Tuesday, May 22, 2018

English Walnut: The Majestic Loner Tree

Herbal Remedies from the Judean Hills 
אגוז המלך – English Walnut – Juglins Regia
Printable Version

The Majestic Loner Tree
As reflected in its Hebrew name אגוז המלך – ‘nut of the king,’ the walnut tree is a king with its majestic trunk and firm towering branches, replete with perfectly round nuggets of  treasured nutmeat. The Romans valued the tree immensely for its fruit as well as for providing furniture wood. The royal walnut tree is very much an ‘individualist’ that prefers to grow in isolation. It does not like to grow in clusters or near other fruit trees. The walnut tree produces a certain chemical that oozes out from its leaves and dissolves in rainwater. When the dissolved chemicals come in contact with the ground, they stop all types of undergrowth near the walnut tree, especially potatoes and tomatoes. Even the roots of the walnut tree produce chemicals that are toxic for certain plants, particularly for the apple tree. Perhaps this reflects the walnut’s spiritual toxin as its states, “Negative spirits (מזיקין/mezikin) dwell on the branches of the walnut tree” (Sefer Chassidim 753). Perhaps, this is due to its separatist spirit, that doesn’t allow other plants in its vicinity. According, to the Torah, impurity cleaves to desolate places, while the more people are gathered, the more holiness. Perhaps there is a correlation between walnut’s spiritual toxin and the following halachic advice: “A person should not get used to eating walnuts as they lead to forgetfulness” (Kaf Hachaim פלא'י א). I was a bit disconcerted when I read this, as I enjoy nuts of all kinds with dates and 100% raw chocolate as a filling dessert that gives me energy to write for hours. It is also surprising to read that walnuts affect the memory negatively, since research shows that walnuts help develop over three dozen neurotransmitters in the brain. This correlates with the shape of the walnut, which looks exactly like the brain. Perhaps, walnuts could be both good for the brain and simultaneously bad for the memory depending on how and how much we consume them. We often see that the same Hebrew word can have opposite meanings, since from a circular perspective two extremes of the spectrum are adjacent. According to Arabic tradition, walnuts together with dates are good for physical strength and the prevention of heart disease. Still, in order to be on the safe side, now, when dementia is so common, I will try to curb my walnut consumption and eat more almonds, which Rambam enumerates as one of the three healthiest fruits (Hilchot Deot 4:11). I will not eliminate walnuts from my diet as the numerical value of the walnut אגוז/egoz –17 equals that of the Hebrew word טוב/tov – ‘good.’ Thus, there must be much goodness to be gleaned from the walnut.

Walnuts for the Head
The walnut exactly resembles the head. The outer green covering, represents the Pericranium, or outer skin of the skull. Therefore, those husks are exceeding good for wounds in the scalp. Tea from the green outer walnut husk is also useful for treating hair loss and baldness. The inner woody shell has the signature of the skull, and the little yellow skin or peel that covers the fruit, reflects the meninges and pia-mater, which are the thin membranes that envelope the brain. The fruit is a perfect image of the brain, and therefore it is very beneficial for the brain. If you crush the walnut fruits, mix them with wine, and place the paste upon the crown of the head, it comforts the brain and head greatly (William Cole, an exponent of the doctrine of signatures, year 1657, Adam in Eden). Indeed, the walnut resembles the brain with the left and right hemispheres of the cerebrum and the lower cerebellum. Even the wrinkles or folds on the nut are similar to those of the neo-cortex. 

Israel is Compared to the Walnut
ספר שיר השירים פרק ו פסוק יא אֶל גִּנַּת אֱגוֹז יָרַדְתִּי לִרְאוֹת בְּאִבֵּי הַנָּחַל לִרְאוֹת הֲפָרְחָה הַגֶּפֶן הֵנֵצוּ הָרִמֹּנִים:
“I went down into the garden of nuts to see the fruits of the valley, and to see whether the vine flourished and the pomegranates had flowered” (Song of Songs 6:11).

The walnut has many redeeming qualities: its protein-filled fruit, valuable wood and protective shell. No wonder the Jewish people are compared to a walnut.

“Why are the Children of Israel compared to a walnut? The walnut looks like a woody shell, with its inside hidden, but when you crack it open, you find it filled with compartments of food. Likewise, the Children of Israel are modest and humble in their deeds and their learning is not recognized. They do not glorify themselves to declare their own praise. Nevertheless, when you investigate, you will find them filled with wisdom” (Rashi, Song of Songs 6:11).

The fruit-picking season can be exhausting for me, as a single picker of 30 fruit trees; for it is necessary to pick the fruits before they fall to the ground and become filled with ants. At the end of the summer, I can finally breathe in relief for having rescued most of the fruits, shared, consumed and conserved them in the freezer, fridge and pantry, whole or puréed, pickled, or dried; in fruit leather, jams and ice cream. When the walnuts ripen in the late fall, I can relax, because falling to the ground does not cause them damage.

“Just as a nut, although it falls in the mud, the inside will not become gross; likewise, although the Jewish people were exiled among the nations and beaten up incessantly, their deeds did not become gross” (ibid.).

The walnut is also a metaphor for the interconnectedness of the Jewish people:
“Why is Israel compared to a nut? Just as with walnuts, if you remove one from the pile, all of them roll down one after the other, likewise Israel, if one becomes defective, everyone is affected, as it states, “Shall one person sin and you will be angry at the entire congregation?” (Bamidbar 16:22); (Rabbeinu Bachaya, Vayikra 26:37).

Entering the Secret Walnut Garden
תלמוד בבלי מסכת חגיגה דף יד/ב תנו רבנן ארבעה נכנסו בפרדס ואלו הן בן עזאי ובן זומא אחר ורבי עקיבא אמר להם רבי עקיבא כשאתם מגיעין אצל אבני שיש טהור אל תאמרו מים מים משום שנאמר דובר שקרים לא יכון לנגד עיני בן עזאי הציץ ומת עליו הכתוב אומר יקר בעיני ה' המותה לחסידיו בן זומא הציץ ונפגע ועליו הכתוב אומר דבש מצאת אכול דייך פן תשבענו והקאתו אחר קיצץ בנטיעות רבי עקיבא יצא בשלום:
Four entered the Orchard (Pardes). They were Ben Azai, Ben Zoma, Acher [literally, ‘the other,’ referring to Elisha ben Abuya], and Rabbi Akiva. Rabbi Akiva warned them, “When you enter near the stone of pure marble, do not say ‘water, water,’ since [there is actually no water there at all, and] it is written, ‘He who speaks falsehood will not be established before My eyes’” (Tehillim 101:7).  Ben Azzai gazed and died. Regarding him it is written, “Precious in G-d’s eyes is the death of His pious ones” (Tehillim 116:15). Ben Zoma gazed and was stricken [with insanity; he went out of his mind]. Regarding him it is written, “You have found honey, eat moderately lest you bloat yourself and vomit it” (Mishlei 25:16). Acher gazed and cut the plantings [i.e. he became a heretic]. Rabbi Akiva went out in peace (Babylonian Talmud, Gittin 14b).

Not only is the walnut a metaphor for the Jewish people, it moreover represents delving into the mystical depths of the Torah. Why is the Torah Scholar compared to a walnut? Like the four that went into the orchard, three went into the shell and only the fourth went into holiness (Rav Yitzchak Isaac Chaver, Beurei Agadot, Afikei Yam, on Babylonian Talmud, Moed 15b). One of my students, Amber, matched each of the three who went into the shells of the walnut based on their closeness to the truth of the inner fruit. Acher, who became a heretic, was furthest away from the truth as the meaning of his name, Acher – ‘the other’ similar to סִטְרָא אָחֳרָא/sitra achra – the other [impure] side. Therefore, he is considered as going into the outermost husk, which is furthest away from the fruit. Ben Zoma, who was blinded by the light of the truth and went crazy, is next furthest from the truth. Therefore, he is considered as going into the second outermost husk, as a person out of his mind is furthest away from the truth after the heretic, who is directly opposed to the truth. Ben Azzai saw the light and was so awestruck by it that his soul became absorbed within it. His body was not a vessel perfected enough to hold this immense light so he expired. Because his soul did perceive the truth, he is considered as going into the innermost thin husk that adheres to the nut itself. However, since he could not remain in this world he was not on the level of Rabbi Akiva who is compared to the actual fruit. To summarize, the four that went into the orchard correspond to the four parts of the nut as follows:

Acher gazed [at the outer soft husk of the walnut] and became a heretic.
Ben Zoma gazed [at the hard peel of the walnut] and went out of his mind.
Ben Azzai gazed [at the inner thin peel adhering to the nut] and died.
Only Rabbi Akiva went into the holiness of the nut and returned in peace.

Medicinal Properties of Walnut Leaves
Every part of the walnut tree has medicinal properties, including the outer husk and inner bark. The bark and leaves have alterative, laxative, astringent, anti-inflammatory and detergent properties. The leaves have a very strong, aromatic characteristic smell. For internal use, herbal products made from walnut leaves are always best, as they are not only more effective, but also do not have any side effects. You can make compresses and tea for internal use with walnut leaves.

Treat skin ailments: The leaves of the walnut tree have been used medicinally for thousands of years particularly for treating skin disorders. Infusions prepared from the walnut leaves can be applied externally for skin diseases like eczema, acne, herpes, scrofulous diseases or to heal wounds and scratches.

Expel toxins & parasitic worms:  The leaves and the outer skin or ‘pericap’ of the fruit and the brown cover or ‘testa’ of the seed contains so much bitterness that no insects will touch walnut leaves. Thus, walnut leaves became unanimously known as a vermifuge. The husks and leaves, macerated in warm water impart an intense bitterness, which will destroy all worms. You can pour the liquid on lawns and grass walks without injuring the grass itself.  During the 17th century, Nicholas Culpepper made a special paste combining walnut leaf extract, honey, onion and salt to draw out poison from deadly snake and spider bites.

Expel ringworm, microorganisms & bacteria: Walnut leaf has bactericidal action as well as insect repellent properties (Meyer-Buchtela, 1999; Roth, 1993). It possesses two anti-bacterial substances – walnut essential oil and juglone – that expel contagious micro-organisms and calm intestinal infections. In addition, the large concentration of vitamin C found in walnut leaves also enables them to tackle infectious diseases. The astringent tannins in walnut leaves cross-link with skin cells, enabling them to be resistant to allergies and diseases caused by micro-organisms.

Heal the Eyes: Walnut leaf tea is beneficial for eye irritations and conjunctivitis. It is also used in homeopathy to cure liver ailments and intestinal problems.

Laxative: During the 20th century, herbalists described the walnut leaf as one of the mildest and most effective laxatives available anywhere.

Stout, Massive Walnut Tree
Walnut trees can grow to become 60 feet tall – more than 20 meters! In some parts of France, walnut trees became 300 years old! In the southern parts of England, the trees grow vigorously and bear abundantly, when not injured by late frosts in the spring. Both male and female flowers appear on the tree in early spring before the leaves. A completely matured walnut tree can yield approximately 185 kg of nuts, but the average yield per tree is reported to be around 37 kg. My walnut tree hasn’t yielded close to this amount yet, but 5-10 kg of worm-free walnuts is not nothing!

Hands On
The best time to pick walnut leaves is in the early summer, in the month of Sivan (June) when they provide the best effect. Walnut tea may be prepared by boiling walnut leaves in water. This tea is used in baths, bandages as well as skin washes and compresses to cleanse the skin and get rid of infections.

Drying Walnut Leaves
Dry the leaves outdoors during warm, sunny weather, in half-shade, as leaves dried in the shade retain their color better than those dried in the sun and do not become as brittle. Spread the leaves in a single layer, preferably not touching. Turn the leaves occasionally during the drying process. All dried leaves should be packed away at once, in airtight, wooden or tin boxes in a dry place, otherwise they re-absorb moisture from the air. (I dry all plants simply by hanging them upside down on my porch).

Walnut Leave Tea
4 tsp dried leaves
1 cup water

1. Chop the walnut leaves.
2. Place them in a small pot and cover them with the water.
3. Simmer from 5-15 minutes depending on how strong you want the tea.
4. Drink 1 cup walnut tea a day in mouthful doses spread out throughout the day.

Bath Additive
Tannins found in walnut leaves cross-link with the proteins found in the cells coating the sweat glands. They prevent excessive sweat secretion, by cleansing the sweat pores and shrinking the sweat glands. Therefore, a footbath with walnut leaf tea is great for reducing perspiration. It also prevents and treats athlete’s foot as the steam distilled volatile oil fraction has demonstrated antifungal action (Nahrstedt et al., 1981). Walnut leaf footbath may treat even serious fungal infections.

1. Boil 4 cups dried leaves in 6 cups water for 45 minutes.
2. Add liquid to bath water.
3. For a footbath, reduce the amounts proportionately.
4. Soak body or feet.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Rose – A symbol of Love

Herbal Remedies from the Judean Hills
שׁוֹשַׁנָּה – Rose Petals – Rosaceae
Printable Version


The Rose – A symbol of Love
The rose is the undisputed Queen of Flowers. She wears her glorious crown with grace. The numerical value of שׁוֹשַׁנָּה/shoshanna – ‘rose’ is 661, the same numerical value as the name of Queen Esther. Rose was crowned the national flower of the United States in 1986. It is universally known as the flower of love. Its flowering softness is a sign of our loving relationships. Once, when I was away on our anniversary during my annual tour, a beautiful bouquet of red roses greeted me in Toronto with a loving note from my husband. I was moved to tears as I experienced how red roses are symbols of love felt at the deepest levels. Their color corresponds to desire and life force. Receiving red roses let me know that my husband is truly passionate about me, on all levels. His love promises to endure the test of time.

Roses Represents the Relationship of Love between G-d and Us
We are all familiar with the first part of the Torah verse that is an acronym for the month of Elul. Yet, the ending “who shepherds among the roses” is less well known:

ספר שיר השירים פרק ו פסוק ג אֲנִי לְדוֹדִי וְדוֹדִי לִי הָרֹעֶה בַּשּׁוֹשַׁנִּים:
“I am for my beloved and my Beloved is for me, Who shepherds among the roses”
(Song of Songs 6:3).

This ending is repeating a prior verse from Song of Songs, which also describes the relationship of love: 

ספר שיר השירים פרק ב פסוק טז דּוֹדִי לִי וַאֲנִי לוֹ הָרֹעֶה בַּשּׁוֹשַׁנִּים:
“My beloved is mine, and I am his, Who shepherds among the roses” (Song of Songs 2:16).

Just as roses represent love between people, it also denotes the deepest love between the Compassionate G-d and His people. Hashem wants a crown of roses from us. He wants a heart of softness. Therefore, a rose is also a symbol of teshuvah (return/repentance), when we return completely to His loving embrace. As long as we have the loving quality of roses, G-d leads us to the beautiful pastures of teshuvah. A diamond ring is worth much more, but gold, silver and diamonds are hard and rough, whereas roses are alive and vibrant. King David further connects roses with love:

ספר תהילים פרק מה פסוק א לַמְנַצֵּחַ עַל שֹׁשַׁנִּים לִבְנֵי קֹרַח מַשְׂכִּיל שִׁיר יְדִידֹת:
“For the conductor on shoshanim, of the sons of Korah, a maskil a song of loves” (Tehillim 45:1).

The Renewal and Mercy of the Rose
The Shoshanna teaches us to open our heart and learn soul lessons for our lives. “Hashem wants our heart” – that is roses. A fresh rose just about to bud is a powerful imagery. The new petals of the rose unfolding, signifies preserving the newness in our mitzvah observance. The challenge of being a rose is to be a source of renewal in our small world. We need to be fresh, vibrant and regard today as a brand new day, engaging in the mitzvot as if for the very first time and approaching our prayer book as though the first time we ever prayed. The Zohar opens with comparing the Jewish people to the rose:

“As a rose among the thorns, so is my beloved among the daughters” (Song of Songs 2:2). Who is the rose? This refers to Knesset Yisrael – the Collective soul roots of Israel – malchut (royalty). Just as a rose, which is found amidst the thorns, has within it the colors red and white, also Knesset Yisrael has within her both judgment and loving kindness. Just as a rose has thirteen petals, also Knesset Yisrael has within her thirteen paths of mercy that surround her from all sides (Zohar I, Intro. p. 1).

The thirteen petals of the rose correspond to the 13 midot of rachamim (mercy). We can emulate G-d in these paths, making ourselves conduits of mercy by being gracious and slow to anger. This way we can be “to my beloved,” and then “My Beloved is to me, leading us among the roses.” This is when we walk in Hashem’s path through the attributes of the 13 portals of treating others with compassion (Adapted from Shira Smiles).

שׁוֹשַׁנָּה/Shoshanna – Lily or Rose?
The word שׁוֹשַׁנָּה/Shoshanna comes from the word שֵׁש/shesh – ‘six,’ because it refers to a flower with six petals. It is called Shoshanna because it refers to the six directions in which the Shechina dwells (Sha’ar Ma’amarei Rashbi). Both the lily and the original uncultivated rose has six petals. King Solomon depicts the beautiful rose as standing in distinguishable contrast to its surrounding thorns:

ספר שיר השירים פרק ב פסוק ב כְּשׁוֹשַׁנָּה בֵּין הַחוֹחִים כֵּן רַעְיָתִי בֵּין הַבָּנוֹת:
“Like the שׁוֹשַׁנָּה/shoshanna among thorns, so is my beloved among the daughters”
(Song of Songs 2:2).

AS A SHOSHANNA BETWEEN THE THORNS - pricking her, nevertheless she her beauty and redness endures. Likewise is my beloved between the daughters. They tempt her to follow them in sin with other gods.  However, she stands steadfast in her faith (Rashi, Song of Songs 2:2).

This verse refers to our Matriarch, Rivkah, who grew up among the wicked (Midrash Bereishit Rabah 23:1); (Midrash Shir HaShirim Rabah 2:4).

The Jerusalem Bible translates שׁוֹשַׁנָּה/shoshanna as ‘lily,’ which possibly refers to השושן הצחור/Hashoshan Hatzachor – Lilium Cardidum. It grows in the forests of Carmel and Galilee. Its flowering starts at the beginning of the summer with several thorns. Thus, “The lily among thorns” is the big beautiful lily flower growing on a tall stalk that stands out from among the thorns of the land (Da’at Mikra). The following verse from the prophets supports that shoshanna refers to the lily: “I will be as the dew to Israel: he shall flower like the lily, and cast forth his roots like the Levanon” (Hoshea 14:6). Ibn Ezra explains that since the lily has thin roots attached to its bulb, the prophet needed to use the trees of Levanon as a metaphor for strong roots. This wouldn’t be necessary if the verse referred to the rose, since the rose is a tree with deep, strong roots.

In the Talmud and Midrash, the shoshanna (rose) is used as a symbol for the blood of a woman’s period. This seems to indicate that the shoshanna is blood red, a support that the shoshanna refers to the rose, rather than the lily, which is not known for being red. Likewise, Rambam holds that the shoshanim are red roses that emit a good fragrance (Rambam, Commentary on the Mishna, Shevi’it 7:6).  Malbim explains, “A rose among thorns” to refer to the rose that grows on a stalk full of thorns. Therefore, it is necessary that she lift her head above them, so that the thorns won’t prick her.

The Congregation of Israel is a Rose
The most delicate of flowers is not without thorny spiritual protection. The more you try to cut back a rosebush, the greater it blossoms. “For the conductor, upon shoshanim, of David” (Tehillim 69:1). “Upon Israel, who is compared to a shoshanna among the thorns- while the thorns pierce them, King David prays for them” (Rashi, Tehillim 69:1). Throughout history, the Jewish people have had to overcome many thorns, both from within and without. Our many enemies are repeatedly called, “thorns in your sides” (Bamidbar 33:55); (Yesha’yahu 11:14). Yet, in the end of days things will change, “No longer will the people of Israel have malicious neighbors who are painful briars and sharp thorns...” (Yechezkiel 28:24). The word שׁוֹשַׁנָּה/shoshanna is related to the word שנה שׁוֹנֶה/shoneh – ‘to change.’ The rose is called shoshanna because it has the ability to change from judgement to mercy symbolized by its harsh thorns on the one hand and its beautiful fragrant flower on the other. For this reason, the congregation of Israel is called a shoshanna, as we too vacillate between our holiness and impure shells. This is why the Zohar states that there are different kinds of shoshanim - just as a shoshanna among the thorns comes in both the red color of judgment and the white color of purity (Based on Sha’ar Ma’ameri Rashbi, Bereishit). A king had a cultivated orchard filled with figs, grapes, pomegranates and apples. He handed it over to a land tenant while he was away. When the king returned and checked what was done with the orchard, he found it full of thorns and thistles. When he was about to chop down the orchard, he noticed one beautiful rose among the thorns. He breathed in its fragrance and his soul was revived. The king then decided to save the entire orchard for the sake of this rose. Similarly, the entire world was only created for the sake of Torah. After 26 generations, G-d checked into His world, to see what was done in it, but He found it full of perversion from The Generation of Enosh, The Flood and The Tower of Babylon. He then brought a weed-whacker to cut it down, but stopped when He saw one ‘rose’ – referring to the Children of Israel. He breathed in its fragrance when He gave them the Ten Commandments. His soul was revived when they said, “We will do and we will listen.” Then the Almighty decided, for the sake of this rose, that the orchard will be saved – in the merit of Israel accepting the Torah. (Midrash Vayikra Rabbah 23:3).

The Rose is Associated with Redemption
Just as the rose exists for the sake of its fragrance, likewise the righteous are created only in order to redeem Israel… (Midrash Vayikra Rabbah 23:6). The redemption of Israel from Egypt was like picking a rose from between the thorns, as it states, “G-d ventured to go and take for himself a nation from the midst of another nation…” (Devarim 4:34). Since Israel was so assimilated, they would never have been redeemed from Egypt according to strict judgment… (Midrash Vayikra Rabbah 23:2). …Just like the rose, when it is placed between the thorns, the northern wind pushes it towards the south and the thorn stings it; the southern wind pushes it towards the north and the thorn stings it; nevertheless, its heart is directed straight Above. Similarly, Israel - although they are dried up, suffering and under forced labor; their heart is directed towards their Father in heaven… (Midrash Vayikra Rabbah 23:5). G-d said to them, “It all depends on you. Just as this rose blooms and its heart is towards the above, likewise, you must do teshuvah before me, and direct your hearts towards Me, Above. Then I will bring the redeemer…" (Midrash Tehillim, Mizmor 45). On our way to redemption, we must learn from the rose, that doesn’t succumb to the thorns, to be steadfast in overcoming obstacles. We also need to be strong against the pressure of other nations and their cultures, like the rose that is not pushed by the wind but remains straight. We, too, must turn to Above without being influenced by the winds of pressure, including the various pressures of the times.

Medicinal Properties of Rose Petals
Rose petals are sweet, slightly bitter and warming. They can be used as a carminative, stimulant, and emmenagogue. They affect the liver and spleen. The most fragrant roses are used in medicine. Those with a deep red color are more medicinal and astringent than other roses. Roses are used in face toners, perfumes and are one of the most effective anti-ageing ingredients. Ayurvedic physicians use the petals in poultices to treat skin wounds and inflammations. European herbalists recommend dried rose petal tea for headache, dizziness, mouth sores, and menstrual cramps. Rose petals dry up, mucous discharges, relieve constrictive feelings of the chest and abdomen (stuck liver chi), harmonize the blood and irregular menstruation and relieve pain caused by blood stagnation. Hippocrates recommended rose flowers mixed with oil for diseases of the uterus. Rose oil can also reduce high cholesterol levels. The leaves are a mild, laxative. Rose hips are a significant source of vitamin C.

Rose in Aromatherapy
In aromatherapy, essential rose oil is very precious. It is a favorite tool for aroma therapists because of its versatility. Oil or Otto of Rose was discovered between 1582-1612 at the wedding feast of the princess Nour Djihan with the Prince of Akbar. A canal circling the entire gardens was dug and filled with rose water. The heat of the sun separated the water from the essential rose oil. It was skimmed off and found to be exquisite perfume. It is necessary to distil about 10,000 lbs. of roses to obtain 1 lb. of oil; 30 roses to make one drop of otto, and 60,000 roses to make one oz. of otto. No wonder pure essential rose oil is the most expensive of all essential oils.

The inherent Connection between the Torah and Medicinal Properties of the Rose Roses strengthen the blood, the source of vitality that keeps us strong to overcome obstacles in life. Both the People of Israel and the Torah are compared to the rose, because they are the blood and vitality of the world, keeping our planet going while saving it from destruction. The three properties of rose: carminative, stimulant and emmenagogue (mover of blood) are all connected with keeping things moving to overcome stagnation. Carminative – the power to digest – moves food along its journey through the body. Stimulant perks us up and imbues us with strength to keep moving. Emmenagogue keeps the blood moving and revitalizes us to bring constant renewal. This dynamic quality of the rose fits in with the meaning of שׁוֹשַׁנָּה/shoshanna from the word שׁוֹנֶה/shoneh – ‘to change,’ and the power of teshuvah, which we learn from the rose.  

Healing Properties of Rose Water
Rose water has natural antiseptic, astringent, anti-bacterial and antiviral qualities. Its scent also alleviates depression and tension. The earliest English herbalists recommended rose water for the complexion and heart. Rose water was successfully used to cure all kinds of ailments, such as trembling, constipation, drunkenness, skin and throat infections and insomnia.

Mood-lifter: Rose Water is soothing for the nerves. It treats conditions of stress: nervous tension, peptic ulcers and heart disease. It is also a mild sedative and anti-depressant. Use rose water as an air freshener to balance the spirit. Spray some rose water on your face at the end of a tiring day and feel all the tensions and troubles melt away! With its pleasant aroma, rose water spray enhances mood and is cooling and toning.

Skin-Healer: Rosewater is renowned as a gentle skin softener that enhances the glow and appearance of the skin. Its nourishing, tonic, soothing and hydrating qualities are useful for all skin types, especially mature, dry and sensitive skin. It helps moisturize the skin at bedtime, or before and after exposure to the sun. Rosewater stimulates regeneration and has a calming effect in acne and sunburns. It is also helpful for inflammation and reducing the visibility of broken capillaries.

Hands On
Rose water is gently cleansing and maintains the pH balance. You can spritz your face with pure rose water for facial toning, especially in summer.

Rose Water
1. Pick rose petals and place them in a glass bowl rather than a plastic bag.
2. Fill a pot with the rose petals to the brim.
3. Add as much water in the pot as can fit, leaving only enough space so it won’t boil over.
4. Simmer while covered on the lowest heat for about 40 minutes.
5. Store in the refrigerator for up until 1 month.

Rosewater Lemonade
1. Make a pitcher of lemonade with fresh lemons and honey.
2. Add ¼ cup rose water!
3. Enjoy on a hot summer day!

Rosewater Cold Cream
9 teaspoons of rosewater
9 teaspoons of almond oil
2 teaspoons of beeswax
20 drops rose otto essential oils

1. Combine the oil and beeswax in your double boiler (or in a stainless steel or glass vessel inside a pan filled with water) on low heat. Wait until everything is melted.
2. At the same time, put the rosewater in another double boiler on low heat so that it reaches the same temperature as the oils.
3. Once the oil and beeswax are melted, take them off the heat and start whipping with an electric mixer on low speed for a few minutes; while adding the rosewater spoon by spoon.
4. After a few minutes, the liquid will soon turn into a cream as you progressively add the water.
5. Once it has reached a creamy consistency, add the essential oils and blend.
6. Scoop the cream into sterile glass jars and allow to cool at room temperature before closing with a lid.

Rose Vinegar
Rose vinegar treats headaches, especially those brought on by heat for example by the sun.
1. Gather fresh rose petals.
2. Heat some distilled vinegar until it begins to simmer. Then pour into a jar filled with petals, all the way to the top.
3. Cover the jar with a layer of plastic wrap, and then a lid. Let sit in a cool, dark place for a few weeks or until the desired color is reached.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

My Self-planted Mulberry Fairy-Tale Tree

Herbal Remedies from the Judean Hills
תות-עץ – Mulberries – Morus Nigra
Printable Version

My Self-planted Mulberry Fairy-Tale Tree
I don’t remember exactly when, but for sure less than a decade ago, an enormous mulberry tree sprouted forth in our backyard seemingly out of the blue midair. Perhaps one of the many birds, hanging out in our garden, dropped a berry from a neighboring mulberry tree. It must have fallen at the right place in the right time, because with shocking fairy-tale speed it grew to gigantic dimensions. After the three first years of orlah, when we may not use the fruit, the tree was bursting with more succulent black berries than we were able to pick. Sadly, many fell to the ground, where they were devoured by ants and other creeping creatures. In vain, I tried to direct my chickens to the mulberry droppings, but for whatever reason, they chose to run the other way and peck away at my veggies in the front garden. A problem arose in my garden. A beautiful almond tree sapling had emerged on its own in our pathway. Since there was no space for the almond tree to grow where it had planted itself, I was pondering to where in my garden, I could move it, but I didn’t find any place. When we first moved in, we planted numerous trees much too tight, not having enough foresight and emunah (faith) in how much a tree can grow. Some of our trees sadly died of overcrowding, and others are suffering for lack of space to stretch out their branches or from lack of light due to the overshadowing branches of bigger trees. Then, I thought about the two additional mulberry trees in my backyard, planted more than 15 years ago, but remaining small, hardly giving any fruits. Since we have more mulberries than we could possible process, it seemed most sensible to uproot the extra mulberry trees and plant the almond tree sapling and the white broom tree that needed to be transplanted in their place. The only problem was that the Torah prohibits destroying fruit trees, as trees are compared to people. So, what was I going do with the extra mulberry trees and how could I allow the almond-tree sapling to waste away in the most unsuitable conditions of the dry hard soil in our pathway?

The Spiritual Danger of Uprooting Fruit Trees 
“When you lay siege to a city for many days… do not destroy its trees by swinging an ax against them, because from them you shall eat, and for this reason you should not cut them down. For, is a tree of the field a man, that you are besieging it? Rather, a tree that you know will not produce food you may destroy and cut down…” (Devarim 20:19-20).

My Rabbi said I was permitted to uproot the extra mulberry trees because they didn’t produce much fruit. Nevertheless, I wanted to save them and transplant them in the school garden. Yet, my plan didn’t work out. After the first tree was carefully dug up with lots of dirt attached to its roots, two able-bodied young men were unable to move it. When taking on this project, I was unaware that cutting down a fruit tree entails a personal, spiritual danger. “Rabbi Chanina stated: My son Shivchas died only as punishment for cutting down a fig tree prematurely” (Babylonian Talmud, Bava Kamma 91b). On the 28th of Adar (March 15, 2018), my mulberry tree was cut loose from the ground. That very day, my dear father Shlomo ben Leib הכ"מ went into a coma. The tree was still alive, however, the day the gardener came and decided that the tree couldn’t be transplanted, was the day that we buried my dear father. I don’t want to take on this tremendous guilt trip, but this whole tree uprooting ordeal nailed in the lesson of the holiness of fruit trees and how their lives are intertwined with ours. I’m planning to plant new fruit trees for the elevation of my father’s soul, and develop our B’erot school orchard to become a memorial mini park in his memory.

Fruit as Medicine – Health Benefits of Mulberries
The time-consuming mulberry picking and preparation is definitely worthwhile when you consider its wealth of health benefits. These have been proven in scientific research as well as in traditional Chinese medicine. Mulberry is an exceptional nutritious-treasure containing fiber, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, iron, proteins, vitamin C and B. Most berries have great antioxidant properties due to the anthocyanins in which mulberries are especially rich. They therefore combat cancer, premature aging, neurological diseases and bacterial infections. Mulberries also treat diabetes and improve eyesight. People with dry eyes and those who use their eyes a lot during work may strengthen their eyesight through drinking mulberry juice regularly. Moreover, mulberries are a good source of resveratrol, which enhances immunity, contributes to cancer prevention and fights existing cancers. Resveratrol has shown in several studies to extend the life of mice. Eating mulberries or drinking their juice is excellent for curing chronic diseases of the digestive tract. They nourish and balance body fluid production including internal secretions and gastric juice, and thus improve digestion and treat chronic gastritis. Mulberry is also a good source of nutrients that lower high blood pressure. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that eating just five ounces of berries a day can lower blood pressure, thereby reducing the risk of blood clots and strokes. Mulberry contains cyanidin 3-glucoside, which epidemiological studies confirm reduces the risk of many degenerative diseases such as chronic arthritis and atherosclerosis. Thus, mulberry combats inflammation. In Turkey, a treatment for constipation is to eat white mulberries on an empty stomach with a glass of water. They also use mulberry molasses as a treatment for colds and flu. The effectiveness of mulberries to treat colds and flu may be due to their high vitamin C content. In addition, mulberries are beneficial for:
          Recuperating after surgery
          Recovering after long-time illness
          Improving women’s health after childbirth
          Lowering cholesterol levels
          Reducing blood sugar levels

The mulberry fruit is botanically called a sorosis, because it is formed by the consolidation of many flowers. There are three main species of mulberries: white, red and black. It grows mainly in the subtropical regions of the Middle East, Asia, Africa and the Americas.

Blood-Tonic and Kidney Nourisher in Chinese Medicine
Mulberry fruit is classified in the modern Chinese Materia Medica as a blood tonic. It is a restorative fruit that treats deficiencies. Traditionally, it has been used to nourish the yin and blood, benefit the kidneys, and treat weakness, fatigue, and prematurely gray hair. It also treats urinary incontinence, tinnitus and constipation. Due to the high iron content,  people regularly mix mulberry juice as a tonic to counteract anemia, cleanse the blood, increase its production and improve blood circulation. The raw mulberry juice is squeezed out of the mulberry fruit with has a delicate fragrance and taste. Mulberry juice tonifies and cleanses the liver and kidneys, calms the nerves, promotes the metabolism of alcohol, and enhances immunity. Moreover, regular consumption of mulberry juice is helpful in curing dizziness, heart-palpitations and insomnia. In Chinese markets, mulberry is often provided in the form of a paste, which is mixed with hot water to make a tea for enriching the liver and kidneys, to sharpen the hearing and brighten the eyes. Mulberry juice applied directly on the head also promotes healthy growth and blackening of hair.

Mulberry Leaves – The New Superfood
I never knew that mulberry leaves were edible. I’m going to try to pick some of the new tender leaves for my smoothie, while leaving the older ones for the tree’s own needs. Mulberry leaves have long been used in Chinese medicine for the prevention and treatment of diabetes. Dried mulberry leaves, especially white mulberry, make an excellent tea. They contain compounds that suppress high blood sugar levels. The Yellow Emperor’s Classic devoted to Chinese Medical Practice refers to dry mulberry leaf tea, as ‘godly hermit’s tea,’ or ‘a miracle remedy – an immortality medicine.’ It was used as nutritional fortification, to cure coughs and paralysis. Scientists in Japan have found that compounds extracted from white mulberry leaves are effective in suppressing the progression of arteriosclerosis and the buildup of cholesterol-rich plaque in our arteries. The leaves contain six times more calcium than green tea and 25 times more than milk. They contain 2.5 times more iron than green tea and 10 times more than spinach. Because of the high source of mineral content, mulberry leaves are a candidate to become a super food material.

National Azerbaijan Tree for Syrup, Liqueur & Shade
Mulberries are popular in the Middle East and especially favored in Azerbaijan where mulberry trees were found in parks and along streets and boulevards since the middle ages. When mulberries are no longer in season, Azerbaijanis still enjoy eating them in the form of mulberry syrup concentrate. To make the syrup, mulberry juice is boiled until it has a honey like consistency. While this syrup makes a tasty sweet, it is also used as a medicine to protect against diseases of the liver, gall bladder, and heart. To treat gallbladder infections, drink 2 tablespoons of the syrup dissolved in half a glass of water, then lie down on the right side. Take this treatment on an empty stomach, half an hour before breakfast. The syrup is used to treat sore throats as well. Tut araghi, a potent liqueur made from mulberry juice, is another mulberry product that’s very popular-not only in Azerbaijan, but also in Georgia and Armenia. It’s one of the national Azerbaijani versions of vodka. Some people believe that small doses of the drink protect against diseases of the stomach and heart. Mulberry trees are not only beneficial for their fruit and leaves but also as a tree that provides a cool shady place to sit during hot summer days, without blocking the view during winters when the tree stands bare.

The Silk Producing Mulberry Tree
From ancient time, especially in China, one of the primary uses of mulberry trees is for raising silkworms, which utilize the leaves as their main food source. The silkworms eat mulberry leaves and spin cocoons.

Hands On
To pick mulberries, a person – often a young boy – climbs the tree and shakes the branches, causing the fruit to drop onto a cloth or plastic sheet below. I personally do not use this method because mulberries are very delicate and need to be handled carefully so that they don’t break open. Moreover, in my garden, when the mulberries fall to the ground even on a cloth they inevitable get mixed with ants. Mulberries are very difficult to check for bugs. Therefore, some devout Jews, like my husband, will avoid consuming them altogether or only drink their juice. I soak the fruits three minutes in natural soap water and check if there are bugs in the water.  In which case, I repeat the soaking until no bugs appear. The natural sweetness of mulberries is enhanced when dried. Then it can be used as a raisin substitute. You can make dried mulberry tea by brewing 10 grams per cup in water, then straining off the fruit.

Mulberry Leather
I make an amazing mulberry leather in the dehydrator. It is so simple and consists of nothing but mulberries. You can also make this leather in your oven, on the lowest setting, kept a bit open with a wooden spoon.

1. Pick mulberries and soak in natural soap water
2. Rinse vigorously then allow to dry off
3. Process the fruit in the food processor until smooth
4. Spread out thinly on your oven or dehydrator trays
5. Leave overnight to dehydrate
6. Peel off your leather and roll them into rollups
7. Cover with cellophane wrap
If you don’t eat up the fruit leather within a month it’s best to store it in the refrigerator.

Sugar Free Mulberry Jam
1 Kg mulberries
2-3 Apple cores (for their pectin)
A little lemon juice
Extra chopped apples (optional)
Vanilla and or cinnamon sticks (optional)

1. Simmer all the ingredients on a low fire in a covered pot for about 1 hour.
2. Cool, and remove the apple cores.
3. For a smoother jam, process shortly in blender or food processor.
4. It is possible to either leave or remove the spice sticks.
5. Place in a glass jar and keep in the refrigerator
Don’t worry about expiration date, since this jam will be gobbled up in a jiffy.