The circle of a year

In our modern, hi-tech society, most of us have lost touch with our true food source, which we are mostly ignorant of or simply take for granted.

Round Sweet Challah (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Round Sweet Challah
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The major Jewish festivals are symbiotically integrated with the natural agricultural cycle of the year. In our modern day and age where agricultural technology enables us to grow and store produce in controlled environments and our global village allows us to exchange produce swiftly across continents, we are accustomed to finding almost every describable fruit and vegetable on the supermarket shelf way beyond their natural season.
Things are a little different with grains. Growing grains on a commercial scale cannot be done in a greenhouse; you need vast expanses of land and you are at the mercy of the elements. The natural yearly cycle of grain growers has not changed much since biblical times.
The process begins around the month of Kislev (November/December) with staggered sowing of the seeds over a period of four months. The first crops harvested are flax and barley, around the time of the month of Nisan (March), coinciding with the festival of Passover. It is not coincidental that the barley Omer offering (today commemorated by counting the Omer) took place on Passover. The month of Sivan (May) is the time of the wheat harvest and is reflected in the ritual service of the festival of Shavuot by the Two Loaves offering, made from the newly harvested wheat. The summer months from Tamuz to Elul (June-August) are spent harvesting and gathering the summer crops and fruits.
The cycle ends in the month of Tishrei (September). It is a time to take stock, a time for introspection and for making resolutions and planning the coming agricultural year. This is reflected in the festivals of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur where one balances accounts, not with their material possessions, but with their spiritual status. According to Jewish tradition, a person’s livelihood for the coming year is preordained on Rosh Hashanah and sealed on Yom Kippur.
If all goes according to plan, one emerges from Yom Kippur with a clean slate and storehouses packed to brimming for the upcoming winter months. The celebration of the first rain, accompanied by a feeling of wellbeing and prosperity is reflected in the festival of Sukkot, the time of our rejoicing.
And the cycle begins again...
As we approach Rosh Hashanah, we should reflect and reconnect. We should recognize where the true source of our food and very survival stems from. (Hint: it is not from Shufersal or Rami Levi). It comes from a complex chain of events that begins with us planting a seed. The rain waters that seed which grows into a plant and is nourished by the sun. The sun’s photosynthetic energy is stored in the plant as nutrients, which then become our food. The flawless operation of this intricate ecosystem requires a guiding hand from Above and our cooperation, both active (tilling, planting and harvesting) and passive (not polluting and destroying our delicate world).
In our modern, hi-tech society, most of us have lost touch with our true food source, which we are mostly ignorant of or simply take for granted.
Being “in the grain,” both in a physical and spiritual sense, helps us reconnect to what is real and is a highly recommended state of mind as we approach the High Holidays.
I wish my readers a Happy New Year, filled with health, wealth and happiness.
The writer, a master baker originally from Johannesburg, South Africa, lives in Karnei Shomron with his wife Sheryl and four children. He is CEO of the Saidel Artisan Baking Institute (, that specializes in training and education in the field of organic, healthy, artisan baking and the inventor of Rambam Bread. He also lectures and works as a consultant in the fields of cereal chemistry, health, nutrition and authentic Jewish bread.