By Rabbi Rachel Esserman
In order to say the Shehecheyanu prayer (which thanks God for sustaining us and allowing us to reach this new season) on the second night of Rosh Hashanah, people either wear new clothing or serve a food they’ve not eaten since the previous year. For me, the summer months are filled with what I call “Shehecheyanu moments,” beautiful reminders of the joy of survival and the bounty that appears in the fruit aisles of our grocery stores.
What a magical thing a grocery store is: air-conditioned in the summer and heated in the winter. That’s not something to take for granted: try shopping outdoors in the worst heat of summer or the worst cold of winter. And no grocery carts allowed: there was no room on crowded streets and outdoor markets for them.
But I digress. My most recent Shehecheyanu moments were for the new fruits of this summer season. Yes, I know that summer has not yet arrived, but fruit that used to be limited to short periods of time are appearing earlier and earlier each year. I have to admit the cherries weren’t great, but they are on sale (probably because they were more sour cherries, rather than sweet ones). I’d bought three bags of them and ended up pitting (oy, did that take a long time!) and freezing many of them. I think they’ll be perfect with some unsweetened yogurt, walnuts, cinnamon and maybe a bit of sweeter fruit to play off their tartness.
The surprise was the watermelon I bought. I didn’t buy a whole one: I’ve had two people – who always pick the perfect watermelon – try to tell me how to choose a good one, but I can’t visualize what they say when I’m in the store. (Note to self: Get them to go with me sometime and actually show me.) So, I bought some already cut into pieces. They were expensive, but they were wonderful! I ate them slowly and enjoyed every moment.
The point is to stop for a minute before eating and say the blessing as a reminder of how lucky we are to not only have this food, but to have survived another year. In our busy lives, we tend to rush through meals so we can get to everything we need to do. But saying the blessing over food and enjoying the first taste of the year can create precious moments of hope and peace in our lives.