Eikev: Shivat Haminim, The Seven Fruits of Israel
By Rebbetzin Chana
For Anne Werner, in
memory of a wise woman who understood and cared for the environment, dedicated
by her daughter Deborah Lesser and Michael Lesser.
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of Israel is described as
“A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a
land of olive oil and honey." 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 G-d for the goodness of the
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 Bible paints the shade of the
grape vine 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 “Judah and
Israel will sit securely , each person under his vine and fig tree…” 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.
Moreover, the offerings of the 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 
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 storms on the other, which could easily be
misconceived as battles between opposing deities. Therefore, the seven species
are selected to reaffirm our pure faith in G-d through our expressing thanks to
the One and only G-d specifically for the fruits of the Land.
The flowering and fruiting of the seven species parallel our
own spiritual development during the season between Pesach and Shavuot,
characterized by self-improvement and preparation for receiving the Torah. As
we count the Omer during the 49 days between Pesach and Shavuot,  we turn to
G-din repentance and prayer. Since the fruiting of the seven fruits is linked
to our own spiritual achievement, it is not surprising that these seven kinds
comprise a wealth of spiritual attributes, nutrients and medicinal properties.
The special significance of the seven species is accentuated
by the great Kabbalist Arizal,  who attributes the spiritual energies of
each fruit to one of the seven lower sefirot (spiritual emanations) that we
count during each week of the Omer.
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 corresponds to chesed (kindness), the first of the
seven lower sefirot. The characteristic of chesed is expansion, to reach out
and extend oneself toward others. Wheat
likewise reflects the nourishing food of kindness and to this day remains our
main sustaining food staple. According to the renowned rabbi and physician
Maimonidesm, wheat strengthens the body and increases mothers’ milk, the
ultimate nourishment and expression of chesed. 
Barley corresponds to gevura (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. Due to its contracting quality, barley is highly
effective in reducing liquid when added to soup. A recent study by the FDA
evidenced that barley reduces cholesterol and risk of coronary disease. 
Grapes grow in beautiful clusters and correspond to 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 gevura, grapes include both nourishing and eliminating qualities.
Grape-seed oil nourishes the skin, while also containing a very high content of
antioxidants that help in eliminating free radicals.  Grapes possess a diuretic quality, yet they
are very nutritive replete with vitamins A, B, and C, while also treating blood
and energy deficiency. 
Figs correspond to 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. The Malbim
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 observe our
teachers daily in order to glean the fruits of their wisdom. According to
Maimonides, “Figs, grapes and almonds are always the best fruits whether fresh
or dried.” Maimonides also taught that figs alleviate constipation, 
which is one of the main tenets of longevity and health.  Figs may benefit
the elderly  by strengthening the blood and arousing a person’s vitality.
Modern science affirms the nutritional benefits of figs:
they are very rich in minerals, especially potassium, iron and calcium, and
they contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Figs also contain phytosterols,
which inhibit the absorption of dietary cholesterol, thus decreasing the total
levels of cholesterol. Moreover, they may help prevent certain types of
Pomegranate, a very beautiful and majestic fruit, even has a
crown. It corresponds to hod which means majesty and glory. Hod is also related
to the Hebrew word toda which means thanks and recognition. According to Rav
Yitzchak Ginsburgh,  hod corresponds to our immune system.  A healthy
immune-system is able to recognize our friends from our foes, and pomegranates
boost our immune system. Pomegranate seed oil causes 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. Pomegranate juice has also been
proven to decrease heart disease by decreasing LDL ("bad
cholesterol") and increased HDL ("good cholesterol"). 
Olive oil corresponds to yesod (foundation). Olive oil is
the foundation of most Mediterranean foods. Maimonides explains that olive oil
cleanses the liver and loosens stools.  It is helpful against stones in the
urinary tract to drink a teaspoon of olive oil every morning before eating.
 Olive oil protects against heart disease by lowering the blood pressure,
and has strong anti-bacterial properties. It also contains several antioxidants
to help fight cancer. Thus olive oil can truly be called the foundation
(“yesod”) of life.
Dates correspond to malchut (kingdom). 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. 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. 
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
Hashem. 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.
Suggested Action Items:
- Enjoy flowering fruit trees and say the special blessing for
them during the month of Nissan.
- Try to spend time in nature sitting in the shade of the vine
and fig tree (or the specific trees you have in your local environment).
- Take advantage of the nutritional and healing properties of
the seven species of the Land, rather than relying on artificial replacements.
- Take time to eat consciously and focus intensely when you
bless Hashem with your full heart before and after partaking in His seven
Chana Bracha Siegelbaum, a native of Denmark, is the founder and
Director of Midreshet B’erot Bat Ayin . She holds a Bachelor of Education in
Bible and Jewish Philosophy from Michlala
for Women, and a Masters of Art in Jewish History from Touro College.
Chana Bracha lives with her family in Israel, on the land of the Judean
 Deut. 8:8 (All Tanach translations are the author’s own
adaptations from The Jerusalem Bible [Koren]).
 The Sages
understand the verse’s mention of honey to be date honey. See Mishna Brura
 This blessing, said after eating grapes, figs, pomegranates,
olives or dates, differs from the blessing said after any other fruits in its
effusive praise of the land of Israel and its fruits: “Blessed are You, Hashem
our G-d, King of the universe, for the tree and the fruit of the tree, for the
produce of the field, and for the precious, good, and spacious land which You
have graciously given as a heritage to our ancestors, to eat of its fruit and
be satiated with its goodness… For You, Hashem, are good and do good to all,
and we will thank You for the land and for her fruits. Blessed are You Hashem,
for the land and for her fruits.” (translation from chabad. org with author’s
 I Kings,
Talmud, Sanhedrin 98a.
Hareuveni is the founder and chairman of Neot Kedumim, The Biblical Landscape
Reserve in Israel,
and author of numerous books on Judaism and nature.
 The Counting
of the Omer is a verbal counting of each of the forty-nine days between
Passover and Shavuot. This mitzvah derives from the Torah commandment to count
from the day following Passover when the Omer, (a sacrifice containing an
omer-measure of barley), was offered in the Temple,
until Shavuot when an offering of wheat breads was brought to the Temple in Jerusalem.
Moreover, counting the Omer is a spiritual preparation for the receiving of the
Torah on Shavuot. Each day corresponds to one of the seven lower sefirot with
 Rabbi Yitzchak Luria Ashkenazi , Tzfat 1534-1572.
Sefer Halikutim, parshat Eikev, chapter 8.
 Click here
for more on Omer and the sefirot.
 Rabbi Moshe
ben Maimon, Spain, 1135-1204.
 Rabbi Moshe
Cohen Shaouli and Rabbi Yaakov Fisher, Natures Wealth, Health and Healing
Plants, based on the Teachings of the Rambam, p. 278. Translated by Ruth
Steinberg from the Hebrew edition published by Beit Kneset Shauli, Ashdod, 1997.
 FDA News,
December 23, 2005
 Visit the University of Maryland Medical Website
for more on this
 Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., O.M.D., Planetary
Herbology, Lotus Press, 1988, p. 317.
 Rabbi Meir
Loeb Ben Jehiel Michael, 1809–1879, in his commentary on Proverbs 27:18.
Mishna Torah, Hilchot Deot, chapter 4, Halacha 11.
Krispil, Medicinal Herbs of The Rambam (in Hebrew), Arad, Israel,
1989, p. 211.
Mishna Torah, Hilchot Deot, chapter 4, Halacha 13.
 Op Cit,
Medicinal Herbs of The Rambam p. 211.
 Eben Ezra on
 One of the
greatest Kabbalistic masters of our time, author of numerous books, Rosh
HaYeshiva of Jerusalem’s
Yeshivat Od Yosef Chai.
Yitzchak Ginsburgh, Body Mind and Soul, p. 96.
directed by Dr. Ephraim Lansky at Technion, The Israel Institute of Technology
in Haifa, 2001.
 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.
 Op Cit,
Medicinal Herbs, p. 109.
 Op Cit,
Nature’s Wealth, p.188.
 Harvard School of Public Health, Fats and
Talmud, Ketubot, 10b.