The Seven Species
The seven species of the land of Israel have special medical and spiritual properties.
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 Maimonides, wheat strengthens the body and increases mother's 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. 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 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 cancers.
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").
Did you like this article? MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.