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Rosh Hashana begins with a meal, as all Jewish holidays, and we pull out fruit and vegetables, eat them as 'signs,' and ask Gd to make the coming year a good one. That always means better than last year. The previous year was never that great. It was decent, but it could be better. So, we ask Gd for a good year and show Him some of the fruit and vegetables that could've had a longer shelf life. Thus, we ask for a better year where the cucumbers don't spoil after three days in the fridge.
We have a beautiful huge meal, to make up for any food we might have lost out on the year prior. We don't want to go into the year thin. That would give us nothing to do. Nothing to pray for. Last year, I dieted all year. I also sinned a bit, so I would have something to ask Gd for during the Ten Days of Repentance. With all that in mind, I shall tell you about what I now know every Jew should be prepared for when in Israel.
Eating in America Did Not Prepare Me
Known as Simanim, the signs at the meal, I grew up with an apple in the honey and a pomegranate representing Mitzvot. That is all my Ashkenazik upbringing prepared me for; cute little blessings of a sweet new year and a stained shirt. We would even sing a cute song, just in case somebody was scared of apples and honey. We sung the song 'dip the apple in the honey, say a blessing loud and clear. Shana Tova uMituka, have a happy sweet new year.' It was cute and harmless. The pomegranate wasn't harmless, so we didn't sing a song about it. We just said that it represents a lot of Mitzvot, and accepted the fact that our shirt would get stained.
Israel was nothing like this. There was no cute song. The apple-honey rhyme didn't work in Hebrew. I don't know if it's every dinner, but whatever song that family was singing my first Rosh Hashana in Israel had me feeling the Pesach Seder all over again. Everything sounded like 'Ha Lachma Anya' to me, and I was in for a shock. They sung with real deep voices that I was not prepared for, due to their size.
The only thing that my Jewish upbringing in America prepared me for was eating a lot.
My First Interaction with Violent Fruit
The Israeli family brought out beautiful fruits and a fish head. The fish head kind of went with the 'Ha Lachma Anya' feeling of leaving Egypt. And the next thing I know, the whole table started focusing on enemies. They were using fruit to curse out our foes. That was when I knew that I will never mess with an Israeli while they are eating.
They started taking carrots in their hands and saying that 'Gd should cut down our enemies like a carrot.' I learned later that the root word for carrot in Hebrew is the same root as 'cutting down.' They went through all the fruits on the table. Even the gummy strawberry was used to mock those who try to bring us down. Personally, I would think that if you give a gummy strawberry to an enemy, they're going to be your friend. They'll stop attacking and start picking gumminess out of their teeth.
Don't Mess With Israelis
The shock continued at that dinner, and the next night's dinner too, where the family pulled out squash. I started seeing our Jewish people in a whole new light.
We are a relaxed people, passive in nature, but you throw fruit and vegetables into the equation and we get very violent. When we summon Gd while eating gourds, we are not a people you want to mess with.
Work in a rhyme and we are wiping out all evil beings. Work in a pun and decrees of judgment are raining down. Peace ruling the world through seasonal local produce. And watch out if they start with alliterations. 'Crazy criminal counterattack country' is what I’m talking about, with 'kumquats.'
More People Do It
One of the tables I was at a couple years years ago pulled out a carrot, whose root must have many meanings, and said, ‘May it be Thy will… that their decrees be those of judgment.’ And then, they cut a fruit and said that the juice should blind the enemies, like it did the owners of the house when they squeezed it by accident.
I Am Scared
That last meal had me scared. The shock of my first Rosh Hashana in Israel turned into fear. I started picturing the horrors that carrots can do to people. With a Hebrew name whose root means ‘decrees,’ I was scared to eat. I didn’t want to know the food's verdict. I had nightmares about cucumbers and tomatoes. I started having flashbacks to pickles and pickled tomatoes I had growing up. I didn’t eat Israeli salad for half a year. I was eating falafel with a pita, tahini, and that’s it. I couldn’t use Chumus either. At that last dinner, they said something about Chumus and Hamas.
I am over much of my fear. I now eat with my family on Rosh Hashana, and we dunk the apple, saying, ‘May this be a sweet new year.’ I don't believe my family can handle floral self-defense.
Going back to my Ashkenazik roots, I wanted to stop with all the other requests that angiosperms can bring. I was still scared of the Israeli salad, cut up so small. It hit me that fruits can be used for good and evil. Food can be used for good and evil. You can own a fruit shop, like my grandpa, and provide people with star fruit, so they can eat something on Rosh Hashana they would never want to eat otherwise.
It took me a while, but I learned my lesson. And I now know what the Simans are for. I feel it is time we embrace our tradition and focus on eating fruit and vegetables that will wipe out the evil from our lives. I am not scared of my Israeli brethren. I know that they are using vegetation to protect us.
It is about wiping evil out of our lives, so that our year can be one of blessing. A year where we don't have to eat fennel. A year, where we put on weight from the sugar found in plantation.
Ever since those first Rosh Hashana dinners, I have had nightmares about carrots. When they pop up in coleslaw, I'm taken aback. I am never eating carrots again, just in case there's another root I don't know about. Please don't mention Tzimis.
As for you, you should enjoy all the fruits and vegetables at the Rosh Hashana dinner. And don't be scared of carrots. I am still in shock and trying to figure out how carrots can free us from our enemies. You should all have a sweet new year, where our enemies rot like carrots. A year where people can finally laugh at puns and not judge them.
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My kids take after me. Due to Kibud Av vEim, they always let me take first.
You get it? ‘Take after me' means to be like their dad. Instead, they let their dad fill his plate first, as per the Mitzvah to honor parents. Very good kids. If we can have a positive influence on the next generation with our puns, that is the blessing.
Giving Tzedakah, I like to know where the charity is going. That charity box in the front is for kids who need help with their artwork.