Of all the letters thus far, picking a food for D has been the easiest. I knew it had to be dates. My fascination with dates began in seminary when I was taking my advanced feminist and womanist preaching class. I was researching (aka exegeting) a scripture on the rape of Tamar (2 Samuel 13:1-21, NRSV). In the process, of doing so, I came to understand the spiritual and healing significance of dates. Tamar means date palm. During ancient biblical times, people’s names were a prophesy about their lives. Date palm might not seem like much of a prophesy, but it was. The date palm is said to be the oldest cultivated tree. For the people of Tamar’s area, the date palm held particular symbolic significance. This palm tree was straight, tall, and fertile and in many cases, it was the only shelter and only food available. There were groves of these trees having one of two kinds of leaves on them, male or female. For this reason, people viewed the date palm as a symbol of fertility. The date palm was also known for its healing qualities. The fruit of date palms was used to help women through pregnancy, to strengthen the bones of the elders, to help women through changes in late life, to ward off cancers and to keep bodies operating smoothly. They thought of the date palm as the Tree of Life. So her name, Tamar became a prophesy about who she was to become – a creator and a healer of lives.
The date palm tree has existed in Africa for over 7,000 years. Babylonians and Greeks made syrup from them as an offering to God. Ancient Persians used them to celebrate “death and resurrection of Zoroaster, a Christ figure who dates back to 500 BC. Dried dates are considered fruits of the spiritual realm and are symbolic of the eternal resurrection of the soul. To live off dates is to be free of worldly concerns, though paradoxically, such a diet is said to make one extremely potent sexually.”
Dates were also thought of as being related to malchut (kingdom). “Malchut is the channel that allows everything to manifest below. Therefore, malchut is connected with the digestive system. The Talmud teaches that dates heal intestinal illnesses (Ketubot 10b).” Perhaps that is why the Prophet Mohammed encouraged people to break their fast by eating dates.
Dates are sacred and special; they have the capacity to bring about healing in contemporary times as well.
For me, what makes them special is not the health benefits or the biblical history behind them, but that they taste wonderful just as they are. Other then remove the pit, you do not have to do anything to a date to enjoy it for what it is. It is a date. You can fill it with some cream cheese or bleu cheese if you would like, or you can just enjoy it for what it is – a date. I have friends who throw some dates in a blender with some milk and ice cream and make date shakes and that too is fine, but sometimes the best way to appreciate a date is to just appreciate it for what it is – a date.
Isn’t that how we want people to appreciate us – just for who we are. I am me, nothing more, nothing less. You can dress me up and accessorize me from time to time, but those who love me and are closest to me, can appreciate me for who I truly am – me. Wouldn’t it be nice, if we could all begin to appreciate each other for who we are – the dates in the world?