groans for the new year

This isn’t as awful as it sounds. (What’s the opposite of trigger alert? Put the the safety back on?) I am actually talking about puns, the kind that we as a group make on Rosh Hashanah. I wrote about it last year here about the symbolic power of foods to spur us to correct our behavior for the coming year. It’s not the foods themselves, actually, but the naming of the food and the positive intent that we bestow. And, of course, this is a theme that I continued from the past, having written about my search for the new fruit of the year back three years ago in this post.

My search for a new fruit for this year brought me once again to Whole Foods. I saw something odd sitting in the exotic fruit aisle and I asked the worker sorting through boxes what it was. He picked up a sign on the ground and placed it back on the aisle.

He said it’s one of the most delicious fruits he’s eaten. I can trust him–no reason not to. He gave me one from his box and said it should be ready in a few days. He also gave me the code because he knew the cashiers would not know what it is. Or that I would remember, either, probably.

Hmmm. I think I’ll use the name Guanabana. Soursop doesn’t have a good sound to it in the sense of omens, does it? I imagine it being used in some Jane Austen book, “I wish you would not be such a soursop, Eustace.”

But more than this, I think we will try pushing the envelope of puns for our Rosh Hashanah meals. (How is that for an awful mix of metaphors?) I was inspired by our family meals this past Shabbat. We came together to celebrate my father turning 90. My nephew informed us about this Brooklyn phenomenon called Punderdome, where people compete, Glass Bead Game-like, in a pun-off.  We enjoy the good pun, every once in awhile, and we also enjoy a good groan of a not-so-clever pun. I found myself punning about food (food puns?) over the course of our courses, probably just like I found myself dreaming about picking olives after spending the day doing so…So much food…We had 16 people for dinner and 19 for lunch. I won’t repeat my puns–out of context, they don’t work.

Which means I don’t remember them. Oh–one of them was pretty clever; it was actually a triple-language pun. Do I get more points for that? I poured some of the water from a package of feta into the kitchen sink while my niece was trying to wash her hands. So I said, “Sorry, but it was a fait accompli.”

[Insert Rimshot here.]

Another one I did on purpose. I bought this tomato,

planning on using it in a salad, but then, of course, in the middle of the meal, realized that I had forgotten it. So it became a symbol of the celebration. I told everyone that my father is like this tomato; an heirloom. He has given us a model of how to live, how to enjoy life, how to take care of others and get pleasure out of the littlest things along with the big ones.

That actually went off better than if I had sliced it into the salad. Spontaneity is a slice of life, perhaps?

Underneath all of the banter comes the reality of the past year. It has been a hard one. So much apparent blessing that has gotten covered over by so much pain. The reality of losing a sister to cancer and losing a brother to mental illness and all. So I am having a hard time preparing myself in the prayer department. I am prepared to be silent and wait to hear the words on the pages make a difference in my head.

I will listen to the shofar as the cry that it is.

And if the guanabana doesn’t make it, I can pull out my bag of dried gooseberries from Costco. Chekhov would be so proud.

“Pavel Koustantinich,” he said in a voice of entreaty, “don’t be satisfied, don’t let yourself be lulled to sleep! While you are young, strong, wealthy, do not cease to do good! Happiness does not exist, nor should it, and if there is any meaning or purpose in life, they are not in our peddling little happiness, but in something reasonable and grand. Do good!”



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