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 fourth of the Seven Species: ‘te•ena,’ fig.
The ‘te•e•na,’ the common fig (botanically, Ficus carica), is one of the most common fruit trees in Israel and the Middle East. It is quite rare to see it in most US supermarkets, and there are still quite a few Americans that don’t even recognize this fruit.
Unlike most of the species of the biblical Seven Species that have been extensively researched to find their health benefits, the ‘te•e•na’ is still a mystery. We know about the preventive attributes of grapes and wine (in moderation) and their contribution to heart and cardiovascular health. We are flooded with information regarding olive oil and its amazing effects on the human body. It is hailed as a major component in the heart-friendly Mediterranean diet. We all witnessed the sudden emergence of pomegranates and pomegranate juices on the shelves of almost every supermarket. We begin to see the results of Israeli, Norwegian and American research about the amazing health benefits of dates. There is no doubt that potent hidden health attributes are yet to be discovered in the next ‘player’ on the Seven Species ‘team,’ te•e•na, the common fig.
There are a few biblical references regarding the reviving power of dried figs in relation to a deadly disease:
“And Isaiah said, Take a cake of figs. And they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered”