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Environment & Nature: Table of Contents | National Parks | Environmental Protection

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The rocket mentioned in the Bible and in rabbinical literature is the garden rocket, Eruca sativa, a plant of the Cruciferae family which grows wild in Israel, but is also cultivated as a salad vegetable or for the extraction of a kind of mustard from its seeds. It is the orot ("herbs") mentioned in the Bible as the plant which one of Elisha's disciples went to gather during a year of famine; instead he found pakku'ot (colocynths) which were poisonous (II Kings 4:39). The Peshitta renders orot as *mallows , but the Targum explains that it refers to garden vegetables in general (cf. Kimḥi to Isa. 26:19). It seems R. Meir's identification of orot with gargir, the mishnaic (and also the Arabic) name for the garden rocket is correct, and Johanan explained that "they were so called because they enlighten the eyes" (or, "light"; Yoma 18b). This plant, particularly the species growing wild by the wayside, was considered to be a remedy for eye ailments, and R. Sheshet, who was blind, testified to its efficacy (Shab. 109a). Pliny too notes that eating rocket helps the sight (Natural History 20:125). Aphrodisiac qualities were also attributed to it (Yoma 18a–b). The plant is also mentioned by Josephus, who describes the shape of its leaves (Ant. 3:174).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.

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