A Biblical moment at the therapist’s

Today’s Wayno / Piraro Bizarro, a Psychiatrist cartoon with a Biblical theme:

(#1) Wayno’s title:”Revised Translation” (if you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 4 in this strip — see this Page)

Note the concessions to the ancient setting in the furnishings of the therapist’s office. (Do not write me about the impossibility of writing with a quill pen on parchment in the fashion shown in the cartoon; this is, after all, a kind of imaginative fiction, combining features of some fictional world and the modern real world. Get a grip on things: there were no psychoanalysts in Flood Times.)

However, a Biblical theme is appropriate for the day, since it’s Rosh Hashanah, Jewish new year.

Rosh Hashanah, and its foods. Basic information from the Hebcal site: Rosh Hashana for Hebrew Year 5784 begins at sundown on Friday, 15 September 2023 and ends at nightfall on Sunday, 17 September 2023.

Detailed information about the history and practices of the holiday, and its place in the Jewish High Holy Days, on the Wikipedia site. Here, since I’m a food person, the section on holiday foods — which is necessarily complex, since there are several forms of Judaism and many different traditions within it (but it’s also, in Wikipedia fashion, somewhat disorganized):

(#2) Pomegranates; and apples dipped in honey

Rosh Hashanah meals usually include apples dipped in honey to symbolize a sweet new year; this is a late medieval Ashkenazi addition. Other foods with a symbolic meaning may be served, depending on local minhag (“custom”), such as the head of a fish (to symbolize the prayer “let us be the head and not the tail”).

Many communities hold a “Rosh Hashanah seder” during which blessings are recited over a variety of symbolic dishes. The blessings have the incipit “Yehi ratzon”, meaning “May it be Thy will.” In many cases, the name of the food in Hebrew or Aramaic represents a play on words (a pun). The Yehi Ratzon platter may include apples (dipped in honey, baked or cooked as a compote called mansanada); dates; pomegranates; black-eyed peas; pumpkin-filled pastries called rodanchas; leek fritters called keftedes de prasa; beets; and a whole fish with the head intact. Some have the custom of including lettuce, celery and a half a raisin. The reason is unclear, but is likely attributable to the resulting [English] pun that if you combine the words, lettuce + half a raisin + celery, it sounds like, “let us have a raise in salary,” which again, is another play on words as noted above. It is also common among Sephardim to eat stuffed vegetables called legumbres yaprakes.

Some of the symbolic foods eaten are dates, black-eyed peas, leeks, spinach, and gourd, all of which are mentioned in the Talmud: “Let a man be accustomed to eat on New Year’s Day gourds (קרא), and fenugreek (רוביא), leeks (כרתי), beet [leaves] (סילקא), and dates (תמרי).”

Carrots can have multiple symbolic meanings at the Rosh Hashanah table. The Yiddish word for carrot is ma’rin (מערין), which also means “increase.” By eating carrots one asks for their merits and blessings to be increased. Sliced carrots are also typically eaten to symbolize gold coins and hopes for continued wealth and prosperity. In Hebrew the word for carrot is gezer (גזר) which sounds similar to the word g’zar – the Hebrew word for “decree.” Serving carrots on Rosh Hashanah symbolizes a desire to have God nullify any negative decrees against us.

Pomegranates are used in many traditions, to symbolize being fruitful like the pomegranate with its many seeds. Typically, round challah bread is served, to symbolize the cycle of the year. From ancient to quite modern age, lamb head or fish head were served. Nowadays, lekach (honey cake) and gefilte fish are commonly served by Ashkenazic Jews on this holiday.

L’Shanah Tovah! (or one of its variants: L’Shana Tova / Shanah Tovah / Shana Tova)

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