Here's a story I want to share.
Honestly, I’ve been baking challah for close to four years—to rave reviews and almost embarrassing oohs and ahhs at the Shabbos table. But you know me—I love every minute of it.
One time, I don't know what happened, my challah lacked texture and shape. It was a bumpy, lumpy messy blob; ballooning at astronomical speed, then falling out of shape, falling all over itself and completely breaking apart. They say that yeast is alive, but this was going beyond, into the unknown. The thing was living, breathing, multiplying—and mad at me. My heart sank watching it succumb to itself and I was powerless to stop nature. My eyes brimmed with tears...
I had done everything right.
I measured, added the ingredients in the right order, and prayed for my family, my friends, for world peace and for my challah. It's not a joke when I tell you I do whisper a little prayer for my food to be delicious, to honor the Shabbos and to bring home its warmth and beauty through all of our senses.
This particular Friday, I got up way too early with my kids, earlier than I care to announce, threw an apron over my pajamas, and started my day—which consisted of nonstop conference calls, emails, writing, spreadsheets and Shabbos cooking. I was literally running in my fuzzy pink slippers back and forth between my home office and home—from the computer to my kitchen—balancing working and cooking, while my kids played and fought, danced and screamed.
When the Challah from Beyond made its bloated appearance, I frantically called my friend Anita. I tearfully moaned that my challah was overflowing, and in a flash, she said, “It's a siman, a sign! It’s a Rosh Hashanah blessing!” I said “AMEN!”—and with that, a new siman was born: May it be G-d's will that my overflowing challahs represent overflowing health, happiness and prosperity for all of us this coming year!
It’s a good thing I called Anita, because when I told my other friends about it, they just shrugged, “better luck next time,” or “hey, it happens to all of us." They’re right, of course; it does happen to all of us. But at this time of the year, I’m glad it was me, because it’s a good sign!
That leads me to all the signs/simanim of Rosh Hashanah. The list of simanim seems to be getting longer each year. I guess ‘cause for me it all started with apples and honey, never having heard of a simanim seder until I graduated to an observant lifestyle.
Simanin (literally signs or indicators) are foods that we eat on Rosh Hashanah to symbolize our hopes for the coming year. I like to work simanim into my Rosh Hashanah recipes for the added blessing, sweetness, and mazal they represent.
Now known as the Rosh Hashanah seder, the seder is a “program” run through at the start of a Rosh Hashanah meal, where we partake of a series of symbolic foods (the simanim), each followed by a specific blessing.
In addition to the seder, challenge yourself and see how many simanim you can work into your menu.
Here's one of my favorite simanmin menus where each recipe can be prepped in 7 minutes or less.
It's a delectable way to energize new beginnings!
Wishing you the happiest, sweetest, most JOYous new year—always and forever.