Friday, January 22, 2016

Carobs, chocolate, and the Talmud

CONTINUING ON THIS WEEK'S THEME OF TREES: Carob or Chocolate: Tu B’shvat’s Trees? (Rabbi Debbie Prinz,Jewish Journal). Alas, chocolate is not found in the Talmud and cocoa trees did not and do not grow in ancient or modern Israel. But carobs are another matter:
The Talmud notes that carob pods alone nourished the poor Rabbi Hanina ben Dosa from Shabbat to Shabbat. (Ta’anit, 24b) The famous Honi Hamaagal story about planting for future generations centers on a carob plant. (Ta’anit, 23a). Carob’s appearance in other Middle Eastern based religions extends to Islam. During Ramadan carob juices are drunk. In addition, in Christian sources, the Book of Matthew (3:4) claims that John the Baptist ate carob in the desert, thus explaining its English denotation as St. John’s Bread. Perhaps this association puts carob on Easter and Lent menus.
As for Matthew 3:4, my understanding is that when it says John ate locusts, it means locusts. For my part I would be happier if it meant carobs. More on that here and here.

More on the holiday of Tu B'Shevat (coming this weekened) here.