This week, Jewish people around the world are celebrating the new year, Rosh Hashana. It’s a big food holiday, and even bigger for the fruit business, as I learned a few years ago. Most observant Jews, especially in the New York metro area and other big cities, strive to serve a new fruit on their holiday tables in the new year. It’s actually a biblical tradition.
Think about it. A new fruit? Yes, many of the kosher grocery stores in Brooklyn call us every year, trying to top each other with the selection of exotic fruits they feature during the two weeks before Rosh Hashana. It’s kind of fun. Two years ago, even the Wall Street Journal wrote about this phenomenon.
So, while most of us might think about serving peaches, grapes, berries, apples, or watermelon for a fruit dessert, observant Jews are looking for persimmons, dragon fruit, feijoas (aka pineapple guavas), and starfruit. And if they really want to go all out, they might share a jackfruit with the whole family—a jackfruit party!
For virtually all Jewish holidays, food is at the heart of the celebration. For Hanukkah, we serve fried foods like latkes (fried potato pancakes) and fried jelly donuts. For Passover, freshly grated horseradish is a must-have for the traditional Seder dinner.
But in just a week is the one holiday when we don’t eat. As a matter of fact, we fast from sundown the night before until sundown the next day, on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. On Yom Kippur, you literally atone for your sins. I am not always good at fasting for Yom Kippur, but when I do, it allows me to be reminded of those who have suffered without food or other conveniences.
What I find most interesting about this time of year is the 10 days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. That 10-day period is one of prayer, self-examination, and repentance. We make amends with anyone with whom we have a disagreement. During this time, I consciously reach out to friends I may have had issues with. Maybe a family member that made me mad. Or have dinner with a long-lost friend. Sometimes I choose to email or text them to reach out. And just touching base is all it takes.
Even if you aren’t Jewish, have you tried reaching out to people you no longer talk to?
Wouldn’t it be kind to consciously think about those you don’t have the best relationships with and just reach out? Say hi. Meet for a glass of wine. Or have a phone conversation. Tell them something you like about them or what made you think of them.
So, on Sunday night for Rosh Hashana, I went to temple for the first time in a while. It was good to see so many old friends. The service is short, with many beautiful songs sung, the same songs that are sung at every Jewish synagogue around the world celebrating Rosh Hashana.
And when the service was over, as we exited, large platters of sliced apples with bowls of honey greeted us. Apples and honey. Did you know that is a tradition, too? Yes, for Jews whose families came from Eastern Europe, dipping a slice of apple in honey expresses hope for a sweet and fruitful year.
And I think all of us want that. A sweet and fruitful year.
So, to all my Jewish and non-Jewish friends, I wish you a l’shana tova (a good year) or l’shana tova u’metukah (a good and sweet year).