Nowadays, nuts are often in the news. While packed with a nutritious punch, they are a source of great concern to those who may be allergic. Today, in honor of National Nut Day Jewish Treats presents Jewish thoughts on one of the most popular species of nut, almonds (sh’kaydeem in Hebrew).
The first biblical reference to almonds is found in Genesis 43:11, when Jacob includes almonds among the items that the brothers should bring as a gift to the Viceroy of Egypt (Joseph): “Take of the best fruits in the land in your vessels, and carry down to the man a present, a little balm, and a little honey, spices, and myrrh, nuts, and almonds.”
The better-known biblical reference to almonds, however, is in Numbers 17. After Korach the Levite staged an unsuccessful coup, Moses, following God’s command, placed the staffs of the princes of each tribe into the Tent of Testimony. As the prince of the Tribe of Levi, Aaron’s staff was included. The next morning, only Aaron’s staff had “put forth buds, and bloomed blossoms, and bore ripe almonds” (Numbers 17:23). This was a sign of Aaron’s worthiness to be the High Priest.
Many commentators have delved into the specific significance of the fact that Aaron’s staff grew almonds. One possible explanation is that the almonds created a definitive connection to the menorah of the Mishkan (Tabernacle), whose cups were decorated with the buds, blossoms and nuts of the almond tree. The lighting of the menorah was one of the daily responsibilities of the High Priest.