Rosh Hashanah and Botany

Taking Stock

When I was younger, there was a seasonality for produce. We looked forward to enjoying  ripe strawberries in springtime and nothing compared to a warm peach dripping its juices in on a hot summer’s day. Over the years  so much has changed. Positive changes include progress in the sciences with its attendant health strategies that have enabled us to live longer, better lives. Computers have revolutionized everything, much of it good while smart phones have their pluses and minuses.

Freshly Harvested Peaches

Despite so many positive changes in our lives which are the result of human ingenuity, Earth has her own agenda, one of them being the regular recurrence of the seasons. Although we expect and can buy almost any type of produce regardless of the local season, we have lost the sense of anticipation and specialness that comes from enjoyment on an irregular basis.  Sometimes too much really is too much!


Sabbath Candles

The observant Jewish community has a special blessing to honor the first taste of a new harvest . The blessing is called The Schehechiyanu and thanks God for having given us continued life to reach this point as yet another year has passed.

To symbolize our hopes for a sweet year to come, the custom has arisen to serve sweet foods on Rosh Hashanah. Honey is flying off the shelves and on the first night of the holiday, everyone will eat a slice of apple dipped in honey. Since apples are available pretty much all year round, they are not a shehechiyanu fruit.

Apple Slice Dipped in Honey
Sliced Pomegranate Showing Multiple Seeds

Instead the blessing on the first night refers solely to the arrival of the holiday. However, on the second night of Rosh Hashana we use a shehechiyanu fruit in place of the apple. The choices are endless, particularly with the availability of tropical fruits such as dragon fruits and guava. This year, we will be using a pomegranate.

Rosh Hashanah 2020

The  Rosh Hashanah holiday is not celebrated with revelry. It is a solemn time of introspection for taking stock of who we are and who we want to be. And it is a time of shehechiyanu as we are particularly grateful to be able to celebrate this holiday during this difficult year.

Freedom has been a treasured watchword of the United States. In this time of Covid-19, national introspection is also vital. As we tear down the dysfunctional from the top in the hopes of rebuilding our institutions, each of us must work on our own personal responsibilities  to build a more just and robust society.

I would like to wish you all a Shana Tova – a  Happy New Year!