WHEAT

WHEAT, grain belonging to the genus Triticum, of which many species exist. Several species of Triticum are grown in Israel, some called ḥittah (pl. ḥittim) and others kussemet, kusmin, and shippon (for this identification see five species ). (1) Ḥittah is the name applied to two species grown in Israel: hard wheat – Triticum durum, and bread wheat – Triticum vulgare (aestivum). The former is called "dark" and the latter "white" in the Mishnah (BB 5:6). The name ḥittah, with slight variations, is common to all the Semitic languages, mostly in the form of ḥintah, connected with the verb ḥanot ("to project"), because the grains project from the pales of the ear of the wheat when it ripens. In rabbinic literature these are termed levush ("garment"). When threshed, these levushim disintegrate and the grain emerges. Hence the saying: "In the time to come (at the resurrection) the righteous will rise (dressed) in their own clothes. This can be deduced a fortiori from a grain of wheat. If a grain of wheat that is buried naked sprouts up with many garments …" (Ket. 111b). Ḥittah is the most valuable of the five species of cereal. According to one aggadah, "the tree of knowledge was ḥittah" (Sanh. 70b). It is mentioned first among the seven species with which Israel is blessed (Deut. 8:8). It requires good and well-tilled land, and an abundance of ḥittim symbolizes well-being and peace (Ps. 81:17). Wheat, like barley , is sown at the beginning of the winter, but it develops more slowly (Ex. 9:31–32) and ripens about two months after barley, from which the Omer is brought on Passover. Seven weeks later "the firstfruits of the ḥittim harvest" are offered (Ex. 34:22). Ezekiel (27:17) mentions "ḥittim of Minnith" which "Judah and Israel" peddled, the reference being to the locality of Minnith in the land of Ammon (Judg. 11:33). Similarly, Arbelite and Midian ḥittim are mentioned as excellent varieties (TJ, Sot. 9:13, 24b; Shab. 9:6, 12b). The aggadah refers to 500 confections made from ḥittim (Lam. R. 3:17 no. 6). The choicest ḥittim, used in meal-offerings, came from Michmas and Zoniḥah (Men. 8:1). Wheat was dearer than barley, and according to Josephus (Wars 5:427), it was the food of the rich. During the time of the Mishnah and Talmud, however, when the agricultural situation in Israel improved, wheat became the common food of all. "One who grows wheat is sure of his bread, but one who buys wheat in the market, his future is doubtful" (Men. 103b). (2) Kussemet or kusmin has been identified with emmer wheat – Triticum dicoccum, a plant which has grown in Israel from earliest times. Remnants have been found in excavations in Israel and in Egyptian tombs. A similar species, Triticum dioccoides, grows wild in Israel and apparently is the species from which emmer wheat originated. The discovery of this species by Aaron aaronsohn in Rosh Pinah in 1906 caused a sensation in the botanical world. He maintained that it was the "mother" of all species of wheat, an opinion still upheld by some botanists. The general opinion, however, is that it is the "mother" of emmer wheat only. Like the ḥittah, the kussemet was not smitten by the hail in Egypt because it ripens late and its growth is slow (Ex. 9:32). Isaiah (28:25) enumerates it among the crops sown by the farmer, and it was also included in the mixed bread that Ezekiel ate for 390 days (Ezek. 4:9). In rabbinical literature it is always included among the five species of corn. In taste it is very like ḥittah (Ḥal. 4:2; Pes. 35a), but its nutritional value in relation to bulk is less because of the chaff that sticks to the grains (BM 40a). To remove these husks the wheat was moistened and trodden by cattle so as to release the grain (BM 89b and Rashi). In Aramaic kussemet is called gulba (Men. 70a), a word meaning "cut" or "shorn," a similar connotation to kussemet, which comes from kasam meaning "clipper of hairs" (cf. Ezek. 44:20). The name derives from the short hairs of the ears which look as though they have been cut. Another species of wheat, spelt wheat or Triticum spelta, identified by some commentators with kussemet, has similar characteristics, but no remnants of spelt from the biblical period have been found in the region. It seems that it is the shippon of rabbinical literature.   (3) Shippon is also enumerated among the five species of corn. For the law of mixing of species it is regarded as belonging to the same species as kussemet (kusmin; Kil. 1:1), but in taste it is associated with barley (Pes. 35a). These indications are compatible with spelt, which resembles emmer wheat but has a barley flavor. Apparently its growth was not very widespread (at the present day also, its growth is very limited), and it is mentioned only a few times in rabbinical literature. This identification is mentioned by the Arukh (S.V. dashr). Now, however, it is usual, following Rashi, to identify shippon with rye – Secale cereale. This identification cannot be accepted, as this plant is not suited to the conditions of Ereẓ Israel and was not grown there. It is also erroneous, as is usually done, to apply the name kussemet to buckwheat – Fagopyrum esculeutum – since it was never grown in Israel and does not fit any of the descriptions of kussemet. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: Loew, Flora, 1 (1926), 767–801; J. Feliks, Olam ha-Ẓome'aḥ ha-Mikra'i (19682), 142–51; idem, Kilei Zera'im ve-Harkavah (1967), 27–32. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: Feliks, Ha-Ẓome'aḥ, 60, 83, 161. (Jehuda Feliks)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Wheat — (hw[=e]t), n. [OE. whete, AS. hw[=ae]te; akin to OS. hw[=e]ti, D. weit, G. weizen, OHG. weizzi, Icel. hveiti, Sw. hvete, Dan. hvede, Goth. hwaiteis, and E. white. See {White}.] (Bot.) A cereal grass ({Triticum vulgare}) and its grain, which… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • wheat — [ wit, hwit ] noun uncount * a tall plant that produces grain for making bread and other foods: East Asian farmers grew 30 million tons of wheat last year. wheat farm/field/crop/harvest a. wheat grains or food made from them:… …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • wheat — O.E. hwæte wheat, from P.Gmc. *khwaitijaz (Cf. O.S. hweti, O.N. hveiti, Norw. kveite, O.Fris. hwete, M.Du., Du. weit, O.H.G. weizzi, Ger. Weizen, Goth. hvaiteis wheat ), lit. that which is white, from *khwitaz …   Etymology dictionary

  • wheat — [wi:t] n [U] [: Old English; Origin: hwAte] 1.) the grain that bread is made from, or the plant that it grows on ▪ a field of wheat 2.) separate the wheat from the chaff to choose the good and useful things or people and get rid of the others …   Dictionary of contemporary English

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  • wheat|en — «HWEE tuhn», adjective. 1. made of the grain or flour of wheat, as bread made of the whole grain as distinct from white bread. 2. of or belonging to wheat as a plant …   Useful english dictionary

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  • wheat — wheatless, adj. /hweet, weet/, n. 1. the grain of any cereal grass of the genus Triticum, esp. T. aestivum, used in the form of flour for making bread, cakes, etc., and for other culinary and nutritional purposes. 2. the plant itself. [bef. 900;… …   Universalium

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