Jewish Food Essay Research Paper Food of

Jewish Food Essay, Research Paper

Food of the Chosen

In the time of Jesus, food often had religious and historical significance. Even today food still has these significances to the Jews.

Historical Significance

The main resource of historical information about the early life of Jews is the Bible. Jewish scribes began recording their histories while in Babylon. These histories are the Old Testament. Many types of food are mentioned in the Bible. For example, the story of Cain, Abel, and Adam; Where Abel made Adam his favorite goat meat, and then stole the blessing of Adam from Cain. Another example is the invention of unleavened bread(matzoh) by the (Egyptian) Jews. While the Jews wandered through the desert, God sent them manna to eat. The Land of Milk and Honey(Canaan) was a fertile, prosperous area, agriculturally and horticulturally(hence the name milk and honey). Also, the Last Supper and the story of Jesus cursing the olive tree. Today, the foods consumed by jews in biblical lands are still eaten by modern day jews. The food has even more meaning than it did in biblical times because of the many, many perils and hardships the jewish traditions, religion, and people have survived. They have persevered for over three thousand years; through the elimination of ten of the twelve tribes, the enslavement by the egyptians, the roman rule, the never-ending wars between the palestinians and the jews, and especially the holocaust of World War II. It could be said the people of Judaism are the most ?tried and true? to their god.

Religious Significance

Food had great religious significance in all Jewish holidays. Different foods represent various aspects of God, life, and especially religious life.There are many holidays in the Jewish religion, including the Sabbath, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Hannukah, Purim, and Passover. The Sabbath, which occurs every week on Saturday, is the holy day of rest for traditional Jews. During the Sabbath, all the food is pre-prepared. Wine is drunk and twisted loaves of hallah (manna bread) are eaten with dinner. The special foods of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, are ladder shaped hallah and apples coated with honey(to represent the sweet new year). Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, is celebrated with honey cakes to represent the sweetness of the torah. On Sukkot, the double thanksgiving for the harvest, fruits of the harvest, fresh wine, fresh breads made from new grain, vegetables, ethrog s (citron) are used in celebration, and nuts are eaten during the festivities. During the week of Hanukkah, the feast of Lights, latkes(potato pancakes) and gelt (chocolate coins) are eaten. For the springtime carnival, Purim, friends exchange gifts of food, children are given special cakes called hamantaschen. And lastly, Passover, or Pesach, the festival of freedom from the oppression of the egyptians, is celebrated with a seder feast, consisting of matzoh (a dry, cracker-like bread), a lamb bone, a roasted egg, parsley, bitter herbs, a bowl of salt water, and haroseth(a mixture of chopped nuts, apples, wine, and cinnamon. The actual meal of Passover is roast bird, stuffed fish, sponge cake, and wine.

Food Jesus Ate

In biblical lands, the food of the middle classes was relatively simplistic. Jews preferred to eat and cook outside. The normal everyday foods included; bread made from wheat, barley, or millet; beans, lentils, cheese, yogurt, milk, fish, fruits, vegetables,and wine or beer made from grapes, barley, and honey. Jews like their foods highly spiced, but most spices were rather expensive and fancy in those days. There were two main meals in the day. The meal of the day was at night with the family unit. A traditional dinner may have included bread, wine or beer(think the last supper), and perhaps some extras such as lentils, vegetables, milk, yogurt, cheese, and beans. The morning meal consisted of bread and water, and perhaps cheese and milk for children. Of course Jesus got around pretty well so he probably had more of the delicacies.


These days, we would probably frown upon the fancy foods of the time of Jesus. The usual time to have these treats was for holidays or special occasions. Most of the best food was eaten by those who could afford it(the rich of course). Spiced cakes of lentils, figs, and fruits; anything with cinnamon or spices brought in from from the east; dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt; goat, lamb, sheep, calf, chicken, and peasant meat were saved for special occasions; eggs, cucumbers, honey (as a dressing or to dip things into), and garlic and onions for flavoring, are some examples of delicacies. The fruits of the area were figs, dates, apples, pomegranates, apricots, melons, grapes, raisins, and olives. Some who were fortunate enough had their own gardens and/or fruit trees on their property to have these delicacies as much as they wanted.

Providing Food

In biblical times, a family unit usually consisted of three generations, all of whom helped provide the family with what they needed. Usually the father of the middle generation had a trade, a flock, or a farm with which they supported themselves. Often if a family kept animals they would be able to sell milk, cheese, eggs, or meat. The women and children prepared the food during the day. Their usual schedule was based around preparing food and keeping house. Women made bread by grinding wheat and barley kernels, and mixing bread with beans, yeast, or sweets to make cakes. Girls stayed home and helped mothers prepare for dinner and perform daily household chores. Boys went with the father?s place of work, to learn the trade. At dusk, the men would return and have their meal with the family, most likely outdoors unless the family was very wealthy.

As you can see, food was of a great religious and day to day significance to Jews in biblical times. And still is.

1. Morrow, Betsey; Jewish Holidays , Garrard Publishing Company, USA, 1967.

2. Eyewitness Books; Bible Lands , Dorling Kindersley Limited, London, 1991.

3. Hoffman, Yair; The World of the Bible for Young Readers ;Viking Kestrel, New York, 1989.

4. Groliers Electronic Encyclopedia, Grolier Electronic Publishing, CT, 1993.


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