May 23, 2024
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May 23, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

The Aseret Yemei Teshuvah is a serious time, and we do a lot of things in all seriousness.

But in all seriousness, it’s sometimes difficult for your kids to tell which things are minhagim and which you just happen to do. So you should really take the time to talk to your kids about it. Sooner than later, especially if your minhag is not to talk on Yom Kippur.

Here are some things that my kids probably think are our family minhagim:

• We have a minhag to polish our silver before Yom Tov, because Rosh Hashanah is the time to polish your silver. Metaphorically. But also physically.

• We have a minhag, once we’re paying for seats, to be very conservative over which of our kids will actually sit for all of davening. (“Nah, he doesn’t need his own seat. He’ll just sit in mine and I’ll stand over him. He’s only here for the parts I need to stand for anyway.”)

• I have a minhag to wonder why I have to buy seats for Yom Kippur, when on Tisha B’Av I can just bring my own.

• My students have a minhag to ask me for mechilah, because in the five days of school we’ve had so far, they’ve done so much to me that mechilah is really their only option.

I have a minhag that my Hataras Nedarim group somehow ends up being the one with six guys.

• We have a minhag to come home on Rosh Hashanah night and entirely butcher saying “L’Shana Tova” to the women and toddlers, making it obvious that we have no idea of how Hebrew grammar works (“L’Shana Tova Tikasavna…Nu?…No?”) while the women all laugh, because they all took dikduk in school and we never make them butcher a Gemara in front of us. We should probably look in the machzor, because the most polite way to say, “Have a good year,” is with our nose in a sefer.

• My kids have a minhag on the first night of Rosh Hashanah to say things like, “I’m starving; I haven’t eaten all year!” “You smell like you haven’t showered since last year!” “This food tastes like it was made last year!”

• I have a minhag to have no idea how to cut a round challah. Do I cut it like a pie? Do I cut it like a normal challah so that some people get a huuuuuuge slice? There is no good way. I think I’m supposed to cut it horizontally like a bagel, put some honey in the middle, and let everyone else cut their own challos.

• We have a minhag to leave bits of challah in the honey so it’s less appealing for subsequent meals.

• We have a minhag to eat every siman in the machzor, including several with the same Yehi Ratzon. We have a minhag, as we eat the date, to tease someone at the table about shidduchim.

• We have the minhag to try cooking the fish head in all different kinds of sauces and brines, and the fish head has a minhag to always taste the same, regardless.

• We have a minhag to make way too many black-eyed peas. (Tip: The proper number of black-eyed peas is one pea per person per meal.)

• I have a minhag to put a piece of carrot over the fish eye so he’s not looking at me.

• We have a minhag that, by the time we finish eating the simanim, we have no room for the rest of the meal.

• We have a minhag to look at the clock as we finish davening, because we just know people are going to ask.

• I have a minhag to take a nap on Yom Kippur during the break, despite the fact that I feel worse when I wake up than I did before I went to sleep. I think it’s the nap.

• I have a minhag to encourage my kids to say the paragraphs in the machzor that have bigger fonts. I personally have no idea which to pick and choose, but the typesetter probably knew what he was doing.

• We have a minhag, when the chazan sings really long, to count how many pages are left.

• My minhag is to forget that we say Baruch Sheim out loud on Yom Kippur until the entire tzibur launches into it when I’m well into V’ahavta.

• I have a minhag every year to be mekabel that I’m going to start davening with the proper kavana. Then I think, “Just because I have time to daven with proper kavana today, when the chazan is singing, doesn’t mean that I’m going to have this kind of kavana on work days.” And I go back and forth about it, and then I realize that the chazan has done like six pages without me.

• I have a minhag, when I’m saying that paragraph before shofar blowing that I have to say seven times, that I secretly use my fingers to keep track.

• My shul has a minhag to give out paper towels for Va’anachnu Kor’im. And to save them from year to year.

• I have a minhag to look up after tashlich and realize I have no idea where any of my kids are.

• We have a minhag to not be sure the second night whether we’re also supposed to do simanim, or just the new fruit.

• I have a minhag to define “new fruit” every year as “a fruit that we have never eaten ever in our entire lives,” and to come home with something before Yom Tov that we cannot eat without first printing out instructions.

• We have a minhag that, in addition to whatever weird new fruit I buy, we also eat star fruit.

• I have a minhag—seeing as experts recommend that we drink eight cups of water every day—to drink 16 cups right before Yom Kippur.

• We have a minhag to break our Tzom Gedaliah fast on leftovers from Yom Tov. (“Black-eyed peas and fish head? No thanks. I think I’ll fast another day.”)


Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia and other magazines. He also has six books out and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].

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