Where’s the Chocolate This Rosh Hashanah?

Thanks to Rabbi Debbie Prinz for this guest post.  Rabbi Prinz is currently researching Jews’ historical and contemporary connections to the chocolate industry.  Find more about her work at Jews on the Chocolate Trail.

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A serious chocolate lover has to wonder why Judaism today has neither serious ritual celebrations nor customs using good chocolate, especially at Rosh Hashanah when we emphasize the sweetness we anticipate and long for in the coming New Year. On Rosh Hashanah, we greet each other with the phrase, Shanah Tovah u’Metukah! “a good and sweet year.” We taste this sweetness through the apples and honey we eat, through the raisins we add to the customary round challah, through the honey cake we bake, or through the taiglach (small donuts) we drown in honey. But, where’s the chocolate?

After all, chocolate induces a spiritual state that might open us to the meditative, contemplative and introspective mood we seek at the High Holydays. As the manager of a fancy French chocolate store in Manhattan confessed to me, she has a metaphysical response to eating an intense 99% cocoa French chocolate just before she studies from the mystical text known as the Zohar.

So, how about some chocolate possibilities? Chocolate truffles, their roundness recalling the cycle of the year? Or, the traditional round challah totally coated in chocolate? Or, a round raisin challah with chocolate spread? Or, a round challah baked with chocolate chips? Or, chocolate covered candied apples? Or, chocolate filled taiglach? Or, honey cake with chocolate chips. Or, apples dipped in chocolate sauce? Or, challah and apples in chocolate fondue? Perhaps you will enjoy these exciting possibilities this Rosh Hashanah.

Surprisingly, chocolate and Yom Kippur do share some shared history. In the 17th century, in the early days of the European use of chocolate in Spain and in New Spain, the then popular chocolate beverage accompanied meals preceding and following the surreptitious Yom Kippur fast observed by New Christians. For instance, in 1645 Gabriel de Grenada and his family ate fish, eggs vegetables, and drank chocolate on Erev Yom Kippur in New Spain. Isabel Rodriguez of Toledo, an eighty-year-old illiterate conversa, broke her Yom Kippur fast with trout, fruit, chickpea stew, olives, fritters with honey and chocolate with biscuits, according to 1667 Inquisition records. Testifying to the Inquisition of October 7, 1642, Isabel de Rivera, recalled that on the night before the día grande of Yom Kippur, Doña Juana had sent “thick chocolate and sweet things made in her house.”

The sweet potential for chocolate at Rosh Hashanah coupled with this history of chocolate at Yom Kippur bode well for this New Year.

May it be a chocolaty 5769!

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4 Responses to “Where’s the Chocolate This Rosh Hashanah?”

  1. Bobbi Says:

    This post put a smile on my face. With all the meshegas in the world, a little chocolate, a little honey … it couldn’t hurt. I’m definitely going to incorporate some fun things into my celebration this year. Maybe some port and dark chocolate. For S’lichot? Now you really got me thinking. Thanks.

  2. Helene Rock Says:

    Great article! My daughter always makes chocolate chip challah for Rosh Hashanah. I think she uses the recipe from the cookbook by Lisa Raushwerger. Trader Joe’s has readily-available parve chocolate chips! The secret to the Challah is the use of one sweet potato grated into the dough. It’s YUMMY! But yes, we love the chocolate chip challah tradition in our family.

    Helene

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