[Avodah] Duda'im

Micha Berger micha at aishdas.org
Wed Nov 24 11:37:47 PST 2021

On Mon, Nov 15, 2021 at 05:45:04AM +0000, Toby Katz via Avodah wrote:
> But I wanted to know if dudaim really are mandrake roots, or something
> else.  The word duda'im seems to be from a root having to do with love. 

The idea is as old as the Septuigint, which translates "duda'im" to

Mandrakes are native to the area.

But they are a narcotic. Eating mandrake isn't the safest thing in the
world to do. It was indeed used as a medicine, but only in the tiniest
of quantities. Perhaps that's why the Ramban says Rachel wanted them
for their smell.

Shir haShirim 7:13 describes duda'im as having a pleasant odor.

I might point out, that in terms of the root of the word, duda'im might
also be named for a connection to breasts and nursing.

Sanhedrin 99b has a 3 way machloqes:
Rav: Yavruchei (T Unqelus on Bereishis agrees)
Leivi: Siglei (sagol = purple)
R Yonasan: Sevisgei

Rashi says the later two are kinds of asavim that are besamim. I am
picturing aromatic wildflowers.

Rashi on the pasuq translates dudaim as siglei (following Leivi in
the gemara), and says it's jasmin.

The Ramban objects simply because Chazal's word for jasmine is "yasmin"
(see Shabbos 55b). Ramban says siglei are "kanpasga", which the gemara
says get a borei asvei besamam when smelled. But he rules against Leivi
because kanpasga don't ripen near Shavuos, and Reuvein went out when
the grain was in the fields.

The Ramban goes with Unqelus because R Chiyya bar Abba (Bereishis Rabba
72:2) also says yavruchin. He doesn't mention it, but we saw Rav said
this as well. The Ramban helps us, since he says the word in Arabic is

Which is an old Arabic word for mandrake.

As for violets for siglei / siglin, because it's an ancient source of sagol
colored dye... "The Perfume Society" web page on the subject
https://perfumesociety.org/ingredients-post/violet/ says:
   Ah, sweet violets.  Dainty little sweet-scented purple flowers.  Flower
   of fertility, in ancient times - and a cure, too: ...

   But although violet has been giving up its sweetness to perfumers since
   the time of early Arab perfumers, who perfected a technique for
   distilling the oil, it was Empress Marie Louise Bonaparte ...

So, they were used in perfume and thought to be associated with fertility,
not an impossible candidate.

Tir'u baTov!

Micha Berger                 Be happy not because everything is good,
http://www.aishdas.org/asp   but because you can see the good side
Author: Widen Your Tent      of everything.
- https://amzn.to/2JRxnDF

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