“Shana Tova Umetuka” – “May you have a good and sweet year” is what we typically wish each other in the month leading up to the Jewish New Year, and I bet you’ve always wondered why we give a double wish, that the year should be both good and sweet. If it’s good, isn’t it sweet? It’s got to be more than just poetic..
The Talmud teaches us that everything that happens in the world is for the good. And although many times it seems far from good, you should know that ultimately it somehow is for the good. We therefore wish each other, that not just should you have a good year, but also a sweet one. A year that is not just ultimately for the good, but rather one where the good is obvious to all. A year that is deliciously sweet!
Many give each other tegalach, honey cookies or honey cake – known as lekach. In fact the Chassidic custom is to specifically ask someone (usually the rabbi, but not necessarily) for a piece of or a shtickel lekach. We hope and pray that if there’s anything that we must ask or beg anyone for in the coming year, we should fulfill it with that ask.
It is also the custom of eating sweet foods on Rosh Hashanah itself, especially an apple dipped in honey with a special prayer that G-d grant us a good & sweet year. The Challah is dipped in honey. A special dish known as Tzimes is a European carrot concoction cooked in honey. As well as many other foods we eat with honey. My mother z’ls delicious tzimes included Chuck fleish and marrow bones and was one of the most delicious dishes ever. Ah, good memories!
Of course by now you surely know that the theme of honey throughout this season symbolizes the sweet year we all yearn for. But why specifically honey? Why not sugar, splenda or any other sweetener?
For starters, Israel was blessed to be a land flowing with milk and honey! Eating honey, wherever we may be, reminds us of our ancient homeland and our deep connection to Israel.
Have you ever seen an expiration date on honey? Honey can last for a really long time! A quick Google search will tell you that honey can last for centuries, but perhaps it can even last longer than that!
Many times there are people that get blessings. They win the lottery or stumble across a treasure. But the blessings unfortunately don’t always last and all their money can disappear as fast as it appeared or even worse, break families and friends apart. On Rosh Hashanah we pray that we not only get a blessed year, but that the blessing lasts.
Furthermore, honey can be used as a preservative. When Adam and Eve, whose birthdays we celebrate on Rosh Hashanah, were created, they were commanded to work the earth and to guard it. To protect it and all that it contains. To preserve the world and constantly make it a better place.
I wish each and every one of you a Shana Tova Umetuka! May you and your families be blessed with a Happy & Healthy, Good & Sweet New Year! May you be showered with blessings and may they last for a very long time! May you always be there for others! May you be a preservative for this beautiful world and help bring it to the perfection G-d has intended for it! May this year be your best year ever!
This year we will celebrate Rosh Hashana beginning Friday evening, Sept 15 at sundown, and concluding Sunday evening, Sept 17 at nightfall. To learn more about Rosh Hashanah and the many customs associated with it visit www.ChabadChayil.org/High-
I encourage you to attend your local Chabad or Synagogue to enjoy Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and all the high holidays to their fullest. Of course you can always join us at The Family Shul for services or holiday dinner, but you would need to RSVP in advance at (305) 770-1919 or TheFamilyShul.com. The community dinner will of course include Apples Dipped in Honey, Traditional Round Challah, Gefilteh Fish, my mothers Tzimes recipe, Kugel and all the delicious holiday foods!
About the author:
Rabbi Kievman is the ambassador of The Rebbe to Highland Lakes, FL. He’s founder of CHAP – an afterschool program for Jewish children in Public Schools, Gan Chabad Preschool, rabbi at The Family Shul & together with his wife directs Chabad Chayil. He can be reached at (305) 770-1919 or rabbi@ChabadChayil.org.