A Tribute to Wheat for Tu B’Shvat

Sarah Yehudit Schneider

wheat

It is customary to eat fruits and drink wine in celebration of Tu B’Shvat, the Rosh HaShana of fruit trees. And it is fitting to admire each fruit and speak its praises before you eat it. In that spirit A Still Small Voice presents a tribute to wheat. 

Wheat has a special status in the Jewish tradition. As the staff of life, it is the most important food. A person could live on bread and water for an extended period of time. The thanksgiving prayer recited after partaking of a meal where bread is served is a special, elaborate blessing distinct from others.

  The Talmud teaches that wheat was actually a tree in the Garden of Eden, with tasty cakes growing straight from its bough. When Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge, reality shattered and transformed completely. Wheat, which was the loftiest tree in Eden, became one of the lowliest plants in our fallen world. That which was highest fell lowest. It now takes enormous effort, and many sequential labors, to turn wheat from tough kernels into edible loaves, pale imitations of those that grew straight from the vine in Eden.
A child first acquires the awareness that enables speech when it begins to ingest wheat. Kabballa explains that this is because the numerical value of the Hebrew word for wheat (חטה) is 22, the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet. This Kabbalistic fact connects wheat to the sefira of wisdom for it is there that the capacity for conscious awareness first appears. Not only do letters enable speech, they are also required for thought. These rarified letters that glimmer in the mind as the source of our creative insights are the spiritual root of wheat. 

Wheat’s Biblical and Talmudic Correspondences

Wheat’s Song from Perek Shira
Song of Ascents.  From the depths I call out to you, HaShem. (Psalms 130:1)
שיר המעלות ממעמקים קראתיך יי. (תה’ קל’ א’):
Psalms 81:17
And he would feed him with the finest of the wheat; and I would satisfy you with honey from the rock.
וַיַּאֲכִילֵהוּ מֵחֵלֶב חִטָּה וּמִצּוּר דְּבַשׁ אַשְׂבִּיעֶךָ:
Psalms 104:15
And wine that gladdens the heart of man, and oil to make his face shine, and bread which strengthens man’s heart.
וְיַיִן יְשַׂמַּח לְבַב אֱנוֹשׁ לְהַצְהִיל פָּנִים מִשָּׁמֶן וְלֶחֶם לְבַב אֱנוֹשׁ יִסְעָד:
Psalms 147:14
He makes peace in your borders, and fills you with the finest of the wheat.
הַשָֹּם גְּבוּלֵךְ שָׁלוֹם חֵלֶב חִטִּים יַשְׂבִּיעֵךְ:
TB Brochot 57a 
One who seed wheat in a dream will see peace, as it says “He makes peace in your borders, and fills you with the finest of the wheat.”
רבי חייא בר אבא הרואה חטים בחלום ראה שלום שנאמר השם גבולך שלום חלב חטים ישביעך
Berakhot 40a
R. Judah says it was wheat, since a child does not know how to call ‘father’ and ‘mother’ until it has had a taste of corn.23 Now you might think that because R. Judah says that wheat is a kind of tree, therefore we should say over it the benediction ‘who creates the fruit of the tree’. Therefore we are told that we say ‘who creates the fruit of the tree’ only in those cases where if you take away the fruit the stem still remains to produce fruit again
רבי יהודה אומר: חטה היתה, שאין התינוק יודע לקרות אבא ואמא עד שיטעום טעם דגן. סלקא דעתך אמינא, הואיל ואמר רבי יהודה חטה מין אילן היא, ליברך עליה בורא פרי העץ ־ קמשמע לן: היכא מברכינן בורא פרי העץ ־ היכא דכי שקלת ליה לפירי איתיה לגווזא והדר מפיק,
Baba Metzia 59a
Rab Judah said: One should always take heed that there be wheat in his house; for strife is prevalent in a house only on account of wheat [food], for it is written, He maketh peace in thy borders: he filleth thee with the finest of the wheat.
  אמר רב יהודה: לעולם יהא אדם זהיר בתבואה בתוך ביתו, שאין מריבה מצויה בתוך ביתו של אדם אלא על עסקי תבואה, שנאמר (תהלים קמ״ז) השם גבולך שלום חלב חטים ישביעך.

 

Wheat’s Kabbalistic Correspondences
R. Y. Y. Safrin (the Kamarna Rebbe) presents the seven species as stepping stones in our descent from Gan Eden and return. They are not just foods but archetypes that, like links in a golden chain, connect our souls back to their root on high.

 

In his kabbalistic commentary on the Torah, called Heichal HaBrocha, R. Safrin examines the mathematical relationships that weave throughout the Torah’s text.1 This network of associations based on numeric equivalence does not lend itself to translation.  Several pages can be required to unpack the significance of a single equation that is conveyed in his writings by two Hebrew words.  Consequently I have chosen to present his conclusions, and not their technical underpinnings.  The full text of his commentary is attached for those adventurous souls who would like to hike into the PaRDeS with the Rebbe.  Bring your calculator.

 

The journey begins with חטה (wheat) and follows the order of these special foods as they appear in the famous verse (Devarim 8:8) that links these seven species to the land of Israel:

 

It is a land of [1] wheat, [2] barley, [3] grapes, [4] figs and [5] pomegranates—a land of [6] oil-olives and [7] honey-[dates].

 

The Ari connects these seven species to the sefirot as illustrated in the diagram that accompanies the Hebrew text.  R. Safrin elaborates on the significance of the Ari’s sefirotic correspondences.
———

The Torah informs us that Divinity spoke creation into existence with ten statements of “Let there be…”  Obviously God does not have a mouth and vocal cords. The Torah employs the metaphor of speech to teach that just as talk produces sound waves that transmit words that conjure images in a mind’s eye, so (on an infinitely more exalted scale) did the NoThing emanate the pattern of vibrations which produced the cosmic hologram that became our world.

The basic units of speech are its letters, and in particular, here, the Hebrew letters.  These twenty-two sounds are the building blocks of reality—the periodic table of spiritual elements. Each is a unique configuration of consciousness expressed through form, sound, and numerical value.
 
When kabala says that Adam’s body in Gan Eden was a radiant garment, it means that his awareness was not confined to the brains in his head, but permeated the entirety of his being.  Elsewhere it says that Adam’s light-body was a dancing cloud of Hebrew letters which, in their fallen state, transformed into the scribed letters of our Torah.  Adam thus contained the essence of all existence within him, for every created thing is connected to a letter of the Torah, whose first “incarnation” was a glyph in Adam’s body of light. 

 

And so, teaches R. Safran, חטה is a living symbol that awakens, in the depths of our soul, a remembrance of our glorious beginning as a shimmering letter in the body of Adam in Gan Eden before the sin.
 
Body: Right Brain (which controls the left side of the body).
Kabbalistic Attribute: Wisdom, Intuitive Insight.
Emotional Expression: Love of discovery.
Mental Expression: Holistic, abstract thinking. Instantaneous recognition of patterns, faces, or spatial arrangements. Non-thought-mediated insights. Spatial orientation.
Spiritual Expression: The complete surrender of self to truth, service, and God. This suspension of self creates the space to receive the lights of higher consciousness without distortion or curtailment. In Hebrew this is called bitul (kuyhc). Each moment brings a new revelation of truth and God and good. On

 

Wheat’s Healing Correspondences
Balanced, Rectified, God-Centered Expression:  Creative insights that genuinely reflect God’s communication in that moment. Learning for its own sake (for the sake of just knowing God).
When Contaminated by Serpent (Ego) Consciousness:  Creativity in arts and sciences and even in spiritual matters that does not genuinely acknowledge the Divine source of that creative spark and does not serve the Primal-Will-To-Good.
Pathological Expression:  Schizotypal Personality Disorder where creativity becomes ungrounded and eccentric.

 

Too Much on the…  
Emotional Plane: Always looking for a new thrill. Peak experience junkie. (Brain research shows that when the right brain is too strong, one’s habitual response to life grows gloomy and pessimistic. Perhaps this is because one’s need for stimulation gets so voracious that it remains constantly unsatisfied.)
Mental Plane: Needing to be constantly creative, but having neither time nor patience to carry things through. Lots of ideas, no viable fruit. Addiction to newness.
Spiritual Plane: Lofty ideas and visions of service that completely disregard the limitations and particular soul-mission of the individual. Learning for its own sake, without any counterbalancing impulse to internalize and/or apply the teachings.

 

Too Little on the… 
Emotional Plane:  Habit rules one’s relationships. Lacking the drive to know more, and go deeper.
Mental Plane: Fear of creativity. Always copying someone else’s way, or opinions, etc. Lacking curiosity.
Spiritual Plane: Inability to question, listen, admit to not knowing. Unwillingness to acknowledge a Higher Power. Spiritual complacency. No drive toward transcendence. Incoming information gets twisted by personal bias and narcissistic ego needs.

 

APPENDIX – HEBREW SOURCE TEXT
היכל הברכה – דברים ח’ ח’
חטה הוא שיש בקליפות נגה כתנת עור כלול מכ”ב אתוון מסוד ע”ש”ו אי”ש יד”ע צי”ד אי”ש שד”ה במספר אלף תצ”ה מספר כל כ”ב אתוון שאחז בהם הרע והוא בעל חנן בן עכבו”ר עור כ”ב והבן ושם חטא אדה”ר וכד נצח כלא סטרא דטוב”ה נקיט לכל סט”א וכפיא ליה ונעשה מנגה חשמל משד מלאך מנחש מטה מצרעת בשר חברייא קדמאי פרישו מלה דא ושרי לה מרחוק חטה סתם כמבואר בלק”ת חטה מימין מצד החכמה ונובלת חכמה של מעלה תורה והם הכ”ב אתוון עיין שער טנת”א כי המים מימין וממנו טפה של אבא יצא מעכירות לובן שבלבנים כ”ב אתוון כי יש לשלג יאמר הוה ארץ בסוד הבל דגרמי אתו בתראי ואמרו חטה ממש בסוד אתה כוננת משרים דאתגלימו אתוון כשיורדין ליסוד דנוקבא נעשו חטה ממש ואתא ישעיה ופריש וממחתה לא תקרב וחלופא בין טית דקדושה ובין חתה דסט”א ברירו דמלה ע”ש וזהו חטה:
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[1] R. Isaac Luria, Sefer HaLikutim, Parshat Ekev, רעו-רפב. Likutei Torah, Parshat Ekev, ארץ חיטה

 

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