FROM THE OMER THROUGH SHAVUOTH
by Yaakov Levinson, B.A., M.S
IN PRAISE OF BARLEY
Except for an occasional chulent, barley is basically a neglected food among many observant Jews today. At this time of year when we track the days from Pesach to Shavuoth through a daily counting of the Omer, it is nutritionally tempting to reflect on the merits of barley, whose flour composed the original Pesach meal offering.
Perhaps barley's marred reputation started through its association with the "sotah," the unfaithful wife, who was required to bring a barley meal offering to atone for her sin. Rabban Gamliel's reference to barley as "the food of a beast" (Sotah 2,1) appropriate for the "sotah," does not improve the situation of this health-giving grain!
Nevertheless, remember that barley enjoys a dignified position as one of the five types of grain, one of the grains of Israel, "... a land of wheat and barley and vines and fig trees and pomegranates... " (Tehillim 132).
Barley, a whole grain cereal, has a chewy texture and a nutty taste. Its flour has even been found useful in lowering serum cholesterol in humans. It is high in fiber, very low in fat, and is a source of some protein and B-vitamins, and is a good source of iron. Barley looks like rice and expands when cooked. It is useful as a thickener and in soups (mushroom-barley, for example). To prepare add 3 parts water to 1 part grain. Bring to a boil, simmer for 1 hour, and enjoy!
MILK IN EARLY NUTRITION
Immediately after the Shavuoth morning prayers, Jews traditionally eat a meal of milk-containing dishes. This meal commemorates the giving of the laws of kashruth (kosher- eating) by HaShem (G-d), who gave us His Torah at Mt. Sinai through Moshe Rabenu (Moses our teacher) on Shavuoth night. As it would have required significant time to slaughter and kasher animal foods, the Jewish people first ate a meal of readily available milky foods until preparations were completed for a later meal of meaty foods.
Milk is traditionally a symbol of sustenance. Jews ate milk-containing foods immediately after the giving of the Torah which was symbollic of our being directly nurtured by HaShem. The newly born, Torah-based nation, drew its first nourishment, appropriately, from milk and milk-containing foods.
Milk is known for its supreme importance in our daily nourishment. It is the infant's main source of nutrition. It contains all the essential amino acids as well as calcium and phosphorus. Milk contains 87% water and 5% carbohydrate in the form of lactose (milk-sugar). It contains from 1 to 3.8% fat. It is a significant source of vitamin B2, vitamin A, and niacin, and it provides a small amount of vitamin B1. Milk and milk products (yogurt and cheese) are the most important sources of calcium in readily available form.
Calcium in Dairy Foods
The U.S. Recommended Dietary Allowances for adults is 800 mg. of calcium per day. The calcium allowances during pregnancy and lactation are increased to 1,200 mg. per day to cover fetal needs and the calcium required to produce human milk. Research has now shown that consistent adequate calcium intakes, especially before 30 years of age, can prevent osteoporosis, increasing bone strength and decreasing incidents of bone fractures in later life.
So, our first milk-containing meal after "Matan Torah" was a good start in developing and in maintaining the strength of the entire Jewish nation.
Yaacov Levinson is the author of The Jewish Guide to Natural Nutrition, available from:
Feldheim Publishers Tel. +972 (0)2 651-3717 P.O.B. 50442 Jerusalem Fax: +972 (0)2 652-2463
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