May 26, 2024
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Normally, Jewish customs do not encourage seedy activity but on Rosh Hashanah there is an exception. With the Jewish New Year comes the traditional eating of the seed-filled pomegranate.

Most experts agree that the term “pomegranate” derives from the Latin terms “pōmum” (apple) and “grānātum” (seeded). Some, however, insist that the name “pomegranate” refers to the “Apple of Granada,” as in Granada, Spain. Of course, those who so insist typically were born and/or live in Granada, Spain.

The term “pomegranate” in French is “grenade,” which of course also refers to the hand-held explosive device. Obviously, the inspiration for the grenade moniker is that the shrapnel that bursts out from a grenade is reminiscent of the seeds that burst out from a pomegranate. The “pomegranate” grenade (also known as a fragmentation grenade) is not the only type of grenade with a food-based name. During World War I, armies used the “kugel” grenade (“kugelhandgranate” or ball-hand grenade”), a round grenade. The term “kugel” means round or sphere and, not coincidentally, Jewish-baked kugels originally were round. Regardless of the shape, if you throw a kugel across the room, it will explode like a grenade. If you throw a kugel across the room at Sephardic Jews, they will be very upset, but mostly because you did not throw their beloved shavfka instead.

Pomegranate seeds, known as arils, actually have health benefits. They are filled with fiber and Vitamin C as well as heart-healthy antioxidants such as flavonoids, tannins and anthocyanins. Other fruit seeds have similar benefits, for example, pumpkin seeds offer fiber, iron, protein and omega-3’s. Other fruits, however, have seeds that should not be consumed. The poster-child is lychee, whose seeds contain natural toxins that can be deadly if consumed in sufficient quantities. In addition, some studies show that lychee seeds contain certain types of amino acids that can cause Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES), a form of brain inflammation that results in fever, vomiting and possibly seizures. So, on Rosh Hashanah, never substitute pomegranate seeds with lychee seeds because if you do, you might not make it to Yom Kippur.

The Talmud, at Berakhot 57(a), has plenty to say about pomegranates. For example, it states that “one who sees pomegranates in a dream, if they were small, his business will flourish like the seeds of the pomegranate, which are numerous; and if they were large, his business will increase like a pomegranate.” So, dreaming about pomegranates—big or small—is a good thing. In contrast, dreaming about Durian fruit may not be a good sign for your business, especially since, to some people, Durian can smell like stale vomit or skunk spray. So, you should never wear Durian cologne just like you should never wear Limburger cheese perfume.

The Talmud (Berakhot 57(a)) has more to say about pomegranate-infused dreams: “One who saw slices of pomegranates in his dream, if he is a Torah scholar, he should anticipate Torah… And if the dreamer is an ignoramus, he should anticipate mitzvot… Even the most ignorant among you… are full of mitzvot like a pomegranate.” That certainly is a beautiful analogy, demonstrating that every Jew, no matter how idiotic, is a proverbial pomegranate imbued with the potential for mitzvot aplenty. But this begs the question: what kind of mitzvot would an ignoramus perform? Here are a few hypothetical examples:

1. Giving tzedakah to a billionaire;

2. Building a permanent sukkah;

3. Lighting an oil-based menorah with Oil of Olay;

4. Wearing an invisible kippah;

5. Waiting three months between eating milk and meat;

6. Honoring Father Time and Mothers Car Care Products;

7. Observing Shabbat on a Tuesday;

8. Shaving your head and then doing unto others as you did unto yourself;

9. Trying to return someone’s thunder after stealing it; and

10. Lending money at negative five percent (-5%) interest, meaning the ignoramus lender pays the interest.

The Torah mentions pomegranates among the edible items that the Jewish People would find in the Promised Land, described as “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… ” (Deuteronomy 8:7-10) Of course, the Promised Land now features many delicious items that the Torah does mention including falafel, schnitzel, shawarma, shakshuka, Marzipan, Pesach Zman, Kinley Soda (orange) and Bissli (pizza flavor).

Final thought: British playwright Oscar Wilde famously wrote: “Surely love is a wonderful thing. It is more precious than emeralds, and dearer than fine opals. Pearls and pomegranates cannot buy it…” It may be that pomegranates cannot buy love, but they probably can buy a first date.

By Jon Kranz

 

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