wine, strengthen me with apples, for I am lovesick” (Song of Songs 2:5).                
It has always been the custom to heal the sick with apples as Rashi explains COVER ME WITH APPLES for a good fragrance, in the manner of the sick, for I am sick for his love, for I thirst for Him here in my exile (Rashi). Ibn Ezra goes further to state directly that apples strengthen and invigorate the sick. Today the apple still symbolizes good health, as reflected in the old welsh proverb, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Apples are a high-antioxidant food and a very significant source of flavonoids. One medium apple contains about: 95 calories, 4 grams fiber; 19 grams sugar; 4 milligrams vitamin C (14 percent DV); 196 milligrams potassium (6 percent DV); 4 milligrams vitamin K (5 percent DV); 0.1 milligrams vitamin B6 (4 percent DV); 1 milligrams manganese (3 percent DV).

Health Benefits of Apples
In 2004, the USDA scientists investigated over 100 foods for antioxidant concentration per serving size. Two types of apples – Red Delicious and Granny Smith – ranked 12th and 13th respectively. Antioxidants are important disease-fighting compounds. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, apples are cool and sweet. They affect the liver and gallbladder meridians, stimulating the liver into action, allowing it to release ‘heat’ (toxins, hormones, pathogens) to be bound into its fiber.

Lowers Cholesterol
The pectin fiber found in apples naturally lowers cholesterol. One 2003 study found that when rats were fed a diet high in apple pectin extract and freeze-dried apples, they experienced significantly lower levels of cholesterol absorption and triglycerides.

Prevent Gallstones
When there is too much cholesterol in the bile for it to remain liquid, it solidifies and become gallstones. A high fiber diet helps control weight and cholesterol levels and prevents gallstones. The malic acid in apples helps to dissolve cholesterol-packed gallstones, to be removed by the body via the stool.

Detoxify the Liver
The liver is responsible for clearing toxins from the body. Drinking lots of apple juice before cleansing the liver is recommended because the malic acid in apple juice softens gallstones to enable them to be flushed from the liver. The pectin found in apples has a unique ability to bind heavy metals and slowly remove them via the intestinal tract.

Benefit the Digestive System
Fiber found in apples can help alleviate both diarrhea and constipation. It can either pull water out of your colon to keep things moving along when being backed up, or absorb excess water from the stool to slow the bowels down.

Prevent Diabetes
The soluble fibre in apple is the key to blunting blood sugar swings. Moreover, certain flavonoids present in apples are known to improve insulin sensitivity, which is key to preventing both diabetes and long-term weight gain. Because apples are high in fiber, they’re considered a fruit that’s low on the glycemic index. Women who eat one apple a day are 28 per cent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

Boost the Immune System
Red apples contain an antioxidant called quercetin. Quercetin can help boost and fortify the immune system, especially when suffering from stress.

Curb Cancer
Scientists from the American Association for Cancer Research agree that consumption of flavonol-rich apples helps reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer by up to 23 per cent. Researchers at Cornell University have identified protective phytochemicals in apple skin – triterpenoids – that have potent anti-growth activities against cancer cells in the liver, colon and breast. Due to their quercetin, apples may prevent prostate cancer. Since both cardiovascular disease and cancer are thought to be highly related to a condition called oxidative stress, the ability to fight off free radical damage and oxidation is what gives antioxidant rich apples their healing power.

Hands On
Apples are delicious to munch on as is without too many ‘hands on.’ However, unfortunately this is not the case with the apples growing in my garden which for various reason I rather not specify needs to be cut up before they can be served. I add them in carrot salad, make apple sauce and apple compote with apple, raisins and cinnamon simmered for about 15 minutes. Last week my students and I made this raw recipe below, which was surprisingly delicious.

Gluten Free Raw Apple Cobbler
8 Apples, peeled and chopped
¾ cup soft purple or red plums
¾ cup raisins, soaked and drained
2 teaspoons cinnamon, divided
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
 2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cups sunflower seeds or walnuts or a mixture
1 cup medjool dates
1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1. Place 2 apples, the plums, raisins, one teaspoon cinnamon and nutmeg in a food processor and process until smooth.
2. Toss remaining chopped apples with lemon juice in a large bowl. Pour apple raisin puree over apples and mix well. Spoon mixture into a medium-sized baking dish and set aside.
3. Pulse walnuts, dates, one teaspoon cinnamon and sea salt in a food processor until coarsely ground. Be careful not to over-mix. Sprinkle mixture over apples and press down lightly with your hands. Serve immediately or let sit for a few hours for the flavor to marinate.