In order to celebrate the new year, we had friends over. Our table was nicely set. There were candles. There was a white table cloth. There was a beautiful honey bowl, that I just got from friends. There were self-baked, round challot. There were apples, and pomegranates, and other symbolic foods in our most beautiful bowls, that I don’t use much. And then it hit me. I didn’t take a picture! In fact, somebody like me doesn’t often get to take pictures of her holiday table. We are just not cut out for it. People like me invite their guests to come ‘whenever they want’ but warn them it will be likely that we won’t be finished preparing when they come.
They both came early. One of them was happy to help. In fact, she prepared most of the salads (under my direction) while I did other things. She said it made her feel at home. And I believed her. It would have made me feel at home. The other guest spent her time happily chatting with my husband (who did most of the cooking, I should add, and deserved his chatting time). I guess I chose the right guests!
On Jewish holidays there are certain restrictions, for those who want to follow the Jewish tradition. For example, one does not start a fire. All the cooking must be done before the holiday. To keep the food warm or heat it up one has a hot plate, that is put in place before the holiday. We also have, like many people, a big hot water dispenser to have hot water for our coffee and tea whenever we want.
But, on holidays it is allowed to transfer fire. So we keep a candle lit. It is a special candle that is meant to burn 72 hours. I transferred fire by using another (little) candle. It burnt for way more than 72 hours, which is why I was able to take a picture of it.
On the first day of the new year we went down to the Siloam pool to do Tashlich. Tashlich (meaning ‘throwing away’) is a custom based on the last few verses in the prophet Micah (Micah 7, 18-20). In it we throw our sins away in the water, as we are promised G-d will do with our sins. Most people use bread crumbs or pebbles to throw in the water. Two of the children in our company used rather large stones. Stones are in ample supply in our country! Rather than assuming their sins were heavier than most, I presume they liked the splash it made…
It was a beautiful day, a beautiful spot, and a moving ceremony. Again I felt a little sorry we couldn’t make a picture of it. I did however find a picture of the pool. The water in it comes, through a tunnel that King Hezekiah had dug through the rock under the city, from the Gihon spring that springs a little to the North
The days went by quickly. When the time came to light the Shabbat candles I found myself lighting them the usual way, with matches. I forgot my faithful 72 hour candle that was burning steadily away and ready to help. I still have a lot to learn!