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The Seven Species
Seven Species,The Origin
''A land of wheat and barley, and vines and fig-trees and pomegranates, a land of olive-trees and honey''. Deuteronomy 8:8 describes the Land of Israel as a fertile country and states the Seven Species, Shivaat Ha’minim, of the Promised Land. All these fruits are also decorative and that’s why many artists chose to include those in their art. The offerings of the first fruits brought to the Temple in Jerusalem on Shavuot were brought only from these seven species, despite the fact that Israel was blessed with many other choice fruits and vegetables. Even as the seven species may no longer dominate the diet of modern Israelis the biblical seven species still characterize the local landscape. WE HAVE MANY ITEMS DEPICTING THE SEVEN SPECIES. TO SEE AN EXAMPLE, PLEASE CLICK ON THE LINK. The Seven Species art piece © shown here is by Sharon Binder.
See an example
Wheat, Chita in Hebrew is one of the earliest cultivated grains. In biblical times as today, bread was the basis of the local diet. Wheat was cultivated domestically in ancient time scientists estimate that wheat was used at least since 9,000 B.C. and probably even earlier. Today's wheat is a grass that grows between two and four feet tall with a long stalk that terminates in a tightly formed cluster of plump kernels enclosed by a beard of bristly spikes. Bread is the staple food of most of the Western world, as it is cheap thus almost every country in the western world has some form of wheat based bread.
see Challah recipe
Barley - Seora - In biblical time barley was the poor-man’s staple - eaten as porridge and barley cakes. Barley has been used for human consumption for the longest time even cattle and other livestock were also fed barley. Today we regard barley as a wonderfully versatile cereal grain with rich nutlike flavor and an appealing chewy consistency. Barley has a high nutritional value and is one of the richest sources of both soluble and insoluble fiber and is rich in protein, vitamins, minerals and amino acids essential for our health. When fermented, barley is used as an ingredient in the production of beer a fact that was already known in ancient Egypt.
Grapes - Gefen - Wine has always been an integral part of Jewish rituals in Judaism. In ancient times, grapes were also used for seasoning and in vinegars. Ve‘yayin yesamach levav enosh - And wine gladdens the heart of man, Psalms 104:15. However one should only be drinking wine moderately as is said in the Gemara in Sanhedrin 38a: Nichnas yayin yatza sod, where wine enters, secrets emerge The only time excessive drinking is allowed, though it should not be taken literally comes from the Talmud, Megillah 7b, that ordains us to become intoxicated on Purim ad delo yada, meaning until we know not the difference between cursed is Haman and blessed is Mordecai. Israel is known for the wineries starting with Carmel-Mizrachi, built by the Baron Rothschild in 1882, to the many boutique wineries spread over the country.
Figs – Teena - The fig tree with its distinctive leaves, used as clothes by Adam and Eve - is a ubiquitous part of the Israeli landscape. Botanically the Ficus carica, the figs, are not fruits in the way we know. The succulent fat purple or green teardrops figs we eat are actually the flowers of the tree or rather lots of flowers and seeds that grow together in a single mass. Figs were referred to in Song of Solomon 2:13; the fig tree ripens her green figs. The vines are in blossom; they give forth their fragrance. Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away. Lover! There are many Different varieties of figs each of them deliver different nuances of flavor and texture. Figs come in all colors ranging from pale green to deep purple outside and from off-white to pinkish rose inside. Sweet and nutritious, fresh figs may be the ultimate super-food.
Pomegranate is Rimon in Hebrew Pomegranate trees are prevalent in Israeli gardens. In biblical times the opulent pomegranate was used for making wine and seasonings. It was appreciated for its aesthetic qualities, particularly the crown near the stem. The name pomegranate comes from the Latin pomum. meaning apple, and granatus, meaning seeded, hence seedy fruit. The pomegranate is one of the most celebrated, fascinating, and mysterious fruits in history. Based on its name many scholars believe that the pomegranate was the actual fruit of temptation in the Garden of Eden and not the modern kind of apple we know nowadays/ The pomegranate was known since ancient history and is mentioned as one of the seven species of Eretz Yisrael as we find in Deuteronomy 8:8; a land of wheat and barley, and vines and fig-trees and pomegranates; a land of olive-trees and honey. Apart of being tasty and healthy while beautiful, the symbolism of the pomegranate promotes it to become a special fruit and made the pomegranate one of the most illustrated in Judaic art and Jewish ceremonial art. Thus you will find silver Pomegranates, Rimonim on the top of Torah scrolls, on Ketubah illustrations, and many more. Even Children often place a pomegranate on top of their Simchat Torah flag. The importance of the pomegranate is based on the fact that it contains as many seeds as there are Mitzvot, Torah Obligations, namely six hundred and thirteen, feel free to count them if you like to do so… This is the reason for eating pomegranates on Rosh Hashanah hoping that our good deeds in the coming year will be as many as the seeds of the fruit. Having so many seeds made the pomegranate with its abundant seeds represent fertility and opulence.
Olives, Zayit in Hebrew are of great importance in Israel‘s history. More than any other fruit, the olive symbolizes this continuity. The gnarled barks of the ancient olive trees on Israel’s terraced hillsides seem to exude a wisdom accumulated from witnessing centuries of human history. Olive oil is a prime component of the Mediterranean Diet. Olive oil was used to cook, light lamps, and as cosmetic in ancient time. And last but not least the olive branch is a long known and still used symbol of peace. Historians tell us that since ancient times olives and olive oil have been more than just food to the peoples of the Mediterranean. Olive oil was a medicinal, magical, and the fountain of great wealth and power. Today we know that olive oil is the greatest exponent of monounsaturated fat and that olive oil is a natural juice which preserves the taste, aroma, vitamins and properties of the olive fruit. Olive oil is also the only vegetable oil that can be consumed as it is freshly pressed from the fruit. Olives come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and flavors, which depend on how the olives are cured and when they are picked. Ornamental olive branches have been and still are a great decorative element in building in tableware and of course in Judaic art. Due to its usefulness and sturdiness the olive tree is often used as an analogy for the Jewish people. Thus Jehoshua Ben Levi compares the Jewish people to an olive tree; why is Israel compared to an olive tree? Because just as the leaves of an olive tree do not fall off either in summer or winter. So, too, the Jewish people shall be cast off, neither in this world nor in the World to Come.
Dates – Tamar - In the biblical era dates were eaten fresh or made into honey, and many believe the notion of the ''land flowing with milk and honey'' actually referred to date honey. Today DATE HONEY SYRUP or Silan as it is called in Israel is a heavy and sweet elixir made of date extract that is darker than honey and has a pronounced caramel taste. Silan is used to sweeten beverages, poultry, Charoset for Passover, or as syrup on pancakes or ice cream. It caramelizes and therefore used in backing. Dry or fresh dates are eaten usually out-of-hand. Dates may be seeded and stuffed, or chopped and used in a great variety of ways. Dates are a great addition to cereals, Salads coolies or bread. In all those dishes sugar can be replaced by honey syrup.