Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Guest Posting By Michoel - Tikkun Yuck

There is an old minhag to have a rosh keves (ram's head) on the table on the first night of Rosh Hashana and to say the yehi ratzon when we eat from it. In the US, the very prevalent minhag is to be yotzei with a fish head, for those that even do all the simanim. I was surprised to hear recently from a friend that the only siman he does is the tapuach with d’vash and he says that he thinks most people do only that. Feh! We go all out. My wife was m’chadesh a few recipes that she only makes Rosh Hashana for the purpose of saying yehi ratzon’s on them and we say them with hislavus.

Anyway, the highlight of our tish is a Rosh Keves. I started buying one soon after we had children. My original impetus was simply that I wanted to keep the minhag in the most authentic way. Being a baal t’shuvah, I didn’t really have a mesora one way or the other so we took on this minhag (bli neder). But another kavana in buying it is what I call Tikkun Yuck. (it has nothing to do with Rebbi Nachman zt”l). Tikkun Yuck has to do with purging “Yuck” from my kids (and my own) personalities. Yuck is an American musag that I consider antithetical to true Yiddishkeit. We don’t kasher beef, we don’t work the land, we don’t even see blood on chickens that often. We sit in front of our PC screens and live highly sanitized lives. I consider it spiritually unhealthful. We should be in touch with ourselves and the world around us. We shouldn’t be so terrified of getting dirty and doing hard physical work. There is something about seeing the head of an animal sitting there on the table, with empty eye sockets, buck teeth, skull showing and gooey membranes that stretch out when you pull off a piece with your fork, that helps straighten out a person’s thinking.

There is another aspect of modern America that I am trying to fix in my kids. It is the perverted idea that killing animals for food is not nice. What shtus! And this ties into all the other nicey-nice wacky hashkafos that leak into the frum community. I want to get across to my kids and myself that we need not be so hypersensitive. We need to live with a little azus d’k’dusha. Animals are here for us to use al pi Torah. An Ish is an Ish, A Yid is a Yid, v’chulu, v’chulu. I don’t want my kids to be wimpy Jews. And the severed head of an animal, something that was commonplace in earlier times, helps to knock out some of that hypersensitivity.

In days before Yom Tov, our very frum block becomes something of a carnival. One family with a fig tree has their kids running around giving all the neighbors fresh figs to make a she’hechiaynu on, wives borrowing last minute cooking items from each other, some people beginning to put up their succos. So in the middle of all this, our rosh keves has become one of the central “tourist attractions”. Kids from the block know that they can come in and chop a peek at “the head”.

So far I am not certain that my tikkun yuck is actually accomplishing what I intended. My kids seem more or less on the same level in these inyanim as their friends. I am not even sure that it is accomplishing what I want in myself and my wife. But one thing I do know for sure. It’s geshmack.

A chasiva v’chasima tova by the blog owner, readership and all the Yidden.


At September 15, 2009 at 11:26:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

do you cook the head? hows does it work?

At September 15, 2009 at 11:53:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Michoel said...

Yes, you need to boil the head at length before you cook it. That ensures that it is completely sanitized. I think my wife boils it for 4 hours with some seasoning and then bakes it. There is not much meat on it. The toungue is like cow tongue.

At September 15, 2009 at 12:18:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's the halacha? Are we obligated to put some kind of a head on the table? Does the halacha say that one kind of head is preferable to another?

At September 15, 2009 at 12:24:00 PM EDT, Blogger yaak said...

Kol Hakavod.

I heard once that an Ashkenazi girl who was engaged to a Sephardi boy broke off the engagement after seeing Rosh Keves on the boy's parents' table on Rosh Hashana night.

If only she had read this post earlier...

At September 15, 2009 at 12:25:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Michoel said...

I am not a Rav but it seems that there is no chiyuv to put any kind of head on the table. It is a minhag yisroel. the ikkar is a person's kavana and to act like a Rosh and not a zanav.

At September 15, 2009 at 12:29:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Michoel said...

Hello Yak,
a gut yur. If my wife would have seen this post before we were married, (ie before she was stuck with me) I don't know if she would have agreed!. Now, since she had a few years to acclimated to my stick, she even cooks it for me.

At September 15, 2009 at 12:30:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Michoel said...

should say to acclimate to my shtick, as in frumkeit

At September 15, 2009 at 12:36:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Michoel. Kol Hakavod to your Rebbetsin!

At September 15, 2009 at 2:03:00 PM EDT, Blogger Yosef said...

"So far I am not certain that my tikkun yuck is actually accomplishing what I intended. My kids seem more or less on the same level in these inyanim as their friends. I am not even sure that it is accomplishing what I want in myself and my wife. But one thing I do know for sure. It’s geshmack."
This is the best paragraph ever.

At September 15, 2009 at 3:49:00 PM EDT, Blogger Mottel said...

Minhag chabad is to only say the yehi ratzon on the tapuach. Pomegranate and a head were also present on the table of the Rebbe - though I can't recall if it was fish or rams head.

At September 15, 2009 at 5:14:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

While chesed is a basic value in Judaism, there is no commandment to be a tough guy and not a wimp. Meat is permitted, but it is not required, and if the sight of animal blood or heads makes someone squeamish, especially if it's out of compassion for the animal, then I'm not so sure that's a bad thing. I assume that the reason meat will not be consumed in the Messianic age is that people will be on a higher level of chesed and overall morality, so why wouldn't such impulses be praiseworthy now? Of course, people need to understand that it's not inherently wrong to kill animals, since it's permitted to do so humanely according to Torah law. But children naturally are sensitive and love animals, and when they get older they will understand.

I agree with you that people should not be afraid of real, physical, dirty work. But this does not mean that children need to be comfortable with an animal head on their dinner table. I would prefer teaching my kids how to garden, fix their bikes, or even defend themselves with krav maga.

Seriously, and this is not meant as a criticism, but this post should come with a glossary! Not all of ASJ's readers are fluent in Hebrew and Yiddish.

At September 15, 2009 at 9:14:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What do you mean by "all the other nicey-nice wacky hashkafos that leak into the frum community"? Can you give some examples?

Word verification word: sntive! (spells sensitive, with three letters removed).

At September 16, 2009 at 9:23:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Michoel said...

To Anonymous of 5:14:00,
You make some good points. I really was intending the post to be a bit toung in cheek and light, and was not aiming to start a overly deep discussion. But since you raised some valid questions, I would like to breifly address them. Please do not take offense, especially right before Rosh Hashana.

"While chesed is a basic value in Judaism, there is no commandment to be a tough guy and not a wimp."

There is a mitzvah of v'halachta b'drachav. And while the simple and common understanding is "ma hu rachum, af ata t'hey rachum etc" it also means that we should follow ALL of Hashem's middos (kaviyochal). That means Oz (Boldness), and Emes (truth), and G'vora (strength) and Din (Justice). There is a mitzvah in the Torah of "biarta hara mikirbecha" ie killing a person that saduces others to idol worship. Actual killing! And the mitzvah is to do it on the Regel so the most possible people can see it and gain yiras shamayim from the sight of a sinner being killed.

I agree with you that sensitivity is a very positive thing. But I feel there needs to be a bit more balance.

You mention that in the times of Moshiach there will not be consumption of meat. I know Rav Kook rights about this but I don't think it is muscam (agreed upon) by everyone. We declare by the seder every year with great feeling "v'sham nochal min hazvachim on min haP'sachim" ie we can't wait until the beis hamikdosh is rebuilt so we can eat korbanos.

Amol, the sight of slaughtered animals, blood, severed parts etc, was routine. And going to the beis hamikdosh to see the avodah was the hight of inspiration.

A gut yur to everyone and we should all find the inspiration that speaks to us and helps us to fix what we each need to fix.

At September 16, 2009 at 9:34:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Michoel said...

To anonymous of 9:14,
An example of a hashkafah that I would say has seeped in is a degrading of the idea of "Am Segulah" (Klal Yisroel being the Chosen Nation) and the appropriate pride in Jews, Judaism and historic Jewish hanhaga (conduct).

At September 16, 2009 at 11:32:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for your replies, Michoel. I definitely see what you're saying, and thanks for your points on v'halachta b'drachav and the sight of the sacrifices. You're right that there are many commandments to kill people for certain transgressions, but I'm not sure whether such commandments were ever carried out (and I would assume they can't be today), since with all the halachic requirements to carry out the death penalty, it's almost impossible to do so.

On the Rav Kook issue, as noted by a commenter on an earlier thread, Rabbi Tzvi Israel Tau explained that "There will be two stages within the messianic age, and Rav Kook taught that in the first stage, the animal offerings will be renewed, but in the second stage, the offerings will be vegetarian." Perhaps the same thing applies to meat consumption.

Thanks for your post, and Shanah Tovah!

At September 16, 2009 at 4:00:00 PM EDT, Anonymous schneur said...

Its not a mizva to shecht animals.
If you are on amedrega to eat animals you can do so. The Tora permits us to eat meat, I fail to see a Mitzva eseh to eat it. It may be recommended to eat meat on Yonyev and Shabbes but if your simcha is eating a veggie burger thats fine too.
Shochetim in Chassidic literature get a mixed review. The Belzer rov once pointed to ravens on the roof of the shul in Belz and said those are shochetim in their previous lives.There are many even worse stories in Divre yemei HaChassidim about shochetim and their tempers and their need to control their true anger by channeling it into a Tora manner of killing. There is no Mitzva to be a veggie either. There is a mitzva to observe the Tore and eat kosher meat.
Many chashuve Yidden ate little or no meat like the Nazir, The RAZAH of lubavitch, Rav Isaac Kaduri, Kaminetzer maggid and many others.

At September 16, 2009 at 4:38:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Michoel said...

R' Schneur,
I agree with you. The ikkar is balance. People can have different legitimate understandings of where the balance lies. Rav Eliezer Yudel Finkel also ate no meat after the churban Europe. But I don't think they did it because of "animal rights". Mistama it was a sensitivity in their hanhaga about k'dusha and prishus.

At September 16, 2009 at 9:42:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry for the lengthy quotation, but this is quote from Rebbe Nachman (Likutei Eitzot, Money and Livelihood) is relevant to shneur's comment:

"The main reason for the economic hardships which have hit the Jewish people in recent generations is that many of the shochetim, the ritual slaughterers, have not been worthy. The
blessing which a worthy shochet makes at the time of slaughtering is a powerful influence on the
livelihood of the whole Jewish people. The blessing elevates the living soul which was
incarnated in the animal. But there are shochetim who fail to concentrate properly on the
meaning of the blessing and harbor improper thoughts. A shochet like this, standing with the
knife raised ready to slaughter the animal, is no better than a murderer. What pain this living soul
experiences at this moment. She cries with a bitter wail, because the blessing this shochet makes
will do nothing to elevate her from her incarnation. On the contrary, she will be cast down even
lower than before and she will have `no rest for the sole of her foot' (Genesis 7:8). Woe to such a
shochet! Woe to the soul he has killed and given over to the hands of her enemies. The result is
that people's livelihood is hit, and the little that is available can only be acquired with great toil
and exertion. Shochetim like these cause the soul to be enslaved by the materialism of the body,
and physical lusts and desires gain strength. When the shochetim are worthy the soul is elevated
and the grossness of the body is crushed and humbled. The body is the seat of animality, folly,
darkness and death, forgetfulness, harsh justice and alien ideologies. In their place, soul and form
are elevated. These are the roots of all that is truly noble in man -- understanding, light, life,
memory, lovingkindness... in short, the wisdom of Torah. Through them the world is blessed
with abundance and prosperity."

The message from this is that it is extremely important that slaughterers be worthy. Interestingly, in the increasingly widespread "locavore" movement in the U.S., there is a great emphasis on getting to know the people you buy your food from, so you know things were done ecologically and humanely. Maybe we need something analogous for slaughterers, to make sure we're only getting meat from slaughterers who are really elevating the souls of the animals. Of course, when you can't be sure, vegetarianism would seem a reasonable response.

At September 16, 2009 at 9:56:00 PM EDT, Blogger Mottel said...

-schneur: The problem lies more in the fact that most who don't eat meat do so out of foreign or even anri-torah agendas

At September 17, 2009 at 10:17:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Michoel said...

Mottel's point is really what I am trying to drive at. But I need to state something publicly. I showed this article to a chashuveh yid I know, a chasidish yid and a talmid chacham who also happens to have a rosh keves and does lots of simanim with hislavus. He told me an important insight. The kavana should be that is a minhag Yisroel mentioned in Shas, so we do it. M'meilah the kids see that we are not ashamed to do even something that others might perceive as "gross" if that is what the mitzvah or minhag requires. But it should not be done with an "over-kavana", which could come across as put on or gaavah.

At September 18, 2009 at 5:34:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Rabbi Y.Y. Bar Chaiim said...

I enjoyed the cadence, candidness and sincerity of your post. And I suppose there was something in your avoida to share avoida with your kids that hits a kindred note (see previous post). But if I may take a stab at deciphering the heavenly input that drove you to share this, I see a few different points:

1)to counter the kneejerk judmentalisim that many kids have about things different
2)to neutralize the particular aversion to things "gross", in light of the American tendency to fixate on sanitizing the world
3) to demonstrate your felicity to Minhag Yisroel, EVEN when…
4)to model hislahavus for even the simple things in Yiddishkeit. (This is, after all, a giant means for getting into our bones the Emuna that H' has providence over EVERYthing).

To all this I would add a fifth point. You can sidestep any worry of over-kavana-ing by REALLY MEANING the Yehi Ratzons. Really believe that these words and the spirit you imbue them with are drawing down brochas for the entire year. If we can get to that deeply simple place, how can we NOT say them with an infectious joy that will undoubtedly affect the kids?

Davka, you can see this truth in the Vort about that passuk which so powerfully sums up Elul: U'Mal H' Es Levav'cha V'es Levav zarei'cha (E.L.U.L.):

U'Mal = when H' inspires you with an insight (a divine "word"),

Es = make sure to share it (ES means "with", says M'or Einaym on U'Maltem ES levavchem)

Levav'cha v'es levav zarei'cha = convey that word in such a heartfelt way that it reaches your progeny!!


At September 24, 2009 at 9:12:00 AM EDT, Anonymous yehudis said...

Hysterical! A well-known Sephardic Rav lives downstairs from us, and every year I have the pleasure of smelling the singed hairs of the ram's head as his Rabbanit prepares it. Not my minhag, but let the Jewish people in all its beautiful variety shine on!


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