By Mordechai Schmutter

The period of Aseres Yimei Teshuvah is a serious time, and we do a lot of things in all seriousness.

But in all seriousness, it’s sometimes difficult for our kids to tell which things are minhagim and which we just happen to do. So you should really take the time to talk to your kids about it. Sooner than later, especially if your minhag is not to talk on Yom Kippur.

Here are some things that my kids probably think are our family minhagim:

  • We have a minhag to polish our silver before yom tov, because Rosh Hashanah is the time to polish your silver. Metaphorically. But also physically. Pesach was six months ago, and, no offense, but you’ve been making things filthy. And anyway, I always mean to polish the silver before Pesach, but then I realize, “Why do I need to polish my chametzdik silver that I’m putting in a breakfront which I am then covering with foil?”
  • We have a minhag, once we’re paying for seats, to be very conservative over which of our kids will actually sit for all of davening. (“Nah, he doesn’t need his own seat. He’ll just sit in mine and I’ll stand over him. He’s only here for the parts I need to stand for anyway.”)
  • I have a minhag to wonder why I have to buy seats for Yom Kippur, when on Tishah B’Av I can just bring my own.
  • My students have a minhag to ask me for mechilah, because in the five days of school we’ve had so far, they’ve done so much to me that mechilah is really their only option.
  • They have a minhag to do this before Rosh Hashanah and then again before Yom Kippur.
  • I have a minhag that my hataras nedarim group somehow ends up being the one with six guys.
  • We have a minhag to come home on Rosh Hashanah night and entirely butcher saying “L’Shanah Tovah” to the women and toddlers, making it obvious that we have no idea how Hebrew grammar works (“L’Shanah tovah tikasavna…Nu?…No?”) while the women all laugh, because they took dikduk in school and we never make them butcher a Gemara in front of us. We should probably look in the Machzor, because the most polite way to say “Have a good year” is with our nose in a sefer.
  • My kids have a minhag on the first night of Rosh Hashanah to say things like, “I’m starving; I haven’t eaten all year!” “You smell like you haven’t showered since last year!” “This food tastes like it was made last year!”
  • I have a minhag to have no idea how to cut a round challah. Do I cut it like a pie? Do I cut it like a normal challah so that some people get a huge slice? There is no good way. I think I’m supposed to cut it horizontally like a roll, put some honey in the middle, and let everyone else cut their own challos.
  • We have a minhag to not be sure whether to put honey on the challah and then figure out how to give it out, or to pass the challah around followed by the honey dish so half the people take a bite before realizing that they’re supposed to be waiting for the honey. Sometimes the items go around the table in opposite directions.
  • My wife has a minhag to make some raisin challos, and the kids have a minhag to throw a fit about it because raisins are not that good with mayonnaise.
  • We have a minhag to leave bits of challah in the honey so it’s less appealing for subsequent meals.
  • We have a minhag to eat every siman listed in the Machzor, including several with the same Yehi Ratzon.
  • We have a minhag, as we eat the date, to tease someone at the table about shidduchim.
  • I have a minhag to buy tongue for Rosh Hashanah, because it’s a lot better than fish heads, but then I buy a fish head too because that’s what my father does.
  • We have the minhag to try cooking the fish head in all different kinds of sauces and brines, and the fish head has a minhag to always taste the same, regardless.
  • We have a minhag to cut a whole bunch of gummy jellyfish in half and then give out the heads as treats on Rosh Hashanah. We’re never sure when it’s OK to serve the tails, though. One year we’re going to give them to everyone we know for shalach manos.
  • We have a minhag to fight about the proper Yehi Ratzon for carrots: Are they gezer or mehrin? Like it really matters. We’re saying both Yehi Ratzons anyway, thanks to the squash and the black-eyed peas.
  • We have a minhag to make way too many black-eyed peas. (TIP: The proper amount of black-eyed peas is one pea per person per meal.)
  • I have a minhag to put a piece of carrot over the fish eye so he’s not looking at me.
  • We have a minhag that, by the time we finish eating the simanim, we have no room for the rest of the meal.
  • I have a minhag, since I paid for a seat, to pay attention for all of davening so I can get my money’s worth.
  • We have a minhag to look at the clock as we finish davening, because we just know people are going to ask.
  • We actually have a minhag to daven k’vasikin so that our seudah can be both after shofar-blowing and before chatzos, and to fend off questions from people who say, “You finish davening before chatzos? What do you do then? You can’t sleep all day!” “I don’t know … If you can’t sleep all day, what do you do from neitz to whenever your Shacharis starts?”
  • I have a minhag to take a nap on Yom Kippur during the break, despite the fact that I feel worse when I wake up than I did before I went to sleep. I think it’s the nap.
  • I have a minhag to encourage my kids to say the paragraphs in the Machzor that have bigger fonts. I personally have no idea which to pick and choose, but the typesetter probably knew what he was doing.
  • All the shuls I’ve davened in have a minhag that when there’s a part of davening that the chazzan is supposed to say three times and then everyone else is supposed to say it three times, everyone launches into it after he says it just once because his pause is too long.
  • We have a minhag, when the chazzan sings really long, to count how many pages are left. As if the amount of pages left has any bearing on how long the chazzan is going to stretch a given word.
  • My minhag is to forget that we say “Baruch Sheim” out loud on Yom Kippur until the entire tzibbur launches into it when I’m well into “V’ahavta.”
  • I have a minhag every year to be mekabel that I’m going to start davening with the proper kavanah. Then I think, “Just because I have time to daven with proper kavanah today, when the chazzan is singing, doesn’t mean that I’m going to have this kind of kavanah on work days.” And I go back and forth about it, and then I realize that the chazzan has done like six pages without me.
  • I have a minhag, when I’m saying that paragraph before shofar-blowing that I have to say seven times, to secretly use my fingers to keep track. And then to forget halfway through whether I’ve been putting up fingers at the beginning of the paragraph or at the end.
  • I have a minhag to suddenly remember after the chazzan makes the berachah for shofar that there are a million instructions about davening that I haven’t told my kids.
  • My shul has a minhag to give out paper towels for “Va’anachnu Kor’im.” And to save them from year to year.
  • I have a minhag to look up after Tashlich and realize I have no idea where any of my kids are.
  • We have a minhag to not be sure the second night whether we’re also supposed to do simanim or just the new fruit.
  • I have a minhag to define “new fruit” every year as “a fruit that we have never eaten ever in our entire lives,” and to come home with something before yom tov that we cannot eat without first printing out instructions. I once came home with something called a monster fruit, and then I learned that if you eat it wrong, it can make your mouth bleed. But so can a pineapple.
  • We have a minhag that, in addition to whatever weird new fruit I buy, we also eat star fruit.
  • I have a minhag — seeing as experts recommend that we drink eight cups of water every day — to drink 16 cups right before Yom Kippur.
  • We have a minhag to break our Tzom Gedaliah fast on leftovers from yom tov. (“Black-eyed peas and fish head? No thanks. I think I’ll fast another day.”)

Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of five books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to MSchmutter@gmail.com.

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