Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Guest Posting From Chabakuk Elisha - Nuts On Rosh Hashana

(Picture courtesy of pecanvalleypecans.com)

We have a minhag not to eat nuts on Rosh Hashana. It's an old minhag, and the common reason given is that egoz (nut) is the same gematria as chait (sin); on Rosh Hashana we look for positive things as simanim, and sin, of course, isn't one of them. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 129:9 states, "It is customary not to eat nuts and almonds, because the numerical value of Nut (אגוז) is 17, the same as Sin (חט). Also, nuts increase phlegm and mucus which interferes with prayer."

I keep this minhag, but ever since I was a child, this one has made me scratch my head:

Egoz = 17, Chait = 17 (without the alef), and Tov = 17. I'm sure there are other words that total 17 as well, for example, Haggadah and Zevach also share the gematria 17.

Now, we know that midda tova meruba mimiddas puroniyus (good outweighs bad). Therefore shouldn't the good connotations for 17 outweigh the bad? After all, Tov/Good should be a great thing! Moreover, if we spell chait the way that it is normally spelled, with an alef, it totals the number 18 (Chai), the very number that we almost always try to use in gematrios; we don't avoid donating Chai dollars to tzedaka because 18 can also = chait, to the contrary, 18 is specifically the number of choice!

And there's also the famous story: When the Baal HaTanya was in Mezritch for Rosh Hashana with his Rebbe, the Maggid wished him "a GUT yom tov" (instead of using his regional pronunciation of GIT). The Baal HaTanya was surprised, but the Maggid continued: "Don't think I'm making fun of you (as the Alter Rebbe, being from Lithuania, would have said GUT), it's just that I want to emphasize the spelling of "gut" with a vov, which is gematria "chai (life)" and not "git" which could be spelled with a yud and the gematria would be off (22)." So by using the word "gut" (18) on Rosh Hashana in his brocha – which could also be the gematria of chait – the Maggid was giving the Alter Rebbe a brocha for life on Rosh Hashana. So, what's really the problem?

Yes, I know, there is another reason there: "nuts increase phlegm and mucus which interferes with prayer ." But even if that's true, it seems odd to me to ban nuts for this reason. I don't know, but I haven't noticed a difference, and there are probably other foods that we could avoid for similar reasons, so this answer never really seemed compelling to me. Actually, the reason I do it is simply because it's a minhag, and a Minhag Yisroel is special. We all know the klal that Minhag Yisroel Torah Hi – and therefore, if we have a minhag not to eat them, then for those of us that have the minhag - that is "Torah." As for the true reason for the minhag…I don't know if it really has anything to do with the gematria, rather, I suspect that the gematria is just a way to remember it - but the real reason? I suspect that the reason for it is something else entirely.


At September 11, 2007 at 1:38:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Last night, my wife was reading the latest Binah magazine and asked me, "Have you ever heard about people not eating nuts on Rosh Hashana?"

I replied, "Sure, because the gematria of nut = sin."

She asked me what my opinion of this minhag was and I replied that I did not think it was the worst thing in the world to eat a nut on Rosh Hashana especially considering the fact that she had just spent the past few hours cooking and also making a kugel with pecans and brown sugar.

I figured this gematria probably applied:

not eating my wife's pecan kugel = pgam in shlom bayis

Perhaps next year I will follow this minhag, though. Afterall, as you said, Minhag Yisorel Torah Hi.

At September 11, 2007 at 2:05:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

(Of course, If you haven't kept this minhag before, I wouldn't worry about it - It's not a halacha.)

At September 11, 2007 at 4:11:00 PM EDT, Blogger Orthonomics said...

Shalom Bayit is certainly of primary importance. Enjoy the kugel. BTW-Who publishes binah magazine?

At September 11, 2007 at 4:32:00 PM EDT, Blogger Neil Harris said...

ASJ: Perfecting Shalom Bayis can drive one NUTS, but it's well worth it. I almost made pecan pie this year. It will wait until Sukkos!

At September 11, 2007 at 7:59:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Sefer Pninei HaChassidus L'Yemei Elul U'Rosh Hashana relates that the Kotzker Rebbe once spoke about the chumra not to eat nuts because they shared the gematria of sin. He said that if indeed this correct that nut (egoz) is the gematria sin (chait), then a person also needs to remember that sin (chait) is also the gematria of sin (chait).

It appears that the Kotzker Rebbe is saying that it is ok not to eat nuts on Rosh Hashana, however the primary emphasis should be on avoiding sin, not avoiding nuts.

The Kotzker Rebbe's comment also seems to be in line with a teaching by the Shelah. The Shelah said that placing to much emphasis on eating food that have names that seem to indicate good fortune is futile. What is important, he said, is to remember that they only provide us an opportunity to say Yehi Ratzon and daven to Hashem for important things in the new year.

At September 15, 2007 at 11:32:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Egoz actually means walnut, so let us not include all the other types of nuts. Almond is shaked in hebrew and who knows what kind of gematria one can concoct with that.

At September 16, 2007 at 12:33:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

As a follow-up to my earlier comments. We ended up having plenty of food so we did not eat the pecan kugel and will save it for the future.


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