Monday, September 14, 2009

Simana Milta for Everything we Eat

The custom of many Jews is to have different foods on the table for the Rosh Hashana night meals (and some do this even for day meals) that show a good omen for that year. 2 different gemarot talk about it - 1 says to see the foods, while 1 says to eat the foods, so us being Jews, how can we see food and not eat it? So we're "Mahmirim" to eat the food like the second gemara.

The main foods mentioned in the gemara are:
  • dates
  • leek
  • beets or spinach
  • black-eyed-peas or beans
  • zucchini or gourd

Others that have been traditionally added:
  • fish
  • fish head (or, for the brave, Rosh Keves)
  • pomegranates
  • apples dipped in honey or sugar
Various communities have other foods as well.

And the tradition is to say (as the Ladino-speaking Jews call them) the "Yehi Ratzones" - a special Yehi Ratzon for each food item we eat that blesses us, based on a play-on-words with the name of the food item we're about to eat. So, for example, when we eat dates (תמרים), we ask that our enemies be destroyed (שיתמו אויבינו...). The same with all the foods.

Later, some interesting variations of this practice have evolved. For years, we've always been amused by the De Sola Pool Rosh Hashana Mahzor's English "translation" of the Yehi Ratzon for leek:
Like as we eat this leek, may our luck never lack in the year to come.

There's also the semi-famous joke to eat lettuce, half of a raisin and celery altogether, and to recite: "Let us have a raise in salary."

However, I just heard a practice that I never heard before. That is, that on every food that you eat on Rosh Hashana, you should say a Yehi Ratzon on that, if you can come up with a fitting one. For example, if you have meat (בשר), you should say: יהי רצון...שנתבשר בשורות טובות. Or, if you have couscous, you should say שיסתכסכו אויבינו (or maybe he means שיתקשקשו אויבינו). So said Rav Shmueli in his latest Shiur (at the 57:24 mark).


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