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.

Maybe another time I will go more into depth about some of these grains.

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 Pesach 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 

kinoa [quinoa]

millet = dochan

buckwheat [kosemet]: not connected with “wheat” and allowed on Pesach

rice = orez

Bulgur [burghul] = parboiled wheat [coarse] is made from several different 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.

 Prepared by Rabbi P. Feldman

of Kollel Iyun Hadaf, Yerushalayim

daf@dafyomi.co.il    http://www.dafyomi.co.il

(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, may make sense here. [in many cases I doubt this] First 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.

The wheat that is now cultivated sice many years as “kamut” is probably the original wheat that was known in Egypt.

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- even by doctors- for a long time or are never thought about, especially when the symptoms 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. [there is known gluten intolerance and also wheat sensitivity, two different conditions]

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: Pesachim3b [Thanks to Rav Halle tz z”l, 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 nowadays 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]

Also mentioned: A rich man ate wheat bread and a poor man ate barley bread [Josephus], possibly even mixed with coarse bran.[Shabbath 76b][Biblical and Talmudic medicine]

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]. [I don’t know if this was really done or is brougt as a bright idea]

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 may keep the “health-funds” [kupat cholim] busy! An occasional white pita will not harm someone who is otherwise eating healthy

A healthy preparation for the coming chagim !

A few words about a useful herb:

Another blessed herb: viola odorata, not so well known.

Viola odorata:

used as a tea it is an excellent herb to give for fevers.[has an explicit cooling effect and causes light sweating]

It is useful for bronchitis and chronic naso-pharyngeal catarrh.

It has been used as a mild analgesic to relieve cancer pains. [lung cancer, gastrointestinal cancers, breast cancer [as compresses ]

It may even prevent metastases and is given after operations for this purpose.

One case of a throat tumor [epithelioma of the tonsil] has been described to be as being healed by drinking the tea and using compresses !!

The famous medieval Italian medical school of Salerno declared about viola odorata: “to dispel drunkenness and repel migraine……form heavy head it takes the pain, and from feverish cold delivers the brain”.

Can anything be better?

I [have] used viola in the beginning of my practice much more and I tend to start using it again ,often together with sambucus and tilia [equal parts][Tilia is known as tirza in modern Hebrew]