When you think of past High Holidays celebrations, what do you remember most? Chances are, it’s your stomach that possesses the best memory. Visions of well-seasoned brisket most likely dance in your head. The fragrance of golden, honey-dipped apples wafts through the culinary corridors of your memory. And the round, made rich-with-eggs-and-extra-sugar challahs that are specially baked for Rosh Hashana are the stuff that dreams are made of.
What else do you see, as you remember? Possibly it’s the entire family, gathered around the table. The walk to shul with your parents; brand-new, shiny shoes and holiday clothing bought especially for the season. Trees that line the path are beginning their slow trek towards autumn splendor. Newness abounds; hope, expectation; family. The High Holidays are a time for special foods and reunion with loved ones, but they are made especially rich through personal renewal, repentance and rebirth.
The relationship of food to family, when mixed with faith, invites a recipe for future security and an enduring bloodline. Old family arguments and lack of forgiveness for wrongs never righted – they have no place at the holiday table. And yet, because we are human, though brisket might abound and honey overflow the table of one’s home, the real feast comes when family wrongs are made right. A phone call to a loved one; a misunderstanding over money forgiven and cleared up; an old argument set aside. Another plate is to be set on the table of forgiveness. The cutlery of repentance is necessary to remove from one’s heart the bitterness and acrimony that separate precious relationships.
How can a man eat with his enemy? We are loathe to call our family “enemy,” yet we often feel that way towards them because they’re not “acting well.” We offer self-congratulatory pats on the back for our own upright, moral behavior, while quick to point out the faults and misdemeanors of aunts, cousins, old family friends – all those who have wronged us in some way we deem unforgiveable.
The shofar call that ushers in the High Holiday season is no mere, spiritual dinner bell. It is a call to something greater, higher than ourselves, a reaching for reconciliation, both within and without. As Rosh Hashana begins, we are commanded to “present a food offering to the Lord” (Leviticus 23:25). At the risk of sounding sacrilegious, are we to bring brisket? And who do we give this offering to – the Lord? Has He also been invited to dinner? And if so, how will we recognize Him?
The trumpet (shofar) calls us to the place of dining with each other from a place at the table of repentance and renewal. It is impossible to sit next to Aunt Sadie and converse in honest, meaningful conversation when unresolved issues exist between you. It is the same between ourselves and God as we approach the heavenly, holiday table. God asks us to bring an “offering.” What can we give Him? We can give Him our hearts. He will take care of the rest of the meal.
That old, sacred, family-treasured brisket recipe can be transformed into much more than mere physical sustenance when holiday life is imbued with grace and forgiveness. Our heavenly Father sits at the head of the table, poised to usher in the holiday season. Will He become our honored guest this season?
If you invite Him in, He will come.
"Behold, I (Yeshua) stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).