Sunday, August 31, 2008

From carobs to teshuva, repentance

Please click on the photos to get the big picture.
The new moon set last night, ushering in Rosh Chodesh Elul.
 (To understand how the Hebrew lunar calendar works, please see my post New moon, new month.)

Elul is the month for intense spiritual preparation for the coming year and the High Holy Days (Rosh HaShana, New Year Day, falling on September 30 this year).
 Today Sephardi Jews (like in my village) already began their daily pre-dawn shofar-sounding and penitential prayers, Slichot, in the synagogue that will go on for the next forty days.
 It's all about confession, repentance, and both seeking and granting forgiveness.

I passed an old boxer tree near the spring, many of its carob pods already on the ground.
 And today "by chance" I came across this appropriate midrash in the wonderful book, Food at the Time of the Bible:

"A little known translation of Isaiah 1:19-20 brings us from carob as poor people's fare to carob as a symbol of privation.
The usual translation reads 'If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel you will be devoured by the sword.'
A more accurate reading of the verse results in the translation 'you will devour the carob.'
The words for 'sword' and 'carob' are almost identical in Hebrew, perhaps because of the scimitar-shape of the carob's seedpod.
The association between the carob and privation is also noted in an ancient Midrash, or homily, written in the wake of the Temple's destruction and the period of ensuing want in the land. 'A Jew has to suffer anguish and privation to the point of a menu exclusively of carobs, and only then does he accept the rule of God and repent...'"


Leora said...

Very interesting, carob and herev being so similar.

Happy Rosh Chodesh Elul.

Reader Wil said...

This is very interesting Dina. Thank you for expaning about your New Year and all the preparations you need.

Kay said...

When I first opened your post, I thought they were snakes at first. But they're carobs...
Funny how they're now a chocolate substitute. Now that is privation.

Dina said...

Chodesh tov to you too Leora.

Hi Wil. There is a lot more to come.

Kay, if those had been snakes I would have been outta there, even without a photo! Yeah, can't live without chocolate.

Petrea said...

I don't have anything to add. Just want you to know I was here and I love reading your posts and seeing the photos. Carob and snakes! The post about Leonard Cohen, too, is wonderful.

tipper said...

Very interesting as always!! I don't think I'd enjoy eating the carob!


despite carob being a substitute for chocolate, the pod itself has a slightly over-sweet taste when ripened, and it is rather difficult to chew - my father remembered it as the only sweet available in his youth

Sara said...

This was a very interesting post.

I thought they were big worms at first!

the donG said...

interesting. jerusalem indeed keeps that tradition.

Louis la Vache said...

Very interesting, Dina.

livius said...

It's where the word "carat" comes from, too. People used to weigh diamonds using carob seeds as a standard.

Also, let me just say up front that I forgive you for having such an awesome blog. :D

Dr M said...

I love the carob illustration almost as much as the blog! It's a daily feast from Israel.

The play on "sword" and "carob" ("you will eat the sword/carob" is reminiscent of Jeremiah's play on "almonds" and "watching" (Jer 1:11-12).

Thanks for the great posting!

Powell River Books said...

I found the information about carob very interesting. When I was little, we had carob trees planted in front of our house. Each street had different trees, ours just happened to be carob. I remember playing with the pods with my dolls. Thanks for visiting my PhotoHunt contribution and your comments. Have a great day. - Margy

Sherry said...

Seems true, that suffering brings about repentance and grace. Amazing how much people can suffer before giving up. To me this means that suffering itself is an act of grace.

And I deduce from that, that all of life is grace. year I gave my kids carob candy for Easter. I think they thought they had been deprived!
Oh well...:)