VINE

VINE (Heb. גֶּפֶן). Of the various agricultural products mentioned in the Bible and talmudic literature, the vine and its products – yayin ("wine"), tirosh ("new wine"), ḥemer ("sweet red wine"), and shekhar ("strong drink") – occupy the central place. Sixteen times the Bible mentions in juxtaposition "corn, new wine, and oil," which represented the principal produce and the chief blessing of the soil (Deut. 7:13; et al.). Of the seven species with which Ereẓ Israel was blessed the vine figures first among the fruit (Deut. 8:8). "Every man (sitting) under his vine and under his fig-tree" symbolizes the ideal past and the hope of future peace (I Kings 5:5; Micah 4:4). Many biblical parables and allegories are associated with the vine, grapes, and wine. The people of Israel in its youth is compared to grapes which the traveler came upon in the wilderness (Hos. 9:10). Isaiah likens God to the owner of a vineyard and Israel to the vineyard (Isa. 5), a similar metaphor being employed by Jeremiah (2:21), and Ezekiel (17:1–10, 19:10–14) regards the vine as symbolizing the people of Israel and its fate. Viticulture in Ereẓ Israel goes back to antiquity. An Egyptian inscription of the third millennium B.C.E. states that the Egyptian conqueror of the country ordered its vines and fig trees to be destroyed. The spies, sent ahead of the Israelites to spy out the land, brought back from the valley of Hebron a cluster of grapes of remarkable size (Num. 13:23). Situated in the inheritance of Judah, which was blessed with fruitful vines (Gen. 49:11), was the settlement Beth-Cherem ("the house of the vineyard"; Jer. 6:1), and passing through it was the valley of Sorek (Judg. 16:4), so named after the red grapes (sorek) grown there. Excellent wine was produced from the vines growing on Mount Ephraim and in Samaria (Isa. 28), where, Jeremiah prophesied, the vineyards of Samaria, destroyed after the desolation of the kingdom of Ephraim, would again be planted (Jer. 31:4–5). In the vineyards of Shiloh annual festivities accompanied by dances were held (Judg. 21:21), apparently connected with the vintage season, which was an occasion for great joy (cf. Isa. 16:10). According to an ancient tradition preserved in the Mishnah (Ta'an. 4:8) "the daughters of Jerusalem came out and danced in the vineyards" on the 15th of Av and the Day of Atonement. During these dances, the young girls found husbands for themselves. The Hasmoneans and Bar Kokhba struck a cluster of grapes on their victory coins as a symbol of the fertility of the country. Josephus highly praised the vineyards in the valley of Ginnosar (War, 3:519), and many places in Judea and Galilee are mentioned in talmudic literature as noted for their thriving vineyards. The Bible refers to large vineyards in the kings' inheritance that contained "a thousand vines at a thousand pieces of silver" (Isa 7:23; cf. Song 8:11). Those mentioned in talmudic literature, however, were usually smaller, five vines in a field being considered a vineyard (Kil. 4:6). Individual vines were also planted among other trees, this being permitted by the laws of the Pentateuch, though sowing mixed seeds among the vines is prohibited (Deut. 22:9), and talmudic literature deals with many halakhot connected with this strict prohibition (Kil. 4–7; see mixed species ). Various strains of grapes were grown. Since the main product of grapes was the sweet red wine called ḥemer, there was a preference for the strains which produced red-black grapes known as sorek. Inferior white grapes were called be'ushim (Isa. 5:2, 4; cf. Ma'as. 1:2). Grapes were grown in two ways: either the trunk and branches trailed along the ground – the gefen soraḥat of the Bible (Ezek. 17:6) and the rogeliot of the Mishnah (Pe'ah 7:8); or the vine was trained over a pole, the gefen adderet of the Bible (Ezek. 17:8) and the dalit of the Mishnah (Pe'ah 4:2). The importance of the vine is attested by the Bible's many synonyms for its branches: baddim, banot, daliyyot, zalzallim, zemorah, ḥoter, yonek, kannah, matteh, netishot neẓer, anaf, porah, keẓirim, sheluḥot, sarigim, and sorek. More than 40 expressions connected with viticulture are mentioned in the Bible and talmudic literature. Isaiah's song about the vineyard (Isa. 5) gives a detailed account of the different stages from its planting to the harvesting of the grapes: first the soil is dug up and the large stones are removed and used for the fence. Then the shrubs and thorns growing in the uncultivated field are cut down and used as "the hedge" of the fence; the fence protects the vineyard from being "trodden down" by cattle, and the hedge prevents goats from jumping over the fence. Next the field is cleared of small stones, which are put on top of the hedge, and all is ready for planting the sapling vines. The soil between the rows of vines is hoed, and at the end of the summer the branches are pruned. After three to four years, with the approach of the first vintage, the owner of the vineyard hews out a vat, and its stones are used to build a tower for watching over the vineyard during the vintage. Isaiah apparently describes a nonirrigated vineyard that awaits the rains of heaven (ibid. 5:6). The vine responds well to irrigation, flourishing particularly near fountains (Gen. 49:22; Ezek. 19:10). The vine referred to in the Bible and in talmudic literature is the cultivated one, Vitis vinifera. In the region of Ereẓ Israel the wild vine does not grow, although in various places in Israel, especially near springs, such as Tel Dan and Naḥal Ammud in Galilee, seeds of the cultivated vine have sprouted and grow wild climbing trees. Various strains of vines, some   local, others imported, are grown in Israel. In Samaria and on Mount Ephraim nonirrigated wine grapes, and in other regions of the country mostly irrigated and trellised eating grapes, are grown. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: Loew, Flora, 1 (1926), 49–189; J. Feliks, Olam ha-Ẓome'aḥ ha-Mikra'i (19682), 17–24. (Jehuda Feliks)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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