The Seven Species are seven agricultural products − two grains and five fruits − that are listed in the Hebrew Bible as being special products of the Land of Israel and were given to Israel as a gift and a blessing by God upon entering the land after its long exile.
“A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of olive oil, and honey”
For thousands of years, the Seven Species have played an important role in the food of Jews in Israel and the religious traditions of Judaism. For example, it is traditional to decorate the Sukkah (a temporary hut constructed for use during the week-long Jewish festival of Sukkot) with the Seven Species. It is also traditional to eat the Seven Species during the Tu Bishvat holiday. This name means “the 15th of the month of Shvat, on which day Jews celebrate the ‘New Year of the Trees.’”
Our word today is the seventh and the last of the Seven Species, ‘ta•mar,’ date. The word that is used in Deuteronomy 8:8 may be somewhat misleading. The English translation says ‘honey,’ which is ‘d’vash’ in Hebrew. ‘D’vash has two meanings in Hebrew − honey and dates mesh. The ‘honey’ in the Seven Species is not referring to bee honey but to dates mesh. This mesh is also called ‘Silan’ ‘Dabas,’ or ‘Rub.’
Most recent studies conducted in Israel by Prof. Michael Aviram from the Techniyon in Haifa (the Israeli equivalent of MIT), who heads the Legacy Heritage Clinical Research Institute in Rambam hospital, show surprising health benefits resulting from consuming a few dates a day (Chiauee and Majhul kinds. The Majhul type is common in the US). The research showed a decrease of 8% in cholesterol levels after four weeks of date consumption and a significant improvement in other blood tests: 200 grams of dates a day reduced by 33% the levels of oxidative stress in the blood. A Norwegian research has found that dates have four times higher the level of antioxidants than those found in bananas and eight times higher the levels than those in apples. Surprisingly, this special high-fiber super food, despite being very sweet, did not increase the levels of blood sugar, nor did it cause weight gain.
Tamar in the Bible
Tamar is both the name of the fruit and the tree. It is a metaphor for a righteous man, and it became a Hebrew idiom:
“The righteous flourish like the palm tree; they grow like a cedar in Lebanon”
This phrase was composed and became a famous Israeli dance. If you wish to hear the song, here is link to the classic performance of Avraham Perrera.