Beyond Apples and Honey
By Rabbi Ruth Abusch-Magder
Be'chol Lashon Rabbi-in-Residence
It is a tradition on the second day of Rosh Hashana to eat a fruit that is either new to you or that you have not eaten for a long time. The technical reason for this is that we are meant to say a shecheyanu blessing which celebrates something new and given that it is the second day of the festival, the holiday itself is no longer new enough. But the symbolism of the new fruit is powerful on its own. The New Year represents our committment to change as we go forward. Often we see change as hard to do, but when it comes in the form of a new sweet treat, we are reminded that change can also bring sweet surprises and new possibilities.
In ancient times it was easy to find a new fruit. Fruits were eaten only when in season and some like the favored pomegranate, showed up just in time for the New Year celebration. Today, however, most fruits are available if not year round, then with great regularity and it can be hard to find a fruit that holds real novelty.
Nonetheless, we can look to try new foods on the holiday, the trying of which can be celebrated with a special shechiyanu prayer. If for example, you are used to eating to eating noodle puddings and gefilte fish on the holidays, perhaps add a dish Loubia, an Egytian black-eyed peas salad special for the holiday. If you make a habit of Syrian foods, this may be the time to try a dish from the North African Jewish traditions.
Looking into our cupboards and combining familiar ingredients into new dishes and tastes can inspire us to do the spiritual work that our tradition stresses at this time of year.
At Rosh Hashana we are meant to look into our hearts and assess what we find within. This stock taking is not meant to have us completely discard our sense of self but rather build on what we find within new possibilities and challenges. And just as Jews draw inspiration for their personal reflection by participating in a broader community of introspection, so too the flavors of Jewish communities other than our own can inspire us to imagine new potential and engage in the work of renewal.
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