During this week we discussed the Seven Species, named in Hebrew ‘Shivat HaMinim.’ 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 third of the Seven Species, ‘ge•fen,’ which means grape and grapevine.
Botanically, the ‘ge•fen’ is called: Vitis vinifera. Whereas wheat, which is the first of the Seven Species, is mentioned about 30 times in the Bible, the grapevine has over 300 references. The biblical text refers to it in several names: ge•fen (grapevine); e•nav and a•na•vin (the grape itself); tzi•mu•kim (raisins); ke•rem (vineyard); ti•rosh (grape juice); and ya•yin (wine). There are other references to vine products, such as ‘cho•metz,’ vinegar.
The ge•fen was known as a healing fruit even during the ancient time, but the number of health benefits has only recently been discovered, including its provision of bioflavonoids and potent antioxidants. Every part of the vine used today has well-documented healing attributes; the leaves are used to reduce blood-sugar levels and the oil that is produced from grape seeds is claimed to have healing attributes. The juice and the wine (in moderation) are widely claimed today by most doctors to have preventive attributes for the human heart and the cardiovascular system.
The deeper that medical and nutritional research goes, the more we learn about this amazing super healer, ge•fen, and the modern scientific community finally begins to understand what God knew and meant by giving His Seven Species as a gift to Israel upon entering the Holy Land.
The fruit of the vine is part of a major Hebrew blessing that is said on Shabbat, holidays, and on every other important occasion that is sanctified with wine. This famous blessing says: “Ba•ruch ata Adonai Elo•hei•nu me•lech ha•olam, bo•re p’ri ha•ga•fen” translated as “Blessed are You, LORD, our God, Sovereign of the universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.”