Tuesday, October 9, 2018

A Special Shtick Holtz

 What is brown and sticky and was brought back just for me from Eretz Yisrael?

A stick.

But not just any stick, obviously. This particular type of wood had unique significance in Temple times in that it was used to make spits for roasting the korban Pesach.

The Gemara (Pesachim 74a) explains that metal spits could not be used since they would conduct heat from the fire and roast the animal from the inside. This is not acceptable because the animal has to be roasted directly from the fire. Many types of wood (date, fig, oak) were also rejected because their grain structure allows sap to come out and "cook" the animal from the inside. Pomegranate wood — the younger the better — has relatively few knots and very tight grain and is the best type of wood to use as a spit.

A friend of mine was visiting his sister in Israel when he saw that the city had cut down a pomegranate tree and left it at the curb for disposal. He quick got a saw and cut off three of the thickest branches and trimmed them until they fit diagonally into his suitcase. I was the lucky recipient of one of those branches!

Here is [a stock picture of] what the branch looked like when I got it — a light brown color with very smooth bark.

Pomegranate
Branches of a pomegranate tree (Flickr)
And here is what it looked like after I spent about 15 minutes working it with a spokeshave. So maybe I don't have a suitcase packed for Moshiach like the Chofetz Chaim but at least I have my spit.

Pomegranate roasting spit, gently sharpened at one end. Length is approximately 2.5 feet.

Closeup of the back end. You can see how the grain is very smooth and tight with almost no knots. Since the spit is lowered into the oven vertically, I drilled a hole at this end to accept a rod or chain that will hold the spit at the top of the oven.

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