Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Pomegranate Seeds

Just a thought that occurred to me during our Rosh Hashana dinner and simanim eat-a-thon.

Of course, we had sections of pomegranates as part of our ensemble (it also doubled as our shehechiyanu, since it is newly in season*) of simanim that were festively displayed on a platter at our dinner table.

After frustratingly working through the levels of outer shell and inner peels to get to the ruby-red seeds, someone mentioned that the work needed to access the edible part simply wasn't worth it.

While this person had every right to express their annoyance with the process of extracting the pomegranate's seeds, I think they inadvertently taught me a very important lesson.

They were absolutely right that it takes an extra amount of effort peeling and plucking to finally get a chance to enjoy the tart sweetness of the pomegranate's fruit. But that's precisely the point!

Why do we have a pomegranate as one of the simanim on Rosh Hashana? As the yehi ratzon says: "May it be the will before You HaShem our G-d and G-d of our forefathers that we may have as many merits as a pomegranate."

Midrashically, a pomegranate is said to have 613 seeds, corresponding to the 613 mitzvos given to us in the Torah. While that might not be biologically true, I think the idea we learn from working hard to get to the delicious innards teaches us that earning zechuyos and doing mitzvos is not always the easiest thing - but in the end, it is worth the effort we put into our actions.

As I was disassembling my own pomegranate, I noticed that there was one section of seeds that had gone bad. They which were brownish, deflated, and generally yucky. It would seem to me that this is also representative of how we perform mitzvos. Namely, that not every mitzvah we fulfill was really done with the most optimum intent and personal commitment.

While it is true that I may, for example, put on tefillin and daven shacharis with a minyan every day, I certainly don't get up each morning and wrap the straps around my arm with the same enthusiam and vigor as I really should. The mitzvah, like any mitzvah, is a beautiful gem that I can add to my collection of zechuyos. If I just do the mitzvah for the sake of doing it and my heart isn't behind it, I don't lose out on getting some sort of "credit," but the zechus I earn is not quite as lovely as it could have been - hence the kinda gross, misshapen seeds.

May we all take this lesson of the pomegranate's seeds to heart during these aseres yemai teshuvah and do our best to fill our zechuyos storehouse with gleaming, beautiful mitzvos. (Teshuvah in particular is certainly worthwhile, since it will turn those gross seeds into nice ones, if done b'ahava). In doing so, may we all merit to have a year full of bracha v'hatzlacha in all areas of our lives (especially shidduchim) and be inscribed for lives that are kulo tov.

Gmar Chasima Tova!

P.S. Though I cannot think of any specific incident wherein anything I may have written offended anyone (which I haven't already apologized for), please know that my intent is never to post anything harmful on this blog. If I did somehow offend you, I regretfully apologize and ask for your forgiveness.

*As Rav Simon explained in his most recent RIETS Contemporary Halacha Shiur (unfortunately not on YUTorah.org), the notion of getting a "new fruit" to serve as the shehechiyanu on the second night of Rosh Hashana is commonly mistaken to apply to a fruit that the ingester hasn't eaten in a year. In actuality, it refers to a fruit that is newly available because it has just come into season. It seems that this is a very common mistaken notion - I actually had no clue about this until that shiur.


  1. This is what my mom does:


    It's super-easy!

  2. Step 5 still involves removing the seeds from the rind and membranes - but doesn't say if it is easier. Presumably it is?

  3. We did a proper experiment once, dissecting several pomegranates and counting their seeds. They all fell short of 613 (we came up with appropriate gematriyos for each shortfall so it was still okay) but the snacking afterward was amazing... it just takes patience.


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