Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Fruit and Books: High Holiday Traditions

Photo: wikipedia.com
When I blogged about the first time my dad and I went browsing in Barnes and Noble on Yom Kippur afternoon, a friend commented on the post, telling me about her father's custom of buying fruit on Rosh Hashanah and how her whole family would then enjoy it in the kitchen following services.  It's a custom she continues today with her own family.

Reading up on the Rosh Hashanah fruit tradition, I learned from myjewishlearning.com that "[o]n the second night of Rosh Hashanah, it is common to eat a "new fruit"--a fruit that participants have not tasted for a long time. This tradition has become a way literally to taste the newness of the year, by enjoying an unfamiliar food....(Interestingly, the custom developed as a technical solution to a legal difficulty surrounding the recitation of the shehehiyanu blessing on the second day of the holiday. The blessing, usually recited to commemorate a new situation, is said on the second day of Rosh Hashanah both in honor of the day and the new fruit.)"

I thought about the fruit story this afternoon when, needing a break from my desk, I went down to the "fruit guy" on the northeast corner of 40th Street and Third Avenue. Perusing the selection, I asked him about what looked like mini limes on a vine. The handwritten cardboard sign in front of them said "Ginipes," which he told me are South American lychees.  Familiar with lychees from many a local Chinese restaurant, I nodded and gave him an "ahhh" of recognition.  He then broke one off the vine and handed it to me. I bit tentatively through the leathery green skin (which I now know is not for eating!), but found the flesh underneath too slimy for my taste.

Even though I ended up with more traditional fruits--bananas, grapes and plums--and even though it's been more than a week since the second day of Rosh Hashanah, I offer this shehecheyanu in honor of the ginipe, which was a new fruit to me this afternoon:
Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech haolam,
shehechehyanu, v'kiy'manu, v'higianu laz'man hazeh.
We praise You, Eternal God, Sovereign of the universe, for giving us life, for sustaining us, and for enabling us to reach this time of joy.
(In case you're wondering, yes, my dad and I did go to Barnes and Noble again this year, and in a break with tradition, his friend Bobbi joined us.  Too unfocused to do any serious browsing, the three of us wandered through the store, looked at books without really seeing them, chatted, and just spent some holiday time together.  After about an hour, we returned to the temple for the rest of the afternoon.)