“Even a new pair of pantyhose” was the advice.
A new item of clothing: socks, pantyhose, stockings, a pair of shoes, a dress, a skirt, a blouse, a hair ornament — no matter, but something new (not borrowed or necessarily blue) was a tradition to mark the new year.
That advice was from Mrs. Pinter, our Hebrew school teacher, who shepherded us to Hebrew school graduation. Mrs. Pinter was a buoyant, bespectacled woman, who wore a chestnut bouffant sheitel, a signature skirt suit, wine-colored lipstick, and a perpetual smile when she wasn’t exhorting our class of bat mitzvah-aged girls to sing with spirit while conducting us in commencement practice. She was so serious and driven during those sessions, gesticulating like a maestro with the vigor of a woman half her age. You would think that our graduation was going to take place at Avery Fisher Hall, and not in the main sanctuary of our Brooklyn synagogue.
Now when I get dressed for shul on Rosh Hashanah, I make sure at least to have a new pair of pantyhose.
I also remember the teiglach, the honey cake, and the kreplach.
My mother was not a baker, so the teiglach, the mound of honeyed knotted dough balls mixed with nuts and fruit, and the honey cake, amber and dense, which ended our Rosh Hashanah meals on a sweet note, were purchased at the bakery.
But the kreplach, the doughy pockets filled with meat and onions that floated in our golden chicken soup, were homemade. I remember the time- and labor-consuming process of preparing the meat, as my mother would mince the meat in a hand grinder that she fastened onto the end of the kitchen table. I helped to make the dough, which she rolled out, cut into perfect circles, filled with the meat mixture, folded and sealed, and then froze until they would be cooked for our meal.
Nothing tasted as good in the chicken soup as my mother’s kreplach. The kreplach appeared only once a year, and I knew that it was Rosh Hashanah.
Tashlich, or the symbolic casting of bread upon the water, is also a sweet memory. Of course now we enjoy going to the river here, but I remember when I was growing up there was one family in the neighborhood that opened their home to the whole community.
They had a backyard that fronted the water. Going to that neighborhood tashlich was convenient and social. After performing the tashlich ritual, at this event you could eat some more (as if our meals were not enough!). The family set up their backyard with a an array of decadent desserts and treats galore, Viennese Table-style. So it became a tashlich party!
I have fond memories of those new year tashlich stops.
And now, just in time for Rosh Hashanah, there is a wonderful new addition.
My “baby” brother Ron and sister-in-law Meryl just became first-time grandparents. Their firstborn, Yitzy, and his wife, Leah, graced and honored an indelible memory at the bris by naming their firstborn, Michoel Yechiel, after our father, Michael, of blessed memory.
May the newest member of our family be blessed with all the good character traits of our beloved father, whose name he bears. May Michoel Yechiel grow in his own wonderful way, and be blessed with a life filled with only goodness and sweetness.
And as 5777 soon begins, may we all be granted good things, and a year filled with peace, health, and blessings.
L’shanah tovah u’metukah