By Hannah Reich Berman
“Shehecheyanu” is a blessing that celebrates special occasions. We Jews say it when we are thankful for new and unusual experiences. It comes from the Talmud, and we have been reciting it for nearly 2,000 years. We invoke this blessing whenever we are doing something for the first time that year, such as the first lighting of the Chanukah candles, reading the Megillah on Purim, and waving the lulav and esrog on the first day of Sukkos. In addition, when one eats a seasonal fruit or vegetable for the first time, this special blessing is recited.
But some folks have a tendency to use the prayer more often and with regard to things for which it was not exactly intended. This isn’t meant to be disrespectful. It is just the way it is!
Recently, my grandson taught me how to play a frustrating game, played on an iPhone, called Candy Crush. It can raise the blood pressure! I take full responsibility for the situation, since it was not offered to me; I asked to be taught. “Sure, Savta, it’s simple. I’ll just get the app for it and set it up for you,” said my grandson. My response was, “App, schmapp, just teach me how to do it.”
I wanted to learn to play because I was curious about it and because I thought it might be nice to become a full-fledged member of the Swipers Club. The Swipers Club is how I refer to the millions of people who sit with their heads bent, ignoring the world around them as they move their fingers at 90 miles an hour across their iPhone screens. I just wanted to belong! And, as of the last three weeks, I do.
I learned that playing Candy Crush is a great way to occupy my time when I’m stuck in a doctor’s waiting room and have no interest in any of the magazines there. The game also comes in handy if I find myself waiting for a friend who is late for a lunch date. It beats drumming fingers on the tabletop or staring at other patrons, and it is a far more sophisticated way to use a phone than to call someone for the sole purpose of killing time. What would I say to the person that I called when my friend finally arrives? “Thanks for keeping me company while I was sitting here with nothing to do, but now that my lunch date has arrived I no longer need you, so I am going to hang up.” Not a great way to conclude a conversation!
So using my phone to play a game is a better way to keep busy. And playing is where some of my extraneous Shehechayanus come in. I make one each time I successfully complete a “level” after having been stuck on it for a few hours. Who am I kidding? There have been times when I have been stuck on one level for days! I am so embarrassingly bad at this game that I will not reveal which level has me stumped at the moment.
On Rosh Hashanah, along with everyone else at the table, I made a Shehecheyanu over a weird new fruit that my daughter served. I had never seen it before and the name of it escapes me at the moment, but it is not important to remember what it is called. I will recognize it if I should happen to see it anywhere, and I don’t ever intend to eat it again. It was that bad!
The odd thing was that this was actually my second recent Shehecheyanu over food. A week before the holiday began, I had made the first one over cabbage. I did that for a different reason, as this Shehecheyanu wasn’t about eating the cabbage. I invoked the blessing (actually, I mumbled it to myself in the privacy of my kitchen) because, for the first time in memory, I had exactly the right amount of cabbage. Or maybe it was that I had exactly the right amount of chopped meat. When I had finished rolling the cabbage leaves, not a drop of meat remained in the bowl, and there wasn’t a single extra leaf left hanging around. This was a first for me, and it called for a Shehecheyanu.
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Hopefully, Rosh Hashanah was a wonderful and spiritual experience for all and the Yom Kippur fast was kind to you. I hope it is not too late to say g’mar chasimah tovah. As we all do, I wish for good things for the coming year, but, in addition to the ones that really matter, I have a side wish. It is somewhat frivolous and I won’t know if it has been granted until exactly a year from now. My wish is that next year, all those people who sit near me in shul will use the Machzorim that the shul provides for us.
Some people eschew the ones provided by the shul and bring their own personal Machzorim instead. These are usually small, have a blue cover, and are often engraved with the name of the owner. They are lovely, but there is a problem every now and then. It happens when one loses her concentration (it does happen) and when the davening takes us back to previous pages in the Machzor. There may be an announcement that “we are now on page such and such,” but that does these people no good at all, because the announcement about which page to turn to refers to the shul’s Machzor.
On Rosh Hashanah, a woman who was standing in front of me turned around, handed her Machzor to me, and asked the dreaded three words: “Where are we?” I knew where I was, because I use the shul Machzor, but I couldn’t take the time to find the place in hers. Stumped, I did the sensible thing: I referred her to the two people standing on either side of me.
Unfortunately, neither of them was able to help, either. But in the end I saved the day, by advising her to go get a shul Machzor. It’s nice to carry a small, personalized Machzor, but my wish is that next year, just to play it safe, these people will also grab the larger, maroon-covered shul Machzor on the way into the shul. That way, when we are asked, the rest of us won’t have to suffer the embarrassment of admitting that we can’t help. That’s the way it is.
Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and is a licensed real-estate broker associated with Marjorie Hausman Realty. She can be reached at Savtahannah@aol.com or 516-902-3733.
By Hannah Reich Berman