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In the book of Ezeqiel, chpater 27 verse 17 we read:

יְהוּדָה וְאֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל הֵמָּה רֹכְלָיִךְ בְּחִטֵּי מִנִּית וּפַנַּג וּדְבַשׁ וָשֶׁמֶן וָצֹרִי נָתְנוּ מַעֲרָבֵךְ.

What is 'Pannag' (פנג) supposed to mean? It should be some kind of gooey/oily substance, equivalent to (but not the same as) honey, oil and balsam/resin (צרי); but what kind exactly?

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Rash"i and his younger contemporary, Mahar"i Kara, as well as M'tzudas Tziyun, and Rada"k identify it as afarsimon extract. This is attributed to the identification of the substance by Yosifon. Some of the commentators also add that these trees were indigenous to Y'richo and their fragrance gave the city its name.

Most of that chapter associates trees or crops with their places of origin as a metonymic reference to the inhabitants of those places. So we would expect the tree in question to grow in Y'huda and Yisra'el. The comment about Y'richo above, is therefore material to this identification of the tree.

Although the borrowed word afarsimon that appears in the rishonim's comments above likely refers to balsam in general, which is otherwise associated with tzari, panag could be a different substance derived from the same tree or a substance derived from a tree of related species. Other instances of tz(a)ri make it seem like a more general term for substances extracted from trees (e.g. sap). Ibn Ezra considers species-specific interpretations for it, and prefers the more general interpretation. Perhaps this is one of those terms that can refer to an individual species, but is also used to refer to the class to which it belongs, thus explaining its varying context dependent meanings.


Alternatively, "the targum" there translates it as kolya, which Jastrow identifies as the Aramaic for kali, i.e. parched grain. This identification is corroborated by cognate words from various languages and cultures that refer to roasting grain, or roasting dochan (millet/sorghum) in particular. The crop from which kali is made must be native to Y'huda and Yisra'el, as it is one of the grain products implicated in the prohibition of the new grain crop ("chadash").

Rada"k, in considering this Aramaic translation, understands that it is interpreting the subphrase as "חִטֵּי מִנִּית וּפַנַּג", with both "minis ufanag" modifying "wheats". He rejects the translation itself, however, on the basis of not knowing what it means, and interprets both Minis and Panag as place names. He also mentions but does not apparently settle on the meaning "edible vegetable or grass" that derives from the translation "kulya".

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Rashi ad loc. says:

ראיתי בספר יוסף הכהן עץ אפרסמון הוא פנג והיו מצויין ביריחו ועל שם ריח הטוב נקראת יריחו באלסמ"א בלע"ז:‏

I saw in the book of Joseph the Kohen that the afarsimon tree is Pannag, and they were found in Jericho. And, due to its good smell, it's called "Jericho Balsam"1 in a foreign language.

My translation

The Jewish Encyclopedia entry on "Balsam" identifies it as a famous product of ancient Jericho, "an aromatic gum or spice," and says that it's a translation of the Hebrew "בֹּׂשֶׂם." It also lists a number of Aramaic terms for balsam, including "אפרסמון."

See also Wikipedia on "Shemen Afarsimon," which says of "afarsiomon oil": "According to one theory, it is the plant Commiphora opobalsamum - a small shrub, 10 to 12 feet high, with wandlike, spreading branches. The oil extracted from the seeds or branches of this plant has been used as a medicine, but more commonly as incense or perfumed oil."

Rashi's source "Joseph the Kohen" was the historian Josippon ben Gurion (who also called himself "Josephus"). I found a quotation of his statement making this identification on the Trees in the Daf blog, by Moredechai Millunchick. I'm not sure how to look up the primary source.

Josephus elaborates on this point. (Chapter 38, page ריח/111) “…they arrived in Yericho the fragrant city and encamped there, as in that place the balsam grew. This is the good oil called afarsimon and is the same as pnag.


1. See the end of WAF's answer regarding the difficulty raised by identifying both פַנַּג and צֹרִי in this verse with "balsam."

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Keeping in mind that this is taken from Navi (Prophets), it seems appropriate to remember that most of the language of the Prophets is riddles and parables (חידות).

In that context, this posuk appears to be describing five different levels of Torah.1

1) חִטֵּי מִנִּית is referring to the written Torah which is called 'wheat' (חטה). This is alluded to because the gematria of 'חטה' is 22, an allusion to the 22 letters of the Alef-Bet. 'מנית' alludes to something that can be counted. More specifically, '500' the gematria of 'מנית' also hints to the 5 books of Moshe times a factor of 100.

2) פַנַּג is mentioned in many of the commentaries in the name of Yosef ben Gorion as meaning "Shemen Afarsimon". But Shemen Afarsimon is usually referred to as 'צרי'. It is worth noting that in the latest corrected edition of Sefer Yosifun published by Oraysoh Publications in 1999 in Israel, they have actually changed the text to "shemen prag" (שמן פרג) which means either Oil of the Blossom or Glad Oil. In several editions of the Sefer Yosifun the word blossom is spelled out phonetically in Hebrew after calling it Shemen Panag.

Looking at the Targum on this posuk translates 'פנג' as 'קוליא' which means flour. In that context, 'פנג' would mean the revealed part of the Oral Torah pertaining to halacha.

These first two categories follow what the Sages say in tractate Brachot 64a and also the teaching of Rabbi Eliezer ben Azariyah found in Avot 3:17.

In Brachot we find the comparison of Rabbi Yossi and Rabbah.

כל הדוחק את השעה שעה דוחקתו וכל הנדחה מפני השעה שעה נדחת מפניו מדרבה ורב יוסף דרב יוסף סיני ורבה עוקר הרים אצטריכא להו שעתא שלחו להתם סיני ועוקר הרים איזה מהם קודם שלחו להו סיני קודם שהכל צריכין למרי חטיא

Rabbah is the master of the reasoning found throughout the oral Torah while Rabbi Yossi knows the entire written Torah perfectly. Here the Torah is called wheat.

In Avot, Rabbi Eliezer says,

If there is no Torah, there is no common decency; if there is no common decency, there is no Torah. If there is no wisdom, there is no fear of G‑d; if there is no fear of G‑d, there is no wisdom. If there is no applied knowledge, there is no analytical knowledge; if there is no analytical knowledge, there is no applied knowledge. If there is no flour, there is no Torah; if there is no Torah, there is no flour.

Here the text contrasts 'Torah', meaning the Written Torah and the Oral Torah pertaining to halacha which is compared to flour.

3) דְבַשׁ is referring to that aspect of the oral Torah called Midrash or Agaddah. This is alluded to from the idea that Midrash, which is compared to 'דבש' sweetens the judgements found in the halachic portions of the oral Torah.

4) שֶׁמֶן is referring to the first or lower aspect of Pnimiyut HaTorah. It is referred to in some seforim as the Dew of Torah (טל תורה). Similar to the idea above relating the 5 books of Moshe to the gematria of the מנית (500. So too, שמן is 10 times the value of 39 which is טל.

5) צֹרִי which according to some is also called Shemen Afarsimon is referring to the higher aspect of Pnimiyut HaTorah. This level of Torah compared to צרי flows from what is called Keter Ila'ah which originates from what is called Mochin Stimin.

And so in context, The last four categories mentioned in the posuk are all part of the Oral Torah. Or if you look at the intention of Yosef ben Gorion in the Sefer Yosifun quoted above, "פנג" would be understood as an abbreviation for 'פנימיות ג״ן' (like the saying of our Sages, "יש ג׳ן פרקים לתורה.״). That in relation to the written Torah, all of the oral Torah, including Talmud, is Pnimiyut. It conveys the inner meaning and intention of the Written Torah.

And like Rabbi Eliezer ben Azariyah says, there is no Written Torah without the Oral Torah and no Oral Torah without the Written Torah because it is all one Torah. Three things are called One, HaKadosh, baruch Hu, Yiroel and the Torah.

The Prophet Yechezkel is describing the different wares that each of the nations brings to the world and how the Jewish people bring G-d's Torah into the marketplace, like it says in Yishayahu 49:6, being a light unto the nations.


1. Except where noted, these interpretations are drawn from Sefer Maorot Natan by Rabbi Meir Paprosh, which is one of the classic dictionaries that we have dealing with this area.

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    Where does all of this interpretation come from? Please edit in a citation. – Isaac Moses Sep 16 '16 at 18:44
  • @Isaac Moses Most of the citations are cited via the links. It is essentially understanding the meaning of words as they are found in Navi and other parts of the inner Torah. A large portion of it is drawn from Sefer Maorot Natan by Rabbi Meir Paprosh which is one of the classic dictionaries that we have dealing with this area. The other citations are written in the answer. – Yaacov Deane Sep 16 '16 at 18:50
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    @IsaacMoses BTW, so this is your 'Baby'. Tizku l'mitzvot! You should have great nachat from this. It's a blessing for the Jewish people IMHO. – Yaacov Deane Sep 16 '16 at 19:05
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    While your erudition in the interpretation of the text is impressive - I was just asking about the word itself, literally. So you're basically saying the literal meaning is "flour", or a kind of flour? – einpoklum Sep 16 '16 at 19:10
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    @YaacovDeane B"H Mi Yodeya is the product of tens of thousands of hours of labor by hundreds of volunteers. It is a great privilege to me to be involved. Thanks very much for all of your contributions! – Isaac Moses Sep 16 '16 at 19:17

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