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Tu B'Shevat Seder

Fruits from the Torah


Rabbi Barry Dov Lerner

Rabbi Barry Dov Lerner

This Tu B'Shevat Program was created by:
Foundation for Family Education
Rabbi Barry Dov Lerner, President
Site: www.jewishfreeware.org
Email: bdlerner1@comcast.net


GRAPE (Gefen)
Grapes were cultivated possibly as early as 3000 BCE with its origin in south-eastern Europe to India and found in early Bronze Age. Products include grapes, wine, sale and distribution of cuttings, medicine, vinegars, raisins.

FIG (Te’enah)
Figs were cultivated possibly as early as 3000 BCE in wild varieties with origin in Arabian peninsula or the Mediterranean Basin and can be traced back to Neolithic Age. Fig products include fresh or dried, pressed cakes or on a string or beehive/cube, and distributed for cooking, medicine, shade-tree, sturdy and symbolic of peace, sap of unripe figs, milk of ripe figs, strong drink from dried figs on a par with barley or mulberry beer, and the timber was used on the Temple altar for sacrifices since they did not produce smoke.

Pomegranate was cultivated possibly as early as 3000 BCE. Products include juice, fruit, cuttings, medicine, wine, ground-up rinds, the wood for a skewer of the paschal offering, and inspiration for artistry for the rimonim on the Torah.

OLIVE (Zayit)
Originally a wild tree perhaps as early as Palaeolithic period near the Carmel from which the Jews in the earliest period used olives to produce olive oil – not an olive to eat – oil to supplement what was previously used, sesame and walnut oil. Cultivation of edible olives was a Second Temple / Talmudic period accomplishment, and a cultivated fruit tree was developed and then carried eastwards.. From Israel and Syria cultivated olive made its throughout the Mediterranean. A major reference in the TaNaKH, it was a major part of the economy.

DATE (Tamar)
The date palm has flourished in Israel since the Neolithic period near site of Jericho. Date as a name probably from the Greek “daktulos”, derived from a cluster of dark-brown finger digits. No one knows the origin of the cultivated date, from India to mountains of NE Africa. There are at least three possible ancestors of trees producing wild dates now being planted in Israel as ornamental palms. It was grown for its leaves (lulav for Sukkot) and general thatching, wood, symbol of immortality or fertility; it had sweet fruit fresh or dried, date honey or syrup, date liquer, palm leaves could be woven for many items, fibers for ropes and such, woven baskets and brooms, sandals and fans. Apiculture or bee-hive raising was never a major industry of the Jews, and thus it had to be date honey.

CITRON (Etrog)
Also known as the “Assyrian apple” or the “Median apple.” Probably has origin in India to China, traveling from India to Afghaniston, Iran, Iraq and to Israel and Egypt, with knowledge proven in Sumer at 4000 BCE. Name may be from Sanskrit “suranga” with the “n” fading out and meaning pleasant, lovely, fruit.” “Etrog” in Lev. 23:40, together with the palm for Sukkot. Introduced into Israel before any other citrus variety possibly because of its sanctity and its use for medication as for nourishment. It is recorded extensively by Theophrastus and Pliny the Elder. It is in the Mishn, Tosefta, Talmud and Midrashim that teach us so much about the regions of citron-growing, almost always by irrigation. In the medieval period it is the lemon that is cultivated and begins to replace the etrog although today the etrog use continues among Arabs. In the early middle ages Rabbi Jacob Zahalom who lived in Rome in 17th century knew to use lemon and citron juice against scurvy.

APPLE (Tapuach)
Wild apple trees were wide-spread, from Himalayas, Asia Minor to Europe. By 4000 to 3000 BCE a more cultivated apple emerged for food and juice, fresh or dried. By the Greek period, apples were the most populous of fruits. Theophrastus and then Pliny the Elder described many varieties. But from Joshua 12:17 onwards we know specifically of the apple, and we believe that it was cultivated there from 2000 BCE.

ALMOND (Shaked)
The name of the tree and nut means “early rising” and it has been a symbol of the beginning of Spring. We believe that it originated in the Land of Israel in a wild form and was ultimately cultivated there, for domestic use and export. We know that another name for the almond was “luz” as in Gen. 28:19 and later in the Jerusalem Talmud (Taanit 4,7 because it is 21 days between blossoming and the forming of the fruit, exactly the same time between the breaching of Jerusalem’s walls and the destruction of the Second Temple. Thereafter it became increasingly available in the sweet variety and thrived in Israel during the Second Temple period and thereafter. The Talmud notes later that the Sages banned grafting the peach and the almond but permitted attempts to graft almond and pistachio.

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