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Why do we eat Kreplach?

by Rabbi Tzvi Shapiro

  

Library » Holidays » Yom Kippur » The Day Beforehand | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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A triangular pattern: 

Many people eat Kreplach1 without knowing why. After all, it is a tradition, and a tasty one at that. So why ask questions?

It is time, however, to unwrap the Kreplach mystery.

To find the first clue we need to map and link the data of Kreplach consumption. Tradition has it that this traditional food is eaten on three occasions: On the day before Yom Kippur, on Hoshanah Rabbah, and on Purim.

Take a peak inside:

A look into the common denominator in these three holidays will reveal the Kreplach secret.

Each of these occasions is somewhat of a holiday. In other words, it is a holiday, but only somewhat. For example:

Generally speaking Jewish holidays originate in the Torah. The Torah commands us to refrain from work and be joyous on holidays. The Talmud explains that one aspect of physical celebration is consumption of meat2 (and wine). Thus the visible indicator of a holy-day is abstention from work, and the hallmark of the festive meal is meat.

On these three particular non-biblical holidays general work restrictions of holidays don’t apply, there is no biblical command to celebrate with a festive meal, and the holiday's origins are not explicit. Outwardly, it may appear as an ordinary day.

Yet inwardly we know it is a holiday and are celebrating accordingly. So we have a festive meal. One in which the meat, the holiday symbol, is served, but concealed within a dough.

Meat of the issue:

Upon further analysis we will find an additional staple common in these three holidays:

Each celebrates a time when judgment could be served, but mercy and compassion are awakened. The severity of judgment also lurks about on these days, as indicative in the fact that on each of these occasions we deliver some form of harsh blow.

On Yom Kippur we are judged, and we do Kaparot. Hoshanah Rabbah is the final day of verdict of the High Holiday season, and it is the day when we strike the ground with the willow branches. On Purim the existence of the entire Jewish people was threatened, and the entire congregations stamps and bangs when Haman's name is heard.

Kabbalistically, bread, which sustains man without inflicting harm to others, represents the divine attribute of kindness: good that’s good throughout. Meat, which provides life to man but only through the deprivation of life to an animal, represents the divine attribute of severity: good that comes with a high price.

On these auspicious days we cover the meat in dough, which reminds us to pray that compassion should sugarcoat all judgments.3

Footnotes

  • 1. Also known as Krepchin, or (in English) wantons.
  • 2. Meat is generally seen as a delicacy. Many righteous people only ate (and eat) meat on Shabbat or Jewish holidays. However, if one is not delighted by eating meat, s/he may substitute it with another delicacy.
  • 3. Sefer Tamei Haminhagim Custom 736 and Custom 895

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RELATED CATEGORIES

Holidays » General Information
Holidays » Purim » The Customs

Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Talmud
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
Yom Kippur
Day of Atonement. This late-autumn high-holiday is the holiest day of the year. We devote this day to repentance and all healthy adults are required to fast.
Purim
A one-day holiday celebrated in late winter commemorating the miraculous deliverance of the Jewish people from a decree of annihilation issued by Persian King Ahasuerus in the year 356 BCE.
Haman
Descendant of anti-Semitic tribe of Amalek and prime minister of the Persian Empire in the 5th century b.c.e. Schemed to annihilate all the Jews, and the holiday of Purim was established when the plot was foiled.