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The Land 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 (Deut. 8:8).” 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 God for the goodness of the land.
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.
Seven Special Fruits
Our ultimate trust in God is expressed through the serene environment where (I Kings 5:5): “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 (Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 98a).
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, author of numerous books on Judaism and nature, explains that the flowering and fruiting of the seven species take place during the period between Passover and Shavuot, a season depending on the delicate balance between contradictory forces of nature.
This season 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 God through our expressing thanks to the One and only God specifically for the fruits of the Land.
The flowering and fruiting of the seven species parallel our own spiritual development during the season between Passover and Shavuot, characterized by self-improvement and preparation for receiving the Torah. As we count the Omer during the 49 days between Passover and Shavuot, we turn to God in 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.