Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Seven Fruits of the Land of Israel

Nature in the Parasha - Parashat Eikev
Sacred Fruits
The Land of Israel is described as “A land of wheat, barley, vines, fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of olive oil and honey” (Devarim 8:8). The Sages understand the verse’s mention of honey to be date honey (Mishna Berura 202:44). These seven species were the staple foods consumed by the Jewish people in the Land of Israel during biblical times. They contain special holiness, as reflected by the unique blessing recited after eating them, thanking Hashem for the goodness of the land.

Fruits of Redemption
The praise of the land of Israel for its fruit-trees is a deep environmental lesson in itself, testifying to the importance of nature and trees in Judaism. The Torah paints the shade of the grapevine and fig tree as a metaphor for the idyllic world-peace we await. Our ultimate trust in G-d is expressed through the serene environment where “Yehuda and Yisra’el will sit securely, each person under his vine and fig tree…” (I Melachim 5:5). As we munch on juicy grapes, we are reminded that there is no greater sign of the coming redemption than when the Land of Israel produces fruits in abundance (Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 98a).

Expressing Emuna through the Seven Fruits
The offerings of the בִּכּוּרִים/bikkurim – first fruits brought to the Temple in Jerusalem on Shavuot were only from these seven species. On what merit are these fruits selected? Nogah Hareuveni, the founder and chairman of Neot Kedumim, The Biblical Landscape Reserve in Israel, and author of numerous books on Judaism and nature explains that the flowering and fruiting of the seven species take place during the period between Pesach and Shavuot, a season depending on the delicate balance between contradictory forces of nature. It is characterized by climatic contrasts between extreme dryness and heat on the one hand and cold rainstorms on the other, which could easily be misconceived as battles between opposing deities. Therefore, our pure faith in the One and only G*d is tested specifically through expressing thanks to Hashem for these fruits of the Land.

Fruits of Spiritual Self-Improvement
The season between Pesach and Shavuot is furthermore characterized by self-improvement and spiritual preparation for receiving the Torah. As we count the Omer during the forty-nine days following Pesach, we turn to Hashem in repentance and prayer. Since the fate of the seven fruits is linked to our own spiritual achievement and merit, it is not surprising that these seven kinds comprise a wealth of nutrients and medicinal properties.

Mystical Spiritual Energies and Medicinal Properties
The fact that the seven species reflect our refinement during the Omer period sheds light on why the great Kabbalist Arizal[1] attributes the spiritual energies of each fruit to one of the seven lower sefirot (spiritual emanations) that we count during this time (Ariza”l, Sefer Halikutim, Parashat Ekev, chapter 8). Their correspondence is according to the order they occur in the Torah verse. It is interesting to note how the medical properties of the seven species are synchronized with their spiritual energies.

Wheat of Kindness
Wheat corresponds to חֶסֶד/chesed – Loving kindness, the first of the seven lower sefirot. The characteristic of chesed is expansion, to reach out and extend oneself towards others. Wheat likewise reflects the nourishing food of kindness and to this day remains our main sustaining food stable. According to the renowned Rabbi and physician Maimonides[2] wheat strengthens the body and increases mother’s milk, the ultimate nourishment of chesed.[3]

Barley of Self-control
Barley corresponds to גְּבוּרָה/gevurah –restraint. Its characteristic is contraction, reduction and setting boundaries. This is reflected by each barley seed being enclosed in a strong hull (boundary), which remains intact even during threshing. Moreover, the prophet emphasizes that specifically barley must be sowed within the boundary of the marked spot (Yesha’yahu 28:25). Due to its contracting quality, barley is highly effective in reducing liquid when added to soup.[4]

Grapes of Beauty
Grapes grow in beautiful clusters and correspond to תִּפְאֶרֶת/tiferet – beauty. This trait is characterized by the balance between its different and sometimes contrary components. Since tiferet is the perfect balance between chesed and gevurah, grapes include both nourishing and eliminating qualities. Grape-seed oil nourishes the skin, while also containing a very high content of antioxidants[5] for eliminating free radicals.[6] Grapes are known to promote weight loss[7] because of their diuretic quality, yet they are very nutritive replete with vitamins A, B, and C while also treating blood and energy deficiency.[8]

Figs of Endurance
Figs correspond to נֵצַח/netzach – endurance, which engenders longevity. The fig-tree reflects everlasting fruitfulness as it has one of the longest periods of ripening, spanning more than three months. Malbim[9] explains that we need to watch the fig-tree very carefully by picking its figs daily, since they ripen one after the other. Likewise, we need to guard our teachers daily in order to glean the fruits of their wisdom. “Figs, grapes and almonds are always the best fruits whether fresh or dried” (Rambam, Hilchot Deot, 4:11). They are very rich in minerals, especially iron. Figs soften the liver and help alleviate constipation, which is one of the main tenets of longevity and health (Ibid. Halacha 13). They are very good for old people,[10] by strengthening the blood and arousing a person’s vitality (Ibn Ezra, Chabakuk 3:17).

Pomegranate – the Immune Booster
Pomegranate, a very beautiful and majestic fruit, even has a crown. It corresponds to הוֹד/hod, which means majesty and glory. Hod is also related to the Hebrew word תּוֹדָה/todah, which means thanks and recognition. According to Rav Yitzchak Ginsburgh,[11] hod corresponds to our immune system (Rav Yitzchak Ginsburgh, Body Mind and Soul, p. 96). A healthy immune system is able to recognize our friends from our foes. The pomegranate boosts our immune system. Pomegranate seed oil causes the cancer cells to self-destruct. The juice of the fruit is toxic to most breast cancer cells, yet has almost no effect on healthy cells.[12] Pomegranate juice has also been proven to decrease heart disease by decreasing LDL (bad cholesterol) and increased HDL (good cholesterol).[13]

Olive – The Foundation of Life
Olive oil corresponds to יְסוֹד/yesod – foundation. Olive oil is the foundation of most Mediterranean foods. Rambam explains that olive oil cleans the liver and loosens stools.[14] It is helpful against stones in the urinary tract to drink a teaspoon of olive oil every morning before eating.[15] Olive oil protects against heart disease by lowering the blood pressure, and coats the stomach to protect against ulcers. Several molecular components of olive oil, called phenols, have the potential to protect against cancer,[16] especially of the bowels.[17] Thus, olive oil can truly be called the foundation of life.

Dates of Unification
Dates correspond to מַלְכוּת/malchut –kingdom. The role of the king is to unify his people. The stickiness of the dates can serve as a unifier when mixed with other substances. Malchut is the channel that allows everything to manifest below. Therefore, malchut is connected with the digestive system. The Talmud teaches that dates heal intestinal illnesses (Babylonian Talmud, Ketubot 10b). The palm tree has no waste, its lulavs (hearts) are used for prayer, its fronds for shade, its fibers for ropes, its twigs for a sieve, and its beams for houses. Likewise, the people of Israel have no waste: They each master their own particular part of Torah learning or perform mitzvoth and charitable deeds (Midrash Bereishit Rabbah 41:1). The righteous person (tzaddik) is compared to the date palm (Tehillim 92:13), which is tall and strong, pleasant and fruitful.

Conscious Consumption
The Torah’s mention of the seven species is not incidental. Rather, these foods are central to a Jewish spiritual path that endeavors to elevate the physical through intentional living. Eating the seven species in a conscious way can promote our well-being, help us connect to the land of Israel, and deepen our relationship with G*d. Each of the seven species contains deep lessons about G*d and our spiritual lives. Every time we eat them, we have the opportunity to tune into their spiritual messages, eat consciously, and bring the world a step closer to its perfected state.

This essay is the foundation for the award-winning book The Seven Fruits of the Land of Israel with their Mystical & Medicinal Properties, the Wholesome Spirited Cookbook Nutrition & Health Series with Torah Teachings & Recipes. If you are interested in detailed information on the Seven Fruits of the Land of Israel you may order your personal copy in Israel by contacting Elana, USA, rest of the world

From the Back Cover
"The Seven Fruits of the Land of Israel with their Medicinal and Mystical Properties by Rebbetzin Chana Bracha Siegelbaum is a fascinating, informative book based on extensive research and containing many original ideas. I highly recommend this well-written, innovative, interdisciplinary work. The book makes connections between the most diverse modalities of knowledge, from Biblical, Talmudic, Kabbalistic, and Jewish legal scholarship to modern medical research. In addition, the writing is interspersed with original recipes and practical tips relating to the Seven Fruits of Israel.

The book is filled with the redemptive spirit of the Land of Israel and will appeal to a wide range of readers, including Jewish educators, those with a special interest in the Land of Israel, nutritionists and health-care professionals, as well as anyone interested in discovering and trying out new recipes. The book is suitable for both Jews and non-Jews." Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum Director, AZAMRA

[1] Rabbi Yitzchak Luria Ashkenazi, Tzefat 1534-1572.
[2] Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, Spain, 1135–1204.
[3] Nature’s Wealth, Health and Healing Plants Based on the Teachings of the Rambam p. 278, Rabbi Moshe Cohen Shaouli and Rabbi Ya’akov Fisher, translated by Ruth Steinberg from the Hebrew editition, Beit Kneset Shauli, Ashdod, 1997.
[4] A recent study by the FDA evidenced that barley reduces cholesterol and risk of coronary disease FDA News, December 23, 2005,
[5] Joshi SS, Kuszynski CA, Bagchi D. The cellular and molecular basis of health benefits of grape seed proanthocyanidin extract. Curr Pharm Biotechnol. 2001;2(2):187-200, as referenced on online at
[6] Purple grape juice improves endothelial function and reduces the susceptibility of LDL cholesterol to oxidation in patients with coronary artery disease. See Stein JH, Keevil JG, Wiebe DA, Aeschlimann S, Folts JD. Circulation 1999.
[7] Rabbi Binyamin Moshe Kohn Shauli, Nature’s Wealth, p. 130.
[8] Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., O.M.D., Planetary Herbology, Lotus Press, 1988, p. 317.
[9] Rabbi Meir Loeb Ben Jehiel Michael, 1809–1879, in his commentary on Proverbs 27:18.
[10] Nisim Krispil, Medicinal Herbs of the Rambam (in Hebrew), Arad, Israel, 1989, p. 211.
[11] One of the greatest contemporary Kabbalistic masters, author of numerous books, Rosh hayeshiva of Yeshivat Od Yosef Chai.
[12] Research directed by Dr. Ephraim Lansky, at Technion, The Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, 2001.
[13] Research by a group of scientists in Israel, 2000, headed by Professor Michael Aviram, an internationally recognized authority on the effect of food on heart disease.
[14] Nisim Krispil, Medicinal Herbs of the Rambam, p. 109.
[15] Rabbi Binyamin Moshe Kohn Shauli, Nature’s Wealth, p. 188.
[16] Casaburi I, Puoci F, Chimento A, Sirianni R, Ruggiero C, Avena P, Pezzi V. Potential of olive oil phenols as chemopreventive and therapeutic agents against cancer: A review of in vitro studies. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2013 Jan;57(1):71-83.
[17] Stoneham M, Goldacre M, Seagroatt V, Gill L. Olive oil, diet and colorectal cancer: an ecological study and a hypothesis. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2000 Oct;54(10):756-60. This study shows new evidence of olive oil’s protective effect on colonic mucosa, and positive signs that olive oil indeed prevents the commencement of rectum and bowel cancer.

1 comment:

  1. What wonderful wisdom you share, B'H!