The Common Almond Tree
In Maltese the word “almond” is “lewża” which refers to that much sought after nut from which almond oil, almond syrup, almond butter and almond milk are made. The almond tree grows to a maximum height of seven metres and is very similar to the peach tree.
Its leaves which are thin and elongated are shed during the winter months and are followed by delicate pinkish- white blossoms. The fruit that is produced from this tree is fleshy with a stone in the middle, however its flesh is not edible and as stated earlier, only the nut which is contained in the stone, is sought after. The almond nut is sold in many shapes or forms as it can be sold whole (raw or roasted), flaked and also in the form of flour to be used in both sweet (for “intrita” in the traditional Easter Figolli) and savoury meals. The almond also has beneficial attributes with regards to health to cure coughs, stomach aches, headaches and depression.
This particular tree was so significant, that it was mentioned in 5 books of the Bible. To begin with, it was primarily mentioned in the book of Genesis. The Hebrew words “luz” and “shaked” referred to the wild and cultivated almond respectively. In olden times, the almond tree was regarded as a superior tree, which was available only to the rich people. That is the reason why when Jacob sent his sons to buy grain from Egypt, he sent with them nuts, almonds, a wide selection of fruit, spices, balm and honey. He wanted to please the Governor of Egypt in the best way possible, as this gesture would give him the desired grain, and with it he could feed the poor in Canaan. Surprisingly, this Governor was his son Joseph whom his sons had sold into slavery!
The second book which mentions the almond tree is the book of Exodus, wherein Moses was to carve the lampstand as to the number and position of each bulb and flower. Its blossoms, together with the sprouting bud and the fruits, were to be incorporated in the base and the 7 branches of the lampstand, each finished off by an oil lamp. Here we have strong symbolism as on the one hand, it offers reassurance of being constant during the dark hours of the night; and on the other hand, it means that God is watching over us and we have to be careful of our actions. This watchfulness is also present in the book of Jeremiah, where the author has chosen the almond tree as a symbol of surveillance from God above.
The most wonderful reference to the almond tree is found in the book of Numbers, where Aaron’s rod miraculously flowered, and yielded fruit overnight. As God had requested, each tribe was to provide a rod. The chosen tribe to become priests would have its rod germinating overnight. It was Aaron’s tribe that was to have an absolute right to priesthood, as it produced ripe fruit overnight.