The promise of a pomegranate (Daf Yomi Shabbos 144)

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The term unvolitionally is referring to a situation where one revealed his mind-set.”

Today we have an entire Daf Yomi portion on juice. I would never qualify as a “juicer.” I have less than fond memories of the apple juice that I consumed when I was a child; it was an astringent mixture of apples, corn syrup and chemicals that would make my tongue pucker. My drink of choice – in fact my lifeblood – is coffee. A friend convinced me a few years ago to buy an expensive Nutribullet blender. For a brief moment I thought I could become that healthy juicer that I thought I should be. I tried making a few drinks with ice and bananas, but I mostly blended creamy coffee concoctions. Like most kitchen appliances in my life, it ended up sitting forgotten in the back of a kitchen shelf. I eventually gave it away to the friend who recommended it in the first place. I am a bit wiser these days and know better than to buy any kitchen appliance with the exception of a coffee maker and that is usually under duress after the one I rely on for my morning jolt has stopped working.

What I found especially interesting among the discussion of juicing on Shabbat is the focus on mindset, which is a different twist on intention. The discussion on liquids that seep out without human intervention are discussed among the Rabbis. The topic turns to the mindset of an observer of a grape or pomegranate that is leaking liquid. We are told that one must declare that he is not pleased that liquid has emerged from this fruit if he is to consume it on Shabbat. I imagine someone walking on a hot day and stumbling on a perfectly formed, undamaged grape on the side of the road. It is a big plump grape that has been heated by the sun and is leaking its innermost juice. Our traveler sees the grape, looks up at the sky and declares “I am most unhappy that liquid is seeping from this grape.”  With that, he can pop it in his mouth and be on his way.

There is much discussion of pomegranates in today’s Daf Yomi. I was in Jerusalem last October and am sure when I walked through the Old City bazaar that I appeared as a typical wide-eyed tourist, with vendor after vendor calling out to me. It was surprisingly hot for October and when I stopped to look in one shop window that had interesting necklaces on display, I was waved in by the shop-owner. Before I knew it, he had me seated on a little stool sipping pomegranate juice. He showed me his collection of necklaces, many of which had pomegranate motifs and he explained to me how symbolic the fruit is to Israel. The pomegranate is said to contain 613 seeds, which correspond to the Torah commandments. It is a mysterious fruit that embodies the promise of a mitzvah within each seed.

Maybe it was the pomegranate juice or the heat, but the shopkeeper convinced me to follow him up to the roof of the bazaar. I climbed up there with him and he gave me a tour of Jerusalem’s roof tops from our vantage point. I lived in New York for forty years and have traveled the world by myself and am usually more careful. But somehow, I felt safer in Israel than I have ever been before. He was a perfect gentleman and at the end of the day, just wanted to sell me a necklace. We returned to his shop and he took out a bag of red beads and a pendant and designed a necklace for me on the spot. He said I had to have this one because it was made especially for me and of course, he promised to give me a deal on the price. He knew his customer and I wore the necklace out of the store and bought a second one as a gift for a friend. I am sure if it were not for COVID-19, he would be on the roof of the bazaar in the Old City of Jerusalem as I write this, selling necklaces with red stones to a tourist while he explained the significance of the pomegranate.

The necklace reminds me of Jerusalem and the promise I made to myself to go back one day with intention.

About the Author
Penny Cagan was born in New Jersey and has lived in New York City since 1980. She has published two books of poems called “City Poems “ and “And Today I am Happy." She is employed as a risk manager and continues to write poetry. More information on Penny can be found at
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