There are many customs on Rosh Hashanah: blowing the shofar, eating apples dipped in honey, and long hours of prayer and meditation. But until I watched the cartoon adventures of Todd and God on You Tube, I never knew that taking communion was one of them. What else would you call the practice of God appearing to a young man and offering him the chance to consume God’s body as a way of experiencing spiritual renewal in the New Year?
Actually, I love the fact that this very funny video (complete with allusions to the Simpsons as well as Beavis and Buthead), produced to teach the practice of eating a new fruit on the second night of Rosh Hashanah, does so by taping in to the power of a practice that is synonymous with Christianity. It demonstrates the universal urges that we meet with particular practices. There is no such thing as a “Jewish spiritual need”, because Jews are not essentially different from other people. But there are brilliant Jewish practices which meet fundamental human spiritual needs, and this new fruit thing is one of them.
Boredom and lack of spiritual connection are challenges we all face. They are the root causes of so many problems in our lives, from cheating on our spouses (over 50% of Americans admit they do), to misery at work (over one third of us report that) to just feeling empty and lonely inside. Eating a piece of fruit, no matter how good it is, will not solve that. But we all need practices which renew us and help us feel that renewal is always possible. And it doesn’t hurt that this one acknowledges that even by the second day of the New Year, those feelings can set in.
The reason offered by this video for eating a new fruit on the second night of Rosh Hashanah is to experience the newness of the year. Ironically, for a cartoon that invokes Jewish tradition, this rationale is not found in any classical Jewish sources! But that’s great. It means that the deepest tradition is to infuse new meaning into received practices so that they both connect us to past generations and work for us in the present. When we do that, we find the relief we seek from the boredom we feel and fill the void we feel inside.
God offers Todd all kinds of exotic fruits to fulfill this practice, but Todd has had them all. Like many of us in this globalized world, there is nothing we can not get and very little we have not already tried. What Todd needs is not something exotic, what he needs is intimacy, a direct connection with God. That is what he has not had in a great while. And all of the exciting alternatives which God offers are pointless. Todd needs to eat God – to feel God inside of him.
Where do you find that direct connection? Wherever it is, that is where you belong. And I hope that in the coming year, we are all blessed to be in that place as often as we need to be. Because when we are, we overcome the boredom which we only think comes from the outside. We finally remember that novelty is no replacement for intimacy, and that intimacy can always be renewed whether it is with God, our job, or the people we love.