Each year on the second night of Rosh Hashanah we bring to the table a plated assortment of exotic fruits, unusual hard-to-get or little-eaten fruits from around the world. Often to find them locally we have to go to the Asian Store or Indian Market. Most of these aren’t anyone’s favorite, but they are a taste of something different, and fulfill the custom enabling us to say the “Shehchiyanu” blessing on the second night of Rosh Hashanah as well.
The search for these fruits, can be a subtle reminder of how plentiful and well-stocked our average ordinary produce markets are today. After all, we can buy tomatoes any day of the year in any Albany supermarket, even though their local growing season is perhaps a quarter or fifth of the year, maybe less. Thanks to a vast logistical network and climate controlled shipping, fruits can and do come in from hundreds and thousands of miles, even crossing oceans.
Look, we take year-round tomato availability for granted. But it is no simple matter. The Talmud describes the vast wealth of King Solomon as “one who had fruits at his table that were out of season”. In those days it was a tall order, indeed, which today feels perfectly normal. All it takes in some disruption in certain areas of the supply chain for us to grow agitated and frustrated at the (usually temporary) unavailability of something we’ve become accustomed to and reliant upon.
Sitting at a Rosh Hashanah table with an abundance of these new exotic fruits (and the awareness of the marvel of having all the basic fruits at our everyday fingertips) can help us realize the great blessings of availability and accessibility of our times. And not only with physical things like fruits but also with spiritual matters like our Judaism and Torah study.
Judaism has never been as accessible as it is today. Jews can live virtually anywhere on the globe and still have access to Jewish knowledge and learning, and connection to community. Such access was unheard of prior to today’s technology. There’s such a wealth of resources online, for Jewish learning and daily study, videos and podcasts, Jewish music and more! You can even find a distant Torah study partner on JNet.org – and so much more!
And not only via remote tech, but in-person, too! The Rebbe’s mission of creating (some degree) of Jewish community wherever Jews can be found, is becoming more and more fulfilled in our time, with vibrant active Chabad Houses being established and growing in distant places or small communities, or on college campuses with much less Jews than would statistically allow a center to thrive.
The title for this piece was added by my father, Rabbi Israel Rubin. He pointed out that New (in English) has the same phonetic sound as “Nu?” the Yiddish nudge, demanding & coaxing question, an imperative, an urgent encouraging call. Indeed, the new fruits tell us: Nu? Why not take (more) advantage of all these plentiful resources we have!