For the last few weeks I have been reading a book that was written by one of my professors at the Hebrew University, where I learnt Bible and Biblical Hebrew. His name is Yair Zakovitch and he is so knowledgeable that I would like to dedicate this newsletter to him. Prof. Zakovitch is as we say in Hebrew "a man that is full like a pomegranate" (מָלֵא כְּרִמּוֹן – "malle' karimon". The meaning of this expression is that without any doubt he is responsible for me being a Biblical Hebrew Teacher, he is a man that has a lot of wisdom and knowledge in a lot of fields.
Due to his wisdom as a pomegranate, I have decided to share with you all the information that the Hebrew Bible has on this topic. It is really important to emphasize that this fruit is very important in other cultures and religions as well. The Babylonians for example, believed that if you chew the grains of the pomegranate before you go to war, you will be undefeated in that war. In Old Egypt the people who buried people put a pomegranate in their grave as a sign of strength.
The first encounter with the pomegranate is found in the book of Exodus, when Moses described how the robe of the high priest should be as written:
"וְעָשִׂיתָ אֶת-מְעִיל הָאֵפוֹד, כְּלִיל תְּכֵלֶת. וְהָיָה פִי-רֹאשׁוֹ, בְּתוֹכוֹ; שָׂפָה יִהְיֶה לְפִיו סָבִיב מַעֲשֵׂה אֹרֵג, כְּפִי תַחְרָא יִהְיֶה-לּוֹ--לֹא יִקָּרֵעַ. וְעָשִׂיתָ עַל-שׁוּלָיו, רִמֹּנֵי תְּכֵלֶת וְאַרְגָּמָן וְתוֹלַעַת שָׁנִי--עַל-שׁוּלָיו, סָבִיב; וּפַעֲמֹנֵי זָהָב בְּתוֹכָם, סָבִיב. פַּעֲמֹן זָהָב וְרִמּוֹן, פַּעֲמֹן זָהָב וְרִמּוֹן, עַל-שׁוּלֵי הַמְּעִיל, סָבִיב."
"You shall make the robe of the ephod all of blue. There shall be an opening its top in the middle of it; around its opening there shall be a binding of woven work, like the opening of a coat of mail, so that it will not be torn. You shall make on its hem pomegranates of blue and purple and scarlet material, all around on its hem, and bells of gold between them all around: a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, all around on the hem of the robe"(Exodus 28:31-34)
You can see the same idea also in Exodus 39:24-25. The pomegranate, or "Rimon" in Hebrew is one of the signs of the high priest as he was a sign also for the Promised Land. After Moses sent the spies to enter this land one of the fruits that they brought was the pomegranate, as written:
" וַיָּבֹאוּ עַד-נַחַל אֶשְׁכֹּל, וַיִּכְרְתוּ מִשָּׁם זְמוֹרָה וְאֶשְׁכּוֹל עֲנָבִים אֶחָד, וַיִּשָּׂאֻהוּ בַמּוֹט, בִּשְׁנָיִם; וּמִן-הָרִמֹּנִים, וּמִן-הַתְּאֵנִים."
"Then they came to the valley of Eshcol and from there cut down a branch with a single cluster of grapes; and they carried it on a pole between two men, with some of the pomegranates and the figs."(Numbers 13:23)
This fruit was also mentioned in the words of Moses to Israel in Deuteronomy, when the pomegranate is one of the seven species that the Land of Israel was blessed with, as you can read in Deuteronomy 8:7-8-
"כִּי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, מְבִיאֲךָ אֶל-אֶרֶץ טוֹבָה: אֶרֶץ, נַחֲלֵי מָיִם--עֲיָנֹת וּתְהֹמֹת, יֹצְאִים בַּבִּקְעָה וּבָהָר. אֶרֶץ חִטָּה וּשְׂעֹרָה, וְגֶפֶן וּתְאֵנָה וְרִמּוֹן; אֶרֶץ-זֵית שֶׁמֶן, וּדְבָשׁ"
" For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey"
In the promised land, where the priest had to serve, there is another encounter with this fruit, as we can find him decorating the two pillars that were built by an unknown man from the tribe of Nafthaly, as written in 1 Kings 7:14,18, 20-
" בֶּן-אִשָּׁה אַלְמָנָה הוּא מִמַּטֵּה נַפְתָּלִי, וְאָבִיו אִישׁ-צֹרִי חֹרֵשׁ נְחֹשֶׁת, וַיִּמָּלֵא אֶת-הַחָכְמָה וְאֶת-הַתְּבוּנָה וְאֶת-הַדַּעַת, לַעֲשׂוֹת כָּל-מְלָאכָה בַּנְּחֹשֶׁת; וַיָּבוֹא אֶל-הַמֶּלֶךְ שְׁלֹמֹה, וַיַּעַשׂ אֶת-כָּל-מְלַאכְתּוֹ....וַיַּעַשׂ, אֶת-הָעַמּוּדִים; וּשְׁנֵי טוּרִים סָבִיב עַל-הַשְּׂבָכָה הָאֶחָת, לְכַסּוֹת אֶת-הַכֹּתָרֹת אֲשֶׁר עַל-רֹאשׁ הָרִמֹּנִים, וְכֵן עָשָׂה, לַכֹּתֶרֶת הַשֵּׁנִית... וְכֹתָרֹת, עַל-שְׁנֵי הָעַמּוּדִים, גַּם-מִמַּעַל מִלְּעֻמַּת הַבֶּטֶן, אֲשֶׁר לְעֵבֶר הַשְּׂבָכָה; וְהָרִמּוֹנִים מָאתַיִם טֻרִים סָבִיב, עַל הַכֹּתֶרֶת הַשֵּׁנִית"
"He was a widow’s son from the tribe of Naphtali, and his father was a man of Tyre, a worker in bronze; and he was filled with wisdom and understanding and skill for doing any work in bronze. So he came to King Solomon and performed all his work…. So he made the pillars, and two rows around on the one network to cover the capitals which were on the top of the pomegranates; and so he did for the other capital… There were capitals on the two pillars, even above and close to the rounded projection which was beside the network; and the pomegranates numbered two hundred in rows around both capitals"
Until now we have seen that the pomegranate is a sign of the high priest, the land of Israel, and the pillars of the temple, whose names are Boaz and Yachin. But this fruit is also a symbol of love as we can read in the beautiful words of Song of Songs 4:3-
" כְּחוּט הַשָּׁנִי שִׂפְתוֹתַיִךְ, וּמִדְבָּרֵךְ נָאוֶה; כְּפֶלַח הָרִמּוֹן רַקָּתֵךְ, מִבַּעַד לְצַמָּתֵךְ"
"Your lips are like a scarlet thread, And your mouth is lovely. Your temples are like a slice of a pomegranate Behind your veil."
Whether this love is between a man and a woman or between people and their G-d as the allegory is described, the pomegranate is a symbol of beauty in the most important issues in Judaism. Every year on Rosh Hashanah we eat this beautiful fruit.
Let us pray for happy year for all this world, Eli