A few years ago, on one of my trips to Israel, I bought a new tallit. The atara-collar contains depictions of the seven species: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates.
These seven foods are listed in our Torah portion for this Shabbat, as we read in Deuteronomy 8:7-8 “For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with streams and springs and fountains issuing from plain and hill; a land of wheat and barley, of vines, figs and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey” (understood to be date honey).
I love wearing this tallit because I bought it from Yad L’Kashish, a sheltered workshop for seniors in Jerusalem, and because wearing it makes me feel closer to Israel, reminding me of the richness of the produce.
In addition to the seven plants mentioned above, Israel, of course, has a variety of foods, many of which we do not commonly find here, such as pomello, which is like a grapefruit, but much bigger and used in oriental cooking, dragonfruit and passionfruit. One of my son’s favorite foods from Israel is Yemenite bread called malawach. Although it can be purchased frozen in Pittsburgh, it goes without saying that it tastes better in Israel.
In addition to mentioning the seven species, our Torah portion contains the maxim “man does not live by bread alone” (Deuteronomy 8:3). That maxim is meant to teach us that food, or just existing, is not enough. We need God and God’s rules in our lives.
Food may not be enough, but it is something that brings Jews together. An adage in planning Jewish events is “serve food and they will come.”
On Sunday, Aug. 9, food will be one of the reasons we hope that Jews living in the Eastern Suburbs will come to the Henry Kaufmann Family Recreation Park from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. for a Community Barbeque. Those of us living to the East of Pittsburgh have planned this event for families with the hope of providing an opportunity to meet friends and make new acquaintances, play games, swim, view demonstrations, eat, of course, and just have a good time. If you live in Monroeville, McKeesport, Irwin, Greensburg, Jeannette, Latrobe, Ligonier, Delmont, Export, Murrysville, White Oak, or those surrounding communities please come. Have some food and see that there is more to being Jewish than just bread and the seven species.
(This column is a service of the Greater Pittsburgh Rabbinic Association.)