New York – The seventh and final day of Sukkot that falls tonight is called Hoshana Rabbah which comes ten days after Yom Kippur and shares some traditions with the Day of Atonement. The chazzan wears white and chants prayers using Yom Kippur tunes.
Many people eat Kreplach triangular pockets of dough with meat or other stuffing, without knowing why. After all, it is a tradition, and a tasty one at that. So why ask questions?
It is time, however, to unwrap the Kreplach mystery.
To find the first clue we need to map and link the data of Kreplach consumption. Tradition has it that this traditional food is eaten on three occasions: On the day before Yom Kippur, on Hoshanah Rabbah, and on Purim.
Take a peak inside:
A look into the common denominator in these three holidays will reveal the Kreplach secret.
Each of these occasions is somewhat of a holiday. In other words, it is a holiday, but only somewhat. For example:
Generally speaking Jewish holidays originate in the Torah. The Torah commands us to refrain from work and be joyous on holidays. The Talmud explains that one aspect of physical celebration is consumption of meat (and wine). Thus the visible indicator of a holy-day is abstention from work, and the hallmark of the festive meal is meat.
On these three particular non-biblical holidays general work restrictions of holidays don’t apply, there is no biblical command to celebrate with a festive meal, and the holiday’s origins are not explicit. Outwardly, it may appear as an ordinary day.
Yet inwardly we know it is a holiday and are celebrating accordingly. So we have a festive meal. One in which the meat, the holiday symbol, is served, but concealed within a dough.
Meat of the issue:
Upon further analysis we will find an additional staple common in these three holidays:
Each celebrates a time when judgment could be served, but mercy and compassion are awakened. The severity of judgment also lurks about on these days, as indicative in the fact that on each of these occasions we deliver some form of harsh blow.
On Yom Kippur we are judged, and we do Kaparot. Hoshanah Rabbah is the final day of verdict of the High Holiday season, and it is the day when we strike the ground with the willow branches. On Purim the existence of the entire Jewish people was threatened, and the entire congregations stamps and bangs when Haman’s name is heard.
Kabbalistically, bread, which sustains man without inflicting harm to others, represents the divine attribute of kindness: good that’s good throughout. Meat, which provides life to man but only through the deprivation of life to an animal, represents the divine attribute of severity: good that comes with a high price.
On these auspicious days we cover the meat in dough, which reminds us to pray that compassion should sugarcoat all judgments.