A New Reverence for Dates

When I was in seminary, which now seems a lifetime ago, in one of my preaching classes we were assigned to take a scripture which involved violence against women and develop a sermon on it in a way which was honest, but empowering. The result was a sermon I wrote called Take Back the Night, which was what I envisioned Tamar would have said if Tamar had been invited to speak at a Take Back the Night March.

One of the things I learned while I was researching this scripture was about the name Tamar. Tamar means date palm.  In biblical times, people’s names were a prophesy about their lives.  Date palm might not seem like much of a prophesy, but it is.  You see the date palm is said to be the oldest cultivated tree. For the people of her area, the date palm held particular symbolic significance. This palm tree was straight, tall, and fertile and in many cases, it was the only shelter and only food available. There were groves of these trees having one of two kinds of leaves on them, male or female.  For this reason, the tribes of Israel viewed the date palm as a symbol of fertility.  The date palm was also known for its healing qualities.  The fruit of date palms was used to help women through pregnancy, to strengthen the bones of the elders in my city, to help women through changes in late life, to ward off cancers and to keep women’s bodies operating smoothly.  They thought of the date palm as the Tree of Life.  The name Tamar was a prophesy about who she was to become – a creator and a healer of lives.

Until I had begun to research date palms and the fruit which they bear, I did not understand the significance of the date or the healing qualities associated with dates.

It made such an impact on me that in creating a liturgy for one of my classes, I served a communion of water (the fluid of life) and dates (the fruit of the tree of life). The response to the dates was interesting in that people complained about the texture of the dates and how sticky and messy they were. Others said there was a mixture of sweetness and stickyness.  This fruit was considered sacred in Babylon and Greece. The Hebrew people made a date syrup which was offered to God. Zoroastrians have used dates as part of the lorak,.[1]  The fronds (leaves) of the date palm are what are transformed to ashes and used by Christians as a reminder of the resurrection of Christ and of the soul.[2]

The more I have come to learn about dates, the more I have come to appreciate not just their taste and texture, but their healing and spiritual qualities and history. Growing up, I remember having date bread with TempTee cream cheese on the weekends. It was one of those weekend treats that I fondly remember. I never realized then that this treat was also healthy and so spiritually significant. It has been a while since I have made date nut bread.

  • 12 ounces chopped dates
  • ½ cup chopped nuts (I use pecans.)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 egg white


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare a loaf pan by spraying with cooking spray.

Combine dates, and nuts and sprinkle with baking soda.

Pour 1 cup of boiling water over all of this.

Cover the bowl and set aside while mixing remaining ingredients.

In another bowl, with a pastry blender, mix the flours, sugar, baking powder, egg, and egg white.

Combine the date mixture with the flour mixture and mix well.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes or until toothpick inserted off center comes out clean.


[1] Rose, J. Zoroastrianism: An introduction.

[2] Amer, W. M., Alchemy in Islamic Times. Retrieved from http://www.levity.com/alchemy/islam08.html on March 3, 3012.