Holidays / Shavuot / Symbols

Wheat: Jewish Symbol of Abundance and God’s Promises Fulfilled

Wheat growing in IsraelWheat. It’s the quintessential summer crop. And a widely-evoked symbol in Jewish art and design.

In the Torah, wheat is one of the seven species of agricultural crops that signify the abundance of the Promised Land. The association comes from the Torah narrative of the Israelites’ approach to the Promised Land after traveling for forty years in the desert. As they near their destination, Moses tells the people on God’s behalf:

God your Lord is bringing you to a good land—a land with flowing streams, and underground springs gushing out in valley and mountain. It is a land of wheat, barley, grapes, figs, and pomegranates—a land of olives and honey-dates. It is a land where you will not eat rationed bread, and you will not lack anything…(Deuteronomy 8:7-9)

And when the Psalms reference God’s fulfillment of these promises, they focus on the wheat, equating it with God’s care:

He fed them with finest wheat; I sated you with honey from the rock. (Psalm 81:17)

He endows your realm with well-being and satisfies you with choice wheat. (Psalm 147:14)

Wheat is a crop with two growing seasons: summer and winter, at least in climates that support winter wheat. The beginning of summer means the ripening of the year’s first wheat crop. In winter, in regions of the world where the climate allows, a second yearly wheat crop will be ready to harvest in winter.

In ancient Israel the festival of Shavuot, which comes at the turn from spring to summer, was the first day of the year on which the Israelites were required to bring a daily offering of wheat to the Temple.

For the better part of a year I’ve been fascinated by representations of wheat in art. I’m particularly interested in the various ways artists have depicted wheat fields or stacks of wheat –the way they’ve represented large volumes of grains while showing enough detail of the small kernels to identify the subject as wheat, or a least a grain.

Here are some of the images that I’ve bookmarked on Twitter. I’m sharing them in the form of tweets to preserve the links to the ownership and credit for the images. Most were created by Jewish artists or designers, and some are inspired by other religious traditions or are based in non-religious art and design.

Some images of wheat to inspire your own designs:

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[Top Image: Agriculture in Israel by udi Steinwell via Wikimedia Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license]

Maria BywaterMaria Bywater is the author of Sew Jewish: The 18 Projects You Need for Jewish Holidays, Weddings, Bar/Bat Mitzvah Celebrations, and Home. She teaches hands-on Judaica sewing workshops.

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