SPECIAL EDITION - Rosh HaShana
By Rabbi Yehudah Prero
In # 38, we discussed the various "Simanim," or foods that we eat on Rosh
HaShana, and the "Yehi Ratzon" that we recite with each of them. As
mentioned, there are varying customs as to which foods are eaten. Ezra Levy
wrote in that the customs of the Sefardic communities vary on the foods used.
He gave some examples from his own experience and knowledge. The custom among
the Sefardic Jews of Egypt for the food "Rubia" was black-eyed peas because
the Arabic term for the word was "Lubia," pronounce liked "Rubia." Their
custom for the food "Silka" was cooked spinach, because the Arabic term for
the word was "Salk." Also, in Ezra Levy's family, the custom was to dip the
apple in sugar.
Marcel Barenblut asked a question that I am sure was on the mind of a few
readers: What exactly is "fenugreek"- the food known in the language of the
Gemora as "Rubia?"
Fenugreek, according to the Artscroll Rosh HaShana Machzor, is an herb,
indigenous to western Asia, whose seeds are used in cookery and medicine. A
look in my Webster's dictionary yielded a similar definition.
Kalman Staiman posed an interesting question. If one would look in Shulchan
Aruch Orech Chayim 211, one would find that there are different opinions as
how one should conduct himself in the following scenario: A person has an
orange and a fig in front of him, and he plans on eating both. Which one of
these fruits should he make the blessing on? One opinion is that since the
fig is one of the seven species of "fruits" associated with the land of
Israel, it is more important than other fruits. Therefore, when presented
with a choice of making a blessing on one of two fruits, one should chose the
fruit which is one of the "seven species." That being the case, the question
is that I wrote in # 38 that one should make the blessing over the apple, and
then say the Yehi Ratzon. If one is also going to eat a pomegranate or a
date, and all the fruits are before the person (which are both of the Seven
Species), should not one make the blessing on the pomegranate or a date
rather than the apple?
Rabbi Dovid Feinstein shlit"a answered that if one has the fruits before him
and has to chose which one to make the blessing on, one should indeed make
the blessing on the fruit from the Seven Species instead of the apple.
Sherry Fryman inquired about a practice that we have on the second night of
Rosh HaShana. It states in Shulchan Aruch Orech Chayim 600: 2 that "By
Kiddush on the second night of Rosh HaShana one should wear a new garment or
have in front of him a new fruit, and say the blessing of 'She'hechiyanu.'
If a new garment or new fruit can not be found, one should say the blessing
nevertheless." (This applies as well, according to many opinions, to when a
woman lights candles on the second night of Rosh HaShana.) The Mishna B'rura
explains that the reason for this practice stems from the fact that there is
a disagreement as whether the blessing of She'hechiyanu should be said on the
second night of Rosh HaShana. One opinion is that we do say it on the second
night, as we do on the second festival night with every other holiday (in the
Diaspora). The other opinion is that since Rosh HaShana consists of two days
(one period) of holiness, and we already said the blessing on the first
night, there is no need to say it on the second night. In order to say the
blessing, yet not demonstrate that we are not following the second opinion,
we have a new fruit or new garment present. Upon wearing a new garment or
eating a new fruit, one makes the blessing of She'hechiyanu. By
necessitating a blessing of She'hechiyanu, we can make the blessing and still
fulfill both opinions in the argument.
The problem that arises is what is a "new" fruit? In Shulchan Aruch Orech
Chayim 225, we find that one should make the blessing of She'hechiyanu upon
seeing a new fruit. The "newness" of the fruit is defined by the season of
the fruit: each fruit has its season during the year. The first time one sees
(and eats) the fruit at the beginning of the season, one should make the
blessing. (For exact application of the Halacha, please ask your Rabbi, as
what is stated here is only illustrative of the law, and by no means is the
final word on the matter. - YP) A problem that we are faced with nowadays is
that because of importing, many fruits are now "in season" (so to speak) and
available year round, and therefore it is hard to find a "new" fruit. One
suggestion is to wear a new garment. Suggestions for "new fruits" I would
imagine really depend on where in the world you live. I know that when I
lived in Chicago, and now in New York, starfruits, and fresh (not dried)
dates and figs are somewhat hard to come by during the rest of the year, and
therefore could qualify as new fruits. For more suggestions, one can consult
their local Rabbi (or maybe their local green grocer!).
Check out all of the posts on Elul and Rosh HaShana. Head over to
http://www.torah.org/learning/yomtov/ to access the YomTov Page. Then click on the icon for the holiday of your choice.
For questions, comments, and topic requests, please write to Rabbi Yehudah Prero.
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