Rachel Sharansky Danziger

The simanim that I’ll serve

What it means to craft personal symbolic tokens of longing and worry and hope for the coming year

It rained tonight, and I walked out to breathe the changing air.

The heat lost its edge, somehow. The temperature remained unaltered, but one can smile now, and smell the earth, and feel invigorated. The lethargy we experienced is broken; it’s undone.

I walked outside within these hoped-for changes, and thought of the beginning of the world.

Adam (the second Adam, the one who was created into an incomplete world, the one who knew loneliness before welcoming Eve,) woke up into a parched world, devoid of greenery. He prayed, he tilled the land, and rain had come.

Rain, and in its wake, the possibility of life.

(The first Adam woke up into completeness. How sad, I thought as I walked out tonight. How sad never to be lonely, never to need anything or anyone, truly need it, before it is found.)

(I saw the changing leaves, thin and fine, moving in the breeze tonight. They answered something deep within me, a hunger I can’t put in words.)

Sometimes, we think we know the answers to our questions and the solutions for our needs. We think they lie within our grasp, like a product in a store.

Walk down the Aisle of Quick Fixes, check out the Shelf of Perfect Fits. And there, on display, is what you were looking for. Here it is, forever available, and would you like it wrapped for you, ma’am?

But when we value our questions so cheaply, when we think we can answer and discard them so quickly, when we pick up solutions before allowing the problems time to brew within our minds… When we do that, we quickly quench that longing that could inspire us to seek some greater truth beyond ourselves. We undo it before it has the time to help us grow.

There is no quest if the answer is on hand from the beginning.

(There can’t be rain, or true companionship, if Adam’s world isn’t first empty, lonely, dry.)

* * *

Tonight, I walked into the changing world, and thought of longing.

What is it that I long for? What is it that I truly crave?

Soon, we will walk into the new year and the sweet sense of new beginnings, and we will place tokens of longing on our plates.

Apples and honey, for we long for sweetness, and for joy.

A fish’s head, for when it comes to our values and dreams we long to forge our own path, and not be the tail to someone else’s trends.

Dates, for we hope that all our enmities and troubles will be over, and the Hebrew word for date (‘tamar’) reminds us of the word yitamu — “shall be at an end.”

And pomegranates, for we long to do many good deeds, as many as we can, as many as the glistening red seeds that will spill onto our plates out of each fruit.

But these are all prescribed tokens; other generations crafted them out of their longing and worries and hopes.

We didn’t choose them to express our own states of yearning.

We didn’t choose them to symbolize that which we want.

Can they truly capture that which preys upon our minds? Can they truly capture the urgency with which one truly longs, that overwhelming presence of a parched, empty space?

Can they inspire us to dwell in longing, and allow ourselves to seek, and try, and grow?

This week, I want to dwell in longing. I want to let my yearning open doors and paths within my soul.

And so, this year, I will place new tokens on my table, and assign new meanings to the simanim of old.

I will serve carrots, because I long to go on caring, and not be jaded by the world.

I will serve oranges, because I long to expand the range of “ohr,” light, that I spread.

I will serve beets, because I long to stay true to my own inner beat as I do so, and dance to it even when bigger trends and social pressure try to snare me in their tides.

I will serve apples, because I long to use my apps without letting them control me, and I long to live a life that’s not enslaved by screens. I long for so many things, and pray not to fall far from the tree of my expectations from myself. But I also pray that if I do, I will be apt to learn from the experience and to apply these lessons going forth. (But oh, may I find far more opportunities, ample opportunities, to learn from positive experiences, instead!)

And I will serve honey, because I long to hone my words before I type/fling them. It’s easy to forget in the heat of an argument, but I long to spread sweetness, and not vitriol, in the world.

* * *

Tonight, I walked into a world awash with rain and answered prayers.

(Answered longing.)

And I thought of beginnings and the new coming year.

I will allow myself to long this week, to truly feel my yearning.

And then I’ll pray, and work, and till the empty space.

About the Author
Rachel is a Jerusalem-born writer and educator who's in love with her city's vibrant human scene. She writes about Judaism, history, and life in Israel for the Times of Israel and other online venues, and explores storytelling in the Hebrew bible as a teacher in Maayan, Torah in Motion, and Matan.
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