I fondly remember my mother making stuffed cabbage every year for Simchat Torah. I was wondering, what’s the connection between stuffed cabbage and Simchat Torah? Or is it just something my mom did?
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There actually is a custom to eat stuffed cabbage, although it’s not an established communal custom and it varies from family to family. Some (like your family) eat stuffed cabbage on Simchat Torah; others eat it on the day before, on Hoshana Rabbah. Here is the rationale for this custom:
On each day of the Sukkot festival, we recite special prayers known as hoshanot, thus named since each stanza is accompanied by the word hoshana (“bring us salvation, please”).
The seventh day of Sukkot is called Hoshana Rabbah, “the Great Hoshana,” thus named because there is a greater number of hoshanot prayers that are recited on this day. The day’s hoshanot climax with the words kol mevasser, mevasser v’omer (“the voice of the herald [Elijah the Prophet] heralds and says”), expressing the hope and prayer that the herald of the final redemption will arrive.
Since, in German, cabbages are called kohl and water is vasser, there arose a custom to eat cabbages cooked in water (kohl mit vasser) on Hoshana Rabbah to celebrate the kol mevasser.
There are a number of reasons for eating stuffed cabbage on Simchat Torah:
The day Diaspora Jews celebrate as Simchat Torah is actually the day after the holiday in Israel. On that day, after inaugurating the First Holy Temple, King Solomon blessed the entire nation. As such, it is customary to bless one’s friends as well as the entire congregation on Simchat Torah. (In fact, the day’s Torah reading begins with the words vezot haberachah, “and this is the blessing.”)
What does this have to do with cabbage? Well, the Hebrew name for the food is כרוב (keruv), which has the same letters as ברוך, “blessed.”
Over the Ark of the Covenant, which held the two tablets and the Torah, stood two cherubs. The Hebrew word for “cherub,” keruv, is a homonym that is spelled and pronounced exactly like the word for “cabbage.” So our eating cabbage on Simchat Torah recalls the cherubs that stood over the Torah in the Temple.
Despite its murky origins, the most commonly given reason for eating rolled cabbage on Simchat Torah is that two rolls side by side resemble the closed Torah scrolls with which we dance on Simchat Torah.
I would suggest that it’s appropriate that the Torah is depicted rolled. After all, the Torahs are rolled tightly shut on this special day. The chassidic masters point out, albeit not in relation to the custom of eating cabbage, that the reason we don’t celebrate the completion of the Torah by studying its holy words, but instead by dancing with the rolled-up scrolls, is because the celebration encompasses every Jew, no matter his or her level of scholarship. The Torah is the heritage of every Jew, and every Jew is equally entitled to celebrate on this special day.
Rabbi Yehuda Shurpin responds to questions for Chabad.org’s Ask the Rabbi service.
Source: Chabad.org .
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