The traditional Rosh Hashanah blog

A couple of times a year, any uncertainty about what is a Jew dissipates, and I become a true member of a singular tribe, the American Jews of the diaspora, when I perform, with sincere and profound humility, our only major tradition: Googling to see when the holiday begins, what we’re supposed to already have started cooking, and what the greeting is.

1. Tonight; 2. brisket and sweet stuff; 3. L’Shana tovah.

The brisket is in; the jumble of blocky tzimmes precursor is heating around it. The boys have been guided by paternal threat and prattle through the evening pouring of the cheap red wine over meat, the morning grocery shopping with their own carts, the splendor of beef turned purple by grapes so it looks like a giant tongue, with sound effects, and onion-chopping best practices with The Good Knife. They will be recalled from the Wii for kugel insertion and the basting ceremony. I don’t know that basting is necessary when observing loose tinfoil protocol, but also can’t see a down side to it. Teach your male children to baste.

Tonight’s challah is round instead of braided because so is the cycle of creation; this is, after all, a new year’s celebration. It’s sweetened because so may your year be sweet.

This has always bothered me as a metaphor, ever since I was a child, because it’s just too facile to be recognizable. Years aren’t sweet or bitter; life is sweet and bitter. Even horrible years have the stray golden raisin in there, and good years harbor the roots of bad ones to come—much as savory tzimmes contains root vegetables (see, it’s genetic; that took no effort).

What I wish for you, and for myself, is that what has taken root in the past, no matter what kind of manure or burnt field it first sprouted in, bears good fruit in the future. I also wish you an easing of droughts and destructions, so that orchards can once again be maintained by one standard orchard’s worth of toil.

May your troubles convert to gelatin in the heat of your efforts, as melts brisket collagen at temperatures over 180°F.

May you question and break free of the traps of your childhood, just as we all, at some point, ask, “Why am I drinking Manischewitz?” And may you pass your mistakes on to the next generation, just as in the same breath, we pour Manischewitz for our own children, so that they in turn may taste the fuller flavor of rejecting the overly sweet nonsense of their parents.

L’shana tovah. May you be signed in the…sealed in…crap, I don’t know. I googled it twice already. Here:

Eat up.




Filed under Cooking, Family, Fatherhood, Favorite, God, Heresy, Kids, Music, Parenting, Religion, Senseless Acts, Whatever

7 responses to “The traditional Rosh Hashanah blog

  1. That was awesome. All of it. Happy New Year!

  2. SarahBeth

    I love your wish. May it come to pass.

  3. Two years later.

    We’re in a house, just the three of us now. When I wrote this entry, it was four in an apartment in another state.

    They’re in bed. Mom dropped them off an hour ago. I’m sitting by their beds in the dark, and we’re talking about what to make tomorrow. I talked them through starting the brisket marinating in my bathrobe (misplaced modifier funnier than removing it), so now it’s in the fridge and we’re discussing what else I should send them to the store for tomorrow morning, since I’m still sick.

    The holiday is about sweetness. So sweet things. Traditionally that’s apples and honey, but it doesn’t have to be. Maybe a sponge cake?

    [Discussion of sponge cake follows, as child in right-hand bed made one at Mom’s, but it came out stiff because there wasn’t enough vanilla extract and they had to go get some. Distinction drawn by parent between whatever airy double-layer thing he made and a Jewish matzoh-meal sponge cake.]

    Okay, let’s keep that in mind. What else could we make? We could make a kugel if you want, but you guys never like it.

    From both beds: Yeah. Eh. No.

    Left-hand bed, excitedly: WHAT ABOUT A BABKE?!

    Right-hand bed: (Gasp) YEAH!

    Left: Chocolate! No, cinnamon! No, chocolate!

    Right: (Child is generous of spirit. We all know he loves chocolate, but he also loves his brother and doesn’t press for his own want.)

    Logistics discussed. Babke agreed. Dad will research. Goodnight kisses distributed at flu distance.

    My boys are here. They want to make a babke. This is home.

  4. Do you think that someone could make a killing if they came up with a decent tasting Manischewitz knock off?

  5. Two more years. Still just the three of us. We’re a solid little three-dude family with our habits and stuff pretty well together.

    I don’t feel like making a brisket today. They said sous-vide steak and roasted broccoli. I said fine, so I’ll roll to the store in a bit and get the steak going. There’s also a challah braided and waiting for its final rise before we put it in the oven, and we discovered last year that Jews in the nearby “city” (large town) hold Taschlich services at a nearby park with a little water running through it. We don’t attend synagogue, two of us aren’t Jewish, and one of us can’t abide cantors with guitars… but it’s nice to hang out at the edges of and read or toss breadcrumbs into the water.

    The taschlich service is being held at a place and time announced publicly on their website. I wasn’t sure they’d still be doing that.

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