Delray Orthodox Synagogue
DELRAY ORTHODOX SYNAGOGUE
"A Jewel of a Shul"
7319 W. ATLANTIC AVENUE
DELRAY BEACH, FLORIDA 33446
RABBI MENACHEM JAROSLAWICZ
BERNARD LEIBMAN, PRESIDENT
ROCHELLE RUSH, SISTERHOOD PRESIDENT
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With Rosh Hashanah just around the corner, the time and venue from which to share thoughts and insights about Yom Tov are really limited. Therefore, I thought that this week I would use my Rabbi’s Message to review one particular Rosh Hashanah custom, and to discuss a possible reason behind it.
One of the things with which we occupy ourselves at the first and second nighttime Yom Tov meals is what we refer to as the “Simonim.”
We eat a select assortment of different foods and vegetables. We go out of our way to select foods whose names are similar in sound, in any language or slang, to words that we say in our prayers, when we request the destruction of our enemies or the strengthening of our own people. For example:
We eat carrots while reciting this prayer;
“Yehee ratzon ... Sh’yirbu zechuyosainu” [May it be your will oh Lord, our G-d, and the G-d of our forefathers, that our merits should increase.”]
The word for carrots in Yiddish is “Mayerin,” which ALSO means to “increase.” So in essence, we eat the carrots just IN ORDER to be able to invoke this prayer.
Similarly, we eat leeks and say the “Yehee ratzon,” and end it with, “Sh’Yeekorsu sonnainu” [that our enemies should be decimated]. Once again, since the Hebrew word for leek is “Kareis” which sounds similar to the word meaning “to decimate,” even though it is spelled differently, we intentionally eat leeks to be able to say this prayer.
At the Rosh Hashanah meal, any food that allows itself to be associated, by even the farthest stretch of the imagination, to a word in a prayer that we can offer to Hashem on our own behalf, we eat it and we say the “Yehee ratzon.”
Many versions of the “Yehee ratzon” even include the outright use of G-d’s name in the prayer itself, as I have quoted above.
What exactly is going on here? There are many who would think that it all sounds so ridiculous. And maybe even a “b’racha l’vatalah” (an unnecessary blessing), or outright improper use of the name of G-d!
It’s always easy for us to make fun of things we don’t understand because, by doing so, we never have to take responsibility to expand our education or tolerance of others.
I once heard a fascinating explanation for eating these foods from Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, z”l.
Our rabbis ask a question regarding the status of a Jewish couple who are undergoing a divorce.
“At what point,” they ask, “are the couple truly considered ‘separate’?”
To understand their question, let us use the example of a couple who have been together for 25 years. Now, after 25 years of living together under one roof, he simply hands her a piece of paper called a “GET.”
Is that it? Do you mean to tell me that, after 25 long and eventful years together, this simple piece of paper just severed the relationship between the two? There is so much history between the two of them!
What Chazal are really asking is, at what point in time, and how long does it take -- what has to happen -- so that we can truly consider that this couple are no longer tied to one another?
The answer they give is, “When the couple no longer understands each other’s ‘signs’!”
Anybody who has someone with whom they are close knows that there are special communications that connect people who care about each other, and go beyond simple spoken words.
A nod of the head! Raising an eyebrow! Stomping a foot! SIGNS! Signals that nobody other than your loved one can read and understand.
After 25 years together, divorce papers or not, we may assume that they can still understand each other’s signs. When that ceases to occur, then they are considered truly “apart.”
On Rosh Hashanah, we are showing Hashem our signs. We are saying to Him, “G-d, we love you so much. We want you to understand our SIGNS, as farfetched as they may appear. And, in exchange, please show us YOUR signs as well.”
The Gemara (Yevamos 79a) says that the Jewish people can be identified by three signs.
1.They are “compassionate”;
2.They are “shy” and not arrogant; and
3.They are kind to others.
These, too, are signs that we need to project with additional fervor this time of year. We need to show Hashem that these are, indeed, the signs that identify us as a people, as HIS people. We ask of Him that, in exchange for our commitment to these signs, He, in return, should shower us with the same signs and be compassionate, sensitive and kind to us as well.
Be creative. Make it into a game if need be. Find foods and words and puns that allow you to say more and more prayers. The more signs the merrier.
May Hashem laugh at the ridiculousness of some of our signs! The more He laughs with us, the closer we are.
May you and your extended family all be inscribed in the Book of Life, with a forecast for ONLY good health and peace of mind.
Have a beautiful and meaningful Shabbos and Yom Tov.
Tribute Dinner 2016