On the Chocolate Trail

Shanah Tovah u’Metukah! But, Where’s the Chocolate?

A serious chocolate lover has to wonder why Judaism today has neither serious ritual celebrations nor customs using good chocolate, especially at Rosh Hashanah when we emphasize the sweetness we anticipate and long for in the coming New Year. On Rosh Hashanah, we greet each other with the phrase, Shanah Tovah u’Metukah! “a good and sweet year.” We taste this sweetness through the apples and honey we eat, or through the raisins we add to the customary round challah or through the honey cake we bake or through the taiglach (small donuts) we drown in honey. But, where’s the chocolate?

Chocolate, quality dark chocolate, could so easily be part of the sweetness celebrated at the Jewish New Year. After all, chocolate induces a spiritual state that might open us to the meditative, contemplative and introspective mood we seek at the High Holydays. As the manager of a fancy French chocolate store in Manhattan confessed to me, she has a metaphysical response to eating an intense 99% cocoa French chocolate just before she studies from the mystical text known as the Zohar.

How about some chocolate possibilities? Chocolate truffles, their roundness recalling the cycle of the year? Or, the traditional round challah totally coated in chocolate? Or, a round raisin challah with chocolate spread? Or, a round challah baked with chocolate chips? Or, chocolate covered candied apples? Or, chocolate filled taiglach ? Or, honey cake with chocolate chips. Or, apples dipped in chocolate sauce? Or, challah and apples in chocolate fondue? Perhaps you will enjoy these exciting possibilities this Rosh Hashanah.

Surprisingly, chocolate and Yom Kippur share some history. In the 17th century, in the early days of the European use of chocolate in Spain and in New Spain, the then popular chocolate beverage accompanied meals preceding and following the surreptitious Yom Kippur fast observed by New Christians. For instance, in 1645 Gabriel de Grenada and his family ate fish, eggs vegetables, and drank chocolate on Erev Yom Kippur in New Spain. Isabel Rodriguez of Toledo, an eighty-year-old illiterate conversa, broke her Yom Kippur fast with trout, fruit, chickpea stew, olives, fritters with honey and chocolate with biscuits, according to 1667 Inquisition records. Testifying to the Inquisition of October 7, 1642, Isabel de Rivera, recalled that on the night before the día grande of Yom Kippur, Doña Juana had sent “thick chocolate and sweet things made in her house.”

The sweet potential for chocolate at Rosh Hashanah coupled with this history of chocolate at Yom Kippur bode well for this New Year. May it be a chocolaty 5769!

Cross posted at The Jewish Magazine September, 2009.

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