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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Newest Year

Alton Brown, celebrity chef and inadvertent infertility ritualist, advocates for pomegranates to be open underwater. He cuts a sliver off of either end and scores the pomegranate lightly from pole to pole. He then submerges the pomegranate in a large bowl of water and breaks it open with his fingers, separating arils from pith. The seeds sinks to the bottom of the bowl; the waxy skin floats to the top. Rubbish is separated from the sacred, fruit is kept while the exterior is thrown away. Opening a pomegranate feels like an analogy for tashlich.

Tomorrow is Rosh Hashanah. The new year in Judaism. Tomorrow night, technically the second night of the holiday since it starts at sundown tonight, a pomegranate is served as the traditional first fruit. Some Jews believe that the pomegranate contains 613 seeds, the same number as commandments (or mitzvot) in the Torah. As much as we groove on those mitzvot as much as the next Jew, we eat pomegranates for a different reason. We're trying to get pregnant.

It's a strange marker for the year and it hurts to push through that calendar turnstile again, remembering how we ate the pomegranate last year and yet are still not pregnant. Sort of makes you scornfully mutter, "it's just an old wives tale." Yet why did I go from food store to food store to get the perfect pomegranate? Because I really want to believe that these types of rituals help more than hurt. That they make me focus. They make me think about what I want. They make me let go of some of the frustrations of this past year and start this new year with a dose of hope.

It's a hard holiday for an infertile woman. Services are filled with passages from the Torah about infertility--Sarah, Rachel, Hannah. It feels right to have this little space in the house, this quiet little ceremony where we eat a few arils, make a few wishes, count the blessing we do have, wait for the future ones we want.

On Friday, we'll go down to the river for Tashlich. We'll throw away everything we don't want to take with us into this upcoming year. All the hurt feelings and doubts and frustrations. It's about separating out the fruit--the heart--from the pith. And tossing away what doesn't need to be kept. And hoping as it floats away in the river that it's gone for good and only sweetness will be in this upcoming year.

Unlike those stupid stunt shows, this is something you can try at home. Open up a pomegranate underwater. Remove the seeds. Focus on that idea of first fruits, of creating life, of tasting sweetness. Make up your own prayer. Make up your own wish. Eat the arils alone or with your partner or sharing them with a small group of friends who all have your back. Write down your hope for the year. Reflect on it next September. Repeat the ritual again--if not for yourself, then as a hope for all the stirrup queens and sperm palace jesters still down in the trenches.


MG said...

Praying that this is the year you receive the blessing you long for.

Anonymous said...

Thank you.
L'Shana Tovah to you and your family...may it be sweet, full of good health, happiness and a miracle or two!

serenity said...

Hoping you find peace from Tashlich and that eating pomegranate this year is what does it for you, Mel.

Happy new year.

Waiting Amy said...

Thank you for sharing these lovely traditions, Mel. This is just what I was asking for in my post today.

L'Shana Tovah to you and yours. May we all have a joyous new year.

May said...

I couldn't find a pomegranate, and I nearly cried right in the middle of the grocery shop.

But we ate carrots cut into discs, to represent wealth, and dressed everything in honey, as my step-grandmother used to do, for a sweet year. I hope it will be enough. I am afraid that it won't be.

L'Shana Tova Umetukah, my grandfather always says. I am afraid I'm not sure what 'umetukah' means (and I'm too chicken to ask him!), but it goes with apples and honey, so it must be a good thing.

Lori said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lori said...

I'd love to share a pomegranate with 613 people wearing Infertility's Common Thread (which is pomegranate-colored, right).

Toss out the despair and desire of the ego, and welcome in the infinite possibilities of the Divine.

(Sorry. My ego is having trouble spelling.)

Michell said...

Thanks for sharing that little bit about your traditions. Some of it sounds so soothing.
Also thanks for reminding me it's pomegranate season again, or almost. I remember living in Chico, Ca. 2 years ago and being amazed at seeing those growing alongside the road. I'll have to try that trick for opening mine this year.

orodemniades said...

Mmm, pomegranates.

Reproductive Jeans said...

Happy new year to you, Mel-and much happiness for you in the upcoming year!

Bea said...

Gorgeous post, and happy new year. Hope after you've removed all the sadness it feels good to have another fresh start.


Courtney said...

This sounds like a beautiful tradition - thank you for sharing it.

*Thank you also for the kind comments.

ms. c said...

Wonderful post.
Shana tova to you and Josh and your whole family.

megan said...

happy new year mel. i hope this is the year for you.

Jess said...

For some reason this post really got to me. It was so nicely written, and it speaks of one of the religious basics that are my favorite...hope.

Hope you find peace, and more, this year.

Lyrehca said...

Beautiful post. L'shanah tovah.

katd said...

Happy new year to you and your family! What a beautiful tradition.

Michele (Moosh) said...

Ever have one of those moments where you want to say so much, yet words just don't come?

I'm having a Big Fat one of those moments.

I hope you have a Big Fat Awesome Year with a Big Fat Positive in your near future.

I will keep praying. And I'll never look at a pomegranite the same again.

Anonymous said...

Here's hoping this is your year!

I met Alton Brown once, before he was famous. He's a really nice guy! He signed our little salt container thing like the one he has on the show. Of course, we share a birthday, so I'm probably a bit biased. :)

es said...

Shana Tova, Mel. I hope this year brings you and your family good things.

(And May- U'metukah means sweet- have a happy and sweet new year- that's why it's often said while eating the apples with honey)

Rebecca said...

Reading the story of Chana really hurt this past Rosh Hashana. I can definitely relate to your feelings. I hope this year brings you everything your heart wishes for.

Beagle said...

Wishing you peace and dreams fulfilled in the coming year. Thanks for sharing your rituals with all of us.