Healing Herbs in Judaism

While I was putting together the Rosh Chodesh Guide for Iyyar, I found myself wandering off into the world of healing herbs.  The Netivot for the month is the Mayaledet (midwife) and the name of the month is said to be an acronym for Ani Adonai Rofecha, “I am G-d your Healer (Exodus 15:26),  so it’s understandable.  I opted to keep the essay focused and save the healing herbs for another post.

Food and eating are foundations of my spiritual practice, and foundations of Jewish practice through the laws of Kashrut.  I don’t claim to be traditional in my application of the concepts of Kashrut, but I love the rich history of food magick and spirituality that Judaism provides me.

Many holidays have symbolic foods that are used, and it’s up to you to decide if you would consider those applications magick or just symbolism.  Passover, which we celebrated recently is the most commonly known holiday with specific food as part of the ritual.  But there are many others, including Rosh Hashanah.  But beyond that, Judaism associates many healing and metaphyscial properties with foods.

Knowing the symbolic nature of a food or its metaphysical properties can help you to draw the most out of these foods and use them for healing of body and spirit.  Here are a two of my favorite examples:

Dates

Dates have a long and storied history in Judaism.  They are the “honey” of the land of milk and honey.  They are one of the Seven Species.  In Western Magickal Tradition, dates are considered to be psychically cleansing.  I wanted to see what Judaism said about this.  In Judaism, the date is considered a symbol of life and rebirth.   We see this even in the scientific name of the fruit, phoenix dactylifera.   The Date Palm is a survivor.  New life will spring from the ashes if it is burned in a fire.  The Talmud even recognizes the date’s healing properities.  In Tractate Ketubot it says the date is “warm and satisfy, act as a laxative, and strengthen the body without spoiling it.”

If you are having a rough time, add some fresh or dried dates to your diet.  Take a moment to meditate on the healing properties of the fruit before eating it.

Sources: Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, Food at the Time of the Biblehttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Date_Palm,

Fenugreek

Fenugreek is one of my favorite spices.  One of the first spells I ever learned used Fenugreek.  I was told to put a little fenugreek in my mop water and mop the kitchen clockwise to bring in money.  I was pretty broke at the time, so I gave it a try.  Money didn’t fall from the sky, but opportunities to earn more appeared pretty quickly.  It’s one I swear by, to this day.

But what does Judaism say about Fenugreek? Fenugreek is one of the foods referenced in a Rosh Hashanah food magick tradition called Yehi Ratzon, where you eat symbolic foods to remind ourselves of the goals we wish to achieve in the year.  The blessing said when eating fenugreek during the Yehi Ratzon ritual ends with, “may…our merits increase.”  This makes sense to me.  Fenugreek is an herb of increase, which explains the association with money.

Sources

http://roshhashanah.torah.org/learning/yomtov/roshhashanah/vol1no38.html, http://roshhashanah.torah.org/learning/yomtov/roshhashanah/vol1no44.html, Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fenugreek, http://www.aliyosshmuel.com/thinkjewish.asp?AID=43, http://www.herb-magic.com/fenugreek-seed.html, http://www.balashon.com/2007/09/rubia-and-lubia.html

What Jewish healing herb/food traditions do you know?  I’m busy collecting resources on the seven species and the other traditional foods of the Yehi Ratzon ritual.  I’ll happily take any help you want to provide.

 

5 Comments

  1. Great Post ~ thanks!

    Carla

  2. avulpineheart /

    wonderful! simply wonderful help.

  3. This is a topic of great interest to me. I'm getting my masters in Chinese medicine and herbology, and I find that I am now looking up the lore for many of my common veggies and herbs. We are always eating- what better way to connect spiritually than to research the special spiritual and healing properties of your foods! I had not heard of Yehi Ratzon, and I'm looking forward to reading more about it. 🙂

    This also reminds me of a conversation I was having with a friend (raised Jewish, converted to Christianity) about eggs, specifically Easter eggs. She was having trouble relating them to the actual spiritual meaning of Easter and I was telling her about their Pagan origins, the Ostra [Vernal Equinox] traditions of dying an egg red, as a sign of fertility(menstrual blood, birth), and the season of spring (rebirth, life cycles, etc). It makes sense to include it now as part of the Christian tradition (resurrection- new life). We also have it on the Seder plate at Passover – traditionally to represent the sacrifice originally eaten during the Temple days, and also mourning of the Temple destruction (and I've heard this is something commonly eaten by mourners at funerals, round foods actually, to remind us of the circle of life), and symbolizing our rebirth- from slavery.

    Of course, I don't know if this helps you with the Yehi Ratzon thing, but once I start typing I can't stop! 😉

    ~Marcelle~

  4. Anna Lea /

    An interesting note on fenugreek– I've read before that it's used at Rosh Hashana as a symbol of "increase", and can't help but be charmed by this… as an aspiring lactation professional, I'm well aware of fenugreek's power of increase– it's been used as a galactogogue for ages and is still the most often recommended natural remedy to boost a mother's milk supply!

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