The Significance of the Pomegranate in Judaism and its Health Benefits

 

By Gideon

Many Jewish scholars believe that the pomegranate was the “forbidden fruit” of the Garden of Eden. The pomegranate is listed in the Bible as one of the seven species (shivat haminim) of fruits and grains that are special products of the Land of Israel.

The significance of the pomegranate in Judaism is exemplified by its appearance on ancient coins of Judea, one of only a few images that appear as a holy symbol. The pomegranate fruit is a symbol of fertility in the Bible. Each fruit is said to contain 613 seeds just as there are 613 good deeds, mitzvot, in the Bible. Pomegranates are eaten on the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana, to wish for good deeds and a year as plentiful with goodness as the seeds of the pomegranate.

The beautiful color and shape of the pomegranate made it historically one of the most popular decorative motifs in Jewish jewelry and art.

The word pomegranate, “rimon” in Hebrew, is derived from the Latin words “pomum” (apple) and “granatus” (seeded). Originating in Persia, the pomegranate is one of the world’s oldest cultivated fruits, having been domesticated around 4000 B.C.E. The Egyptians imported pomegranates from the Holy Land in 1150 B.C.E., and natural pomegranate juice made into spiced wine.  Jews have been eating pomegranate from the time that they were slaves in Egypt.

The Hebrews yearned for the pomegranates they left behind in Egypt while wandering in the desert: “And wherefore have ye made us to come up out of Egypt, to bring us in unto this evil place? It is no place of seed, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates” (Numbers 20:5). The spies reported their findings in Canaan back to Moses-“And they came unto the valley Eshkol, and cut down from thence a branch with one cluster of grapes, and they bore it upon a pole between two; they took also of the pomegranates, and of the figs” (Numbers 13:23). “For the Lord thy God bringeth thee into a good land…a land of wheat and barley, and vines and fig-trees and pomegranates” (Deuteronomy 8:7-8).

Pomegranate juice, rich in polyphenolic antioxidants (derived from plants), has been shown to most significantly reduce oxidative stress. Dates, which are rich sources of phenolic radical scavenger antioxidants, also inhibit the oxidation of LDL (the so-called “bad cholesterol”) and stimulate the removal of cholesterol from lipid-laden arterial cells.in calories and low in sodium.

A team of researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, led by Professor Michael Aviram of the Rappaport Faculty of Medicine and Rambam Medical Center, has discovered that the combination of pomegranate juice and dates along with their pits provide maximum protection against atherosclerosis (plaque buildup or hardening of the arteries), which can cause a heart attack or stroke. The findings were published in the recent issue (March 26, 2015) of Food & Function, a journal of The Royal Society of Chemistry. 

The researchers conclude that people at high risk for cardiovascular diseases, as well as healthy individuals, could benefit from consuming the combination of half a glass of pomegranate juice (4 ounces), together with 3 dates. Ideally, the pits should be ground up into a paste and eaten as well, but even without the pits, the combination is better than either fruit alone.

 

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The picture of the Pomegranate tree was taken on Mount Scopus’ HU campus in October 2015. To read about the Hebrew University campus on Mount Scopus click on this link: The Remarkable Story of the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus

 

 

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