About “grains” [d’ganim] and about a simple useful herb.
“Seven weeks shalt thou number unto thee; from the time the sickle is first put to the standing corn shalt thou begin to number seven weeks”. [Parshat Re-eh]
The “kama” here [translated as corn] is barley [seora]
Today I will just mention [for you here] the various grains commonly used in most of the world, with their Hebrew and English names and make some very short remarks in general.
Strictly [botanically speaking] only a few of them are real grains, but I brought here the most used ones in the world, often used as staple food.
The first 5 are connected with Peach and of course bulgur [burghul] as well [which is wheat, see below]
There has been a lot of confusion about the identification of most of these grains.
If we buy today spelt bread then we call this kusmin, which formerly was called kosemet.
What we now call kosemet is now not one of the forbidden sorts for Pesach [not belonging to one of the chameshet d’ganim [5 grains].
For the past “confusion” of rice and millet and the famous mouse experiment by the Gaon of Vilna, see at the end of the article.
wheat = chita
rye = shiphon
oats = shibolet shu’al
barley = seora
spelt = kusmin
Bulgur (also called burghul) = wheat [see below “rice” for extensive explanation]
Not belonging to the 5 -on Pesach-forbidden- grains are [but used as staple food in the world]
corn = tiras
amaranth = yarbuz
millet = dochan
buckwheat [kosemet]: not connected with “wheat” and allowed on Pesach
rice = orez
Bulgur [burghul] = parboiled wheat [coarse] is made from several wheat species, most often from durum wheat. Bulgur is usually parboiled and dried, with the bran partially removed. Bulgur is not the same as cracked wheat, which is crushed wheat grain that has not been parboiled.
Parboiling of grains is an process known since ancient times [parboiled rice in India] which keep most of the nutrients in the grain even if they are polished afterwards.
It also prevents rancidity [of the rice.]
All these last mentioned “grains” [corn etc] are not a problem concerning gluten and are all excellent food.
So, are grains healthy foods?
No doubt about it.
One of probably the least clear chapters about health in the Talmud [I refer not to segulot] are those dealing with the kind of bread that was eaten.
Chazal highly praise eating”pat shacharit” [“bread for breakfast”] which would be able to prevent tens of diseases.
Often it is thought that this is the clean white bread we eat to day.
This simply can’t be the case.
The “pat nekia” [“clean bread”] as described in the Talmud can’t be “our 20-21st century white bread” [as maybe so many people think]. It would totally contradict our current knowledge about healthy bread and would definitely contradict the description of healthy bread by the Rambam.[as well as the chochmat “ha-amim”]. See the beraita [kind of mishna] below.
(Beraisa): Three things increase excrement, bend a person’s stature (weaken him) and remove one part in 500 of his eyesight – coarse bread, new beer and raw vegetables [if he regularly eats much of them]. (Beraisa): Three things decrease excrement, straighten stature and enlighten the eyes – clean bread [pat nekia], fatty meat and old wine;
I hope to be able to write some more about this in the future [pat nekia and pat shacharit]
I discussed this with Rav Ben Abu and he told me that it is clear that our white bread sold today can’t be the same as the pat nekia of the Talmud.
The issue is quite complex and has to do with the process of milling and sifting.
[what is precisely solet and what is kemach?] [How was wheat treated in Talmudic times?]
The common “cliche” – Nishtane hateva- to explain things, does not make sense here.
First of all it has to be stated the wheat as it is known today maybe genetically quite different from the wheat that was cultivated in the time of the Talmud.
Spelt [kusmin, see above about the term kosemet] is probably the grain which over the generations kept its genetic features.
One can hardly say that wheat, as we know it today, prevents so many diseases. For some unknown reason more and more people become sensitive to gluten [a protein in the wheat] and suffer from some form of of celiac disease and wheat [as such] may be the most problematic.
In fact all the 5 grains are problematic when this happens and maybe oats is the only one which is relatively well tolerated in these cases.
The symptoms of celiac disease [sprue] can be many and often go unrecognized- also including doctors- for a long time or are never thought about, especially when they are not very classical.
Even a recurrent miscarriage may be connected with gluten sensitivity and some psychiatric and neurological syndromes have been dramatically improved after leaving gluten out.
I understood that in the Tora from the 7 “minim”- only chita and seora are mentioned specifically as grains Chita would include any of the other grains except Seora [barley]
Barley is considered by the Talmud to be “horse-food” [fit for horses]
From the Talmud: Pesachim daf gimel amud beit [Thanks to Rav Halla, showing me this gemara]
Yochanan Chakuka’ah went to the villages to investigate the grain crop. When he returned, they asked him if the wheat was doing well.
Yochanan: The barley grew well!
The others: Go tell the horses and donkeys (normally, people do not eat barley) – “Veha’Se’orim veha’Teven la’Susim vela’Rachesh”!
It is well recognized that barley has highly heart protection values. This is true even for drinking barley water regularly.
This is also more or less true for buckwheat [kosemet] and the other names mentioned above.
Maybe the “pat shacharit” was really barley bread in most cases! [this is not unlikely as it is also stated that one should not use more expensive food if cheaper food will do [bal tashchit]
Now let’s jump to a fascinating question of terminology to show that we can’t take everything we know now for granted.
What is rice and what is millet?
You may ask : what is the problem!?
Even if you don’t know what millet is, just go to a health food shop, ask for millet [dochan in [modern] Hebrew] and they will give you what you wish.
The same is true for rice………no health food shop will give you millet if you ask for rice.
[puk chazi mai ama davar = go out and see what the people are doing ]
[you may get white rice or brown rice but everybody will recognize that he got rice.]
That it was not always so simple I would like to illustrate to you now.
What I am going to bring from the sources below is of course not meant to “state /change any halachic issues but just to give you an idea about some differences of opinion and even about a bit of “confusion” over the ages
The g’mara discusses what b’rachot should be said over orez and dochan.
Rashi was of the opinion that the rice known to us as orez was called by the talmud dochan [millet] and the millet we call now dochan was called in talmudic times orez.
The Mishna B’rura holds that the rice we know should correctly be translated as orez [and that we should say mezonot over this] and that millet is dochan which requires the bracha : she-ha-kol.
Now I would like to describe to you a brilliant experiment from the Vilna Gaon, to clear up the naming of orez and dochan. [source: meorot ha-daf ha-yomi].
The Talmud states the if somebody is asked to guard a certain amount of dochan for one year, he needs only to return 19/20 of the amount he was given to guard, as it is assumed that 1/20 will be eaten by mice.
In case of orez he must return 39/40 as we assume that mice ate 1/40 of the orez.
Now to find out what really should be called orez and what dochan, the Gaon stored for a year separately a certain amount of orez [rice] and a certain amount of dochan [millet]
At the end of the year the mice had eaten 1/20 of the portion which was stored as dochan [“millet”] and 1/40 of the portion stored as orez [“rice”]
It was now clear – from what was stated in the Talmud- that the portion from which was eaten 1/20 was millet [dochan] and the portion from which was eaten 1/40 was rice [orez]! [Who wants to replicate his experiment?] [have to supply you with the mice….?]
Whatever bread or baked products you are eating today it is clear that our cookies and bread made from white,bleached flour are causing a lot of “modern diseases” and to add fuel on the fire: add some of the disastrous fats we discussed in the past to the baked products and one may keep the “health-funds” [kupat cholim] busy, G-d forbid!
A healthy preparation for the coming chagim !