By Rabbi Levi Greenberg
This time of year, Jews need pomegranates and dear friends of ours always invite my family over to pick plenty of pomegranates from their tree. The kids have a blast finding the largest and ripest fruits and we leave with overflowing bags and precious memories of great family time.
Our annual pomegranate picking outing usually happens a few days before the Jewish festival of Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) since one of the symbolic foods at the festive dinner is pomegranates. But this year our outing was postponed since Rosh Hashanah is extra early and most of their pomegranates are not yet ripe, so we’ll need to make do with a few early ones.
While the Jewish year usually begins in the fall, it does not have a fixed date on the Gregorian calendar. This year it will begin on Sept. 6 in the evening and continue through Sept. 7 and 8, whereas usually it happens later in September or early October.
The complexities of the Jewish calendar were communicated by G-d to Moses over 3,000 years ago during the exodus from Egypt and its two main components are lunar months aligned with the solar seasons. Since 12 lunar months make up a total of 354 days — 11 days short of the 365-day solar cycle — the dates of Jewish holidays will never coincide with the same dates on the Gregorian calendar from year to year.
Although Rosh Hashanah is a Jewish holiday marking the beginning of the Jewish year, its historical context, messages and significance are universal as it commemorates creation. More specifically, it marks the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve — the first human beings — as recorded in the Bible.
It was also the day they both sinned by eating the forbidden fruit and were judged by G-d for doing so. They repented and were forgiven, but the world was never the same after that. The anniversary of that day is observed as a day of judgement for humanity and here is where pomegranates come into the picture.
The main observance of the holiday is the sounding of the Shofar (ram’s horn) on both days. The symbolic foods we eat at Rosh Hashanah dinner teach us important lessons to keep in mind throughout the year.
Pomegranates are filled with seeds, and on Rosh Hashanah they remind us we should seek to fill our days, months and years with good deeds. But the analogy of pomegranate seeds and good deeds goes further.
If you place just one pomegranate seed on a beautiful white tablecloth or on a freshly pressed shirt, it will make a very noticeable stain.
Like pomegranate seeds, our actions make an everlasting imprint on ourselves and the world around us. If Adam and Eve’s one negative action changed the trajectory of the world, certainly an act of kindness and benevolence can do the same, and even more.
Never underestimate the impact even one good deed can have on yourself and the universe. A single act of charity, a cheerful greeting to a stranger and an encouraging word can have far reaching effects. Consider affixing a charity box in your home or office and giving a few coins each day. Add an extra dollar to your employees’ paychecks and encourage them to do more charity as well.
The pomegranate holds the secret to making our world a better place, by accumulating many impactful actions. One person at a time. One good deed at a time.
Together it will add up to the perfect world we all wish for ourselves and for future generations.
Happy New Year!
To learn more about Rosh Hashanah please visit chabadelpaso.com/highholidays.
Levi Greenberg is associate rabbi at Chabad Lubavitch in El Paso.
Cover photo: Musia Greenberg, 10, picks a pomegranate in a friend’s back yard. (Photo courtesy of Rabbi Levi Greenberg)