עירובין כח.– אמר רב יהודה משמיה דרב שמואל בר שילת משמיה דרב מערבין בפעפועין וחלגלוגות ובגודגדניות אבל לא בחזיז ולא בכפניות. “We can make an eruv with papueen, purslane or coriander but not with green grain, or im-mature dates.”
בפעפועין– Rashi writes this is a plant called קקול”י in Arabic (?) and יוטלי”ש in laaz. The Yerushalmi Peah (ח:ד) in fact translates פעפועין as קקולי. The Aruch writes that this plant contains salt and is used to make a type of oil. The Aruch Hashalem suggests that this plant is Cardamine. Perhaps this may be the Hairy Bittercrees, Cardamine hirsuta, of the mustard family, Brassicaceae, edible as a bitter herb.
חלגלוגות– Purslane. The gemora in Megilah יח. translates (after overhearing the אמתה of Rebbe)חגלגלות as פרפחיני or purslane.
Purslane is an annual reproducing from seeds and from stem pieces. Purslane has fleshy succulent leaves and stems with yellow flowers and looks similar to a jade plant. The stems lay flat on the ground as they radiate from a single taproot sometimes forming large mats of leaves. Although purslane is considered a weed in the United States, it may be eaten as a leaf vegetable. It has a slightly sour and salty taste and is eaten throughout much of Europe, the middle east, Asia, and Mexico. The stems, leaves and flower buds are all edible. Purslane may be used fresh as a salad, stir-fried, or cooked as spinach and is also suitable for soups and stews. Purslane contains more omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy vegetable plant.
גודגדניות– Corriander (see comments to Shabbos 109a) [It is interesting to note that Rashi here translates גודגדניות here as אליינדר"א, while in Brachos נז: Rashi writes צירתי"ש.] Our gemora adds that (while corriander has many health benefits) it has a siginficant side-effect that it causes one semen to be diminished. As such it should not be eaten by one who desires to have children. If the stalks of the plant have hardened it is detrimental to everyone. This effect is not present by all varieties as the gemora explains, Handkukui Madai, Median corriander is without this effect. The translation of גודגדניות as corriander follows that of Rashi, גודגדניות may well refer to Melilot a type of clover.
חזיז– green grain. Rashi writes this is stalks of grain (wheat or barley) that were cut while they are still green before they have fully ripened. While chaziz is generally not eaten, the people of Bavel would eat it. There also is a type of chaziz which grows in a garden which most people eat. Chaziz may be similar to wheatgrass which is a food prepared from the cotyledons of the common wheat plant.
כפניות – im-mature dates. The conclusion of the gemora is that this reference is to (regular) unripe dates that cannot be eaten in their current state and therefore may not be used for an eruv. Since however they can be made edile by cooking they can become tamai.
חמש אמלתראות של מילה היו על גביו. The entranceway had five prominent crossbeams of mila on top of it.
Rashi says that this wood was is from a tree that grows gallnuts. The Rosh (Midos 3:7) says that these crossbeams were made from a type of Erez, cedar, as expressed in the continuation of our gemora. As there are many types of Erez trees, the gemora does not contradict the identification of oak.
The tree has been identified as the Boissier Oak, known is modern Hebrew as אלון התלוע a tree that reaches a height of 30 or more feet. Tannins for tanning leather were extracted from its bark. And the trees are often infected by galls of many types of insects, hence the name תלוע. Oak wood is heavy, hard and dense, strong and resistant to pressure. These oak trees grow in Erertz Yisroel in mountainous areas and on Har Chermon.
ונותנין עליה איספלנית וכמון. “we place on it (the milah wound) bandages and cumin.”
Cumin, Cuminum cyminum, is an plant in the parsley family grown for its seedlike fruit. Cumin is often used as a spice and is an essential component in curry powder and chili powder it is also added to fragrances, and used in medical preparations. Its fruit, known as cumin seed, is yellow to brownish-gray in color and is elongated in shape. Cumin has numerous medicinal properties. It is an aromatic herb and an astringent that benefits the digestive apparatus. It has been used in the treatment of mild digestive disorders as a carminative and eupeptic, as an astringent in broncopulmonary disorders, and as a cough remedy, as well as an analgesic.
Cumin has a number of assicated health benefits, including aiding the digestive system. Because of its antibacterial qualitites, black cuming was used in the treatment of open wounds as an antiseptic. The gemora (קלד.) mentions that the cumin placed on the milah was ground. We find elsewhere the use of cumin for similar medical purposes. The gemora Shabbos 110a also mentions a mixture of cumin, beer or wine (and other ingredients) for a bleeding woman.
Numerous studies have been made to show what the gemora already knew, that cumin is a great healing food. [see: D.N. Patil, A.R. Kulkarni, A.A. Shahapurkar and B.C. Hatappakki, 2009. Natural Cumin Seeds for Wound Healing Activity in Albino Rats.International Journal of Biological Chemistry, 3: 148-152. Effect of subinhibitory concentrations of cumin (Cuminum cyminum L.) seed essential oil and alcoholic extract on the morphology, capsule expression and urease activity of Klebsiella pneumoniae. Derakhshan S, Sattari M, Bigdeli M Int J Antimicrob Agents. 2008 Nov; 32(5):432-6.]
Cumin is no longer used by a bris milah, instead a polydine solution is often used.
פותנק – Putnak is eaten to cure one of worms of the liver.
The Aruch Hashalem writes that putnak is pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium), a plant with a strong smell used for medicinal purposes and in perfumes. The pennyroyal should generally not be eaten as it can cause convulsions coma, and death. Half a teaspoon of pure oil can cause muscle spasm delirium shock and loss of consciousness. Two teaspoons can cause death. The latin name Pulegium is derived from the Latin pulicus meaning flea, referring to the ability of the plant to repel feas. (From Plant Biographies by Sue Eland, Mentha_puleguim, www.plantlives.com)
According to others (רב בנימין מוספיא) putnak is Adiantum capillus veneris, a type of fern. This fern also known as the maiden hair fern, commonly grown as a houseplant, has a long history of medicinal uses, including to expel worms from the body. (As noted in A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants; Eastern and Central America. Foster and Duke.)
גרגירא- Rocket (Eruca) is an annual or biennial plant that is native to western Asia and the Mediterranean it has small and purplish-veined, creamy-yellow or whitish flowers. Garden rocket was cultivated from the time of the Roman Empire through until the 17th Century in its native habitat and until about 1800 in north-western Europe. Today it is a common salad plant in Egypt, France and Italy, although it was also used once, medicinally, as an ingredient in cough syrup. (From Plant Biographies by Sue Eland, Eruca vesicaria, www.plantlives.com)
The gemora in Eruvin 28b adds that ‘in earlier times people who did not have pepper would grind rocket seed and dip their meat into it.’