Almond trees were abundant in ancient Syria and Palestine, and still are today. The Hebrew word for almond, "shakeid," also means "watchful," so symbolically the almond represents God's watchfulness over his people. The almond tree is mentioned a number of times in the Old Testament, and is a source of one of Judaism's most important symbols: the menorah.
The Symbol of Watchfulness
The almond tree flowers in January to February, which is early for a flowering fruit tree. This contributed to its symbolic connection with watchfulness. In Genesis 43:11, the almond is described as "the best of fruits," and in Numbers 17:8 and Hebrews 9:4, Aaron's rod sprouts sweet almonds for the followers of God's laws, with the promise that forsaking these laws will turn the almonds bitter and inedible. In Jeremiah 1:11-12, God uses the almond tree as a symbol of his watchfulness. When Jeremiah replies, "I see an almond tree," to God's question about what he can see, God says,"You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled."
The menorah is a seven-branched candlestick, which is found in synagogues and many Jewish homes. In Exodus 25:33-34, God tells Moses to make a candlestick "like unto almonds." In this chapter and in Exodus 37:19-20, Moses is told that the candle holders should be shaped like an almond blossom: "three cups, shaped like almond blossom, were on one branch with a knob and a flower..."
- Maria Teijeiro/Lifesize/Getty Images