FLAX

FLAX (Heb. פִּשְׁתָּה, pishtah, in the Bible; פִּשְׁתָּן, pishtan, in talmudic literature), plant cultivated in Ereẓ Israel. It is mentioned only once in the Bible. The "stalks of flax" mentioned   in Joshua 2:6 are undressed flax fibers. Evidence of the cultivation of flax in Ereẓ Israel at the beginning of the period of the kingdom is to be found in the gezer calendar , which mentions ירח עצד פשת, that is, "the month of the uprooting of flax," which is followed by "the month of the barley harvest." In the Bible there is frequent reference to flax products. The cultivation of flax played an important role in ancient Egypt. The Bible states that during the plague of hail in Egypt, flax (which ripens early) was damaged (Ex. 9:31). Isaiah (19:5–9) describes the havoc caused to the Egyptian economy by the drying up of the Nile, the consequent withering of the flax, and the resulting ruin of the industries associated with it. Flax was, together with wool, one of the necessities of life (Hos. 2:7, 11), The Torah prohibited the wearing of a garment spun of both materials (Deut, 22:11; see shaatnez ), a prohibition which the Midrash (PdRE 21. connects with the episode of Cain and Abel, the former having brought an offering of flax seeds, the latter of wool. Some contend that the prohibition reflects the antagonism between the farmer and the shepherd. The Akkadian for flax is kitannu, from which are derived the biblical ketonet and the talmudic kitna. The sages differed on the interpretation of the phrase "garments (kotnot) of skins," with which Adam and Eve were clothed, one view being that it referred to flax "from which the (human) skin derives pleasure," another that it referred to wool, that "grows from skin" (Sot. 14a). Linen from c. 135 C.E. was discovered in Nahal Ḥever. There are many references in talmudic literature to the growth and cultivation of flax. The quantity of flax produced was apparently subject to considerable fluctuations, there having been times when it was necessary to import hempen garments (Kil. 9:2), These, however, were no longer in demand in the amoraic period when flax was extensively grown (TJ, Kil. 9:5, 32d), Flax was attacked by plant diseases, and public prayers were offered up for their riddance (TJ, Ta'an 3:6, 66d), but after Hiyya and his sons came from Babylonia (to Ereẓ Israel), flax was free from disease (TJ, Ma'as. Sh. 5:8, 56d). Flax was regarded as a crop that impoverishes the soil and so was planted in the same field only once every three or seven years (BM 9:9; Tosef., BM 9:31). It bears beautiful blue flowers, which are followed after a few days by pods (Num. R. 7:4). Although grown mainly for its fiber, it was also cultivated for its seed, which was used as food and for medicinal purposes (BB 93a–b). The Mishnah and the Talmud give many details about flaxen products and different kinds of cloth. A garment made of flax was usually a popular, strong, and very cheap form of clothing. When R. Judah ha-Nasi II, wearing a flaxen garment, came out to meet R. Johanan, he was told that it was more proper for a patriarch to wear clothes made of wool (TJ, Sanh. 2:8, 20c). There were, however, also fine, excellent clothes made of flax, a wealthy high priest having worn a flaxen garment which cost 20,000 zuzim (TJ, Yoma 3:6,40d). Although expensive flax material was imported (BM 29b), a high quality flaxen cloth was produced in Ereẓ Israel at Beth-Shean (Gen. R. 20:12); that made at Arbela was of a cheaper quality (ibid. 19:1 beginning). The flax in the Bible and in talmudic literature was the cultivated variety, Linum usitatissimum, of which there are many strains, some used in the manufacture of fiber, others for the extraction of oil from their seeds. Flax is hardly grown in Israel, but the wild flax of the species Linum angustifolium, which some regard as the original of the cultivated flax, grows extensively. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: Herschberg, in: Ha-Kedem, 3 (1909), 7–29 (Hebr. section); Loew, Flora, 2 (1924), 208–16; Krauss, Tal Arch, 1 (1910), 138–40; J. Feliks, Olam ha-Ẓome'aḥ ha-Mikra'i (1957), 279–84. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: Feliks, Ha-Ẓome'aḥ, 130. (Jehuda Feliks)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Flax — The following terms as given under the authority of the Ministry of Supply, are reprinted here with their permission. Flax Plants of the species Linum usitatissimum cultivated for the production of seed or fibre or both. Flax, Fibre (Fibre Flax)… …   Dictionary of the English textile terms

  • Flax — (fl[a^]ks), n. [AS. fleax; akin to D. vlas, OHG. flahs, G. flachs, and prob. to flechten to braid, plait,m twist, L. plectere to weave, plicare to fold, Gr. ? to weave, plait. See {Ply}.] 1. (Bot.) A plant of the genus {Linum}, esp. the {L.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • flax — s.n. Ţesut conjunctiv elastic format din tendoane, cartilaje, cordoane neurovasculare etc., care se elimină din carne la prepararea conservelor de carne şi a mezelurilor. – Din germ. Flechse. Trimis de LauraGellner, 12.05.2004. Sursa: DEX 98 … …   Dicționar Român

  • flax — flax; Flax·e·dil; flax·en; flax·seed; …   English syllables

  • flax|en — «FLAK suhn», adjective. 1. made of flax: »flaxen thread. 2. like the color of flax; pale yellow: »Flaxen hair is very light. 3. of or having to do with flax as a commercial product …   Useful english dictionary

  • flax — O.E. fleax cloth made with flax, linen, from P.Gmc. *flakhsan (Cf. O.Fris. flax, M.Du., Du. vlas, O.S. flas, O.H.G. flahs, Ger. Flachs), probably from P.Gmc. base *fleh , corresponding to PIE *plek to weave, plait (see PLY (Cf …   Etymology dictionary

  • flax — [flæks] n [U] [: Old English; Origin: flAx] 1.) a plant with blue flowers, used for making cloth and oil 2.) the thread made from this plant, used for making ↑linen …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • flax — [ flæks ] noun uncount 1. ) a plant with small blue flowers that is grown for the fibers in its stem and the oil in its seeds 2. ) the fibers from the stem of a flax plant, used for making LINEN (=a strong cloth) …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • flax — [flaks] adj. [ME < OE fleax, akin to Ger flachs < IE base * plek , to plait, interweave > L plectere, plicare, Ger flechten] designating a family (Linaceae, order Linales) of dicotyledonous plants and shrubs usually having narrow leaves… …   English World dictionary

  • flax — ► NOUN 1) a blue flowered herbaceous plant that is cultivated for its seed (linseed) and for textile fibre made from its stalks. 2) textile fibre obtained from this plant. ORIGIN Old English …   English terms dictionary

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