By Mordechai Schmutter


Welcome back to “How Should I Know?” — the Rosh Hashanah advice column that experts agree should be tossed into a lake. Even on yom tov.

Dear Mordechai,

How do I prepare a fish head so it actually tastes good?


Dear D.,

You can’t. There’s a reason that fish heads aren’t a delicacy anywhere. Basically, we’re showing Hashem that the only reason we’re eating fish heads is to say this “Yehi Ratzon.”

My son went deep-sea fishing with his camp last year, and he said that whatever the kids caught, the fishermen cut the head off of it and threw it right back into the ocean, to grow a new body, I guess. Like it’s a plant. Like the next guy is going to cast a net and catch a bunch of heads.

In my house, we usually have salmon heads, and I’ve tried flavoring them as if they were salmon, yet the flavor doesn’t seem to penetrate their thick heads. Sure, I can take the heads apart beforehand and pull out the meat, but I kind of feel like it’s not really a head unless you have that eye staring back at you, watching you eat it. One year I tried eating the eye, on a dare. That wasn’t any better. And even that only accommodates up to two family members — four if you eat a fish called the anableps, which actually has four eyes but not the most appetizing name.

“Would you like some anableps?”

“Get away from me!”

Another idea is to just cook the head with the rest of the fish. Whole, with an apple in its mouth.

“Where’s the apple for dipping in honey?”

“What do you mean? It’s right here.”

Some people actually stuff the head with raw gefilte fish and cook it. (Stuff it where? The mouth?) And then they eat out the gefilte, which I think is kind of like cheating.

“Look, kids! It was eating gefilte when it died! And carrots!”

The only fish-head dish that I was actually able to find is something called “fish head soup.” Just put in several smaller fish heads and dole them out instead of kneidlach!

For extra fun, don’t tell anyone beforehand that you’re doing this.

Dear Mordechai,

Last year I was in the middle of Tashlich and it started raining. What should I have done?


Dear S.,

A lot of people just say it on chol ha’moed Sukkos, when they know it will be raining. This takes out the guesswork. I have one brother-in-law who specifically does it at whichever one of our chol ha’moed trips involves water, which is actually pretty smart, because we’re always going to do something near the water. Even a hike is more exciting if you’re hiking to a body of water.

I guess the question is, if you already started saying Tashlich, do you say that since there are no berachos anyway, you can just continue it another day? Do you say that the first part is the most important, and the rest is a wash? (Sorry.) Or do you power through and hope the rain doesn’t get stronger? I will tell you that every Machzor I’ve ever used has water-damaged Tashlich pages. If it was because people keep dropping it in the pond, all the pages would be water-damaged. Not just the pages of Tashlich. That’s not how ponds work.

So I would say maybe start memorizing Tashlich by heart, in case this happens. Considering how you butchered the eight-word greeting on Rosh Hashanah night, this probably isn’t going to happen.

So maybe someone should make laminated Tashlich cards. I know that they make laminated Kiddush Levanah cards, presumably in case this happens.

Oh, wait. It never rains during Kiddush Levanah. Is that weird?

It is not. So then why are those pages laminated? Is it because of the dancing afterwards?

I actually think that I’ve seen laminated Tashlich cards somewhere, but a lot of people say the version the ArtScroll has, which is 16 pages. So we’d need to make an entire laminated booklet, like those bath books they make for little kids who want to spend so long in the bath that they’re reading books.

“Those kids are getting older in there. They need to learn stuff.”

Those books also float, by the way.

Your other option is to climb into the stroller with your kid. Or kick him out of the stroller until you’re done. It’s not like he has a Machzor.

Dear Mordechai,

Should I buy a seat in shul for my small child who doesn’t actually daven?


Dear E.,

I’m assuming you’re talking about a kid who, although he doesn’t daven, knows not to make noise and disturb the other mispallelim, or, in some cases, wake them up.

That said, if you and your wife are both going to be in shul, and you’re not buying him a seat, he has no choice but to run around.

So in that case, I would say to maybe bring in a stroller, but, unfortunately, you destroyed the stroller during Tashlich. Who told you to sit in it?

Never mind; I don’t want to hear lashon ha’ra.

The shul might be tight, so that even getting into your seat requires acrobatics of somehow stepping over the back of your chair, because no one thought to leave room between the chairs so that people could actually squeeze in.

So one idea is that you can figure out where the chazzan sits and have him sit in that seat. Except when they sell aliyos. And your kid can run around for that anyway. You don’t want him buying aliyos.

You can also do that timeshare thing, where he sits in your seat while you stand, and when you need to sit, he sits on your lap. This works great until Chazaras HaShatz, when you want to stand up every time the aron is opened, which involves standing up while holding the kid, stepping backwards over the back of the chair, and putting him down in the seat, and then picking him back up, stepping back over the chair, and landing with him on your lap.

Your other option is to play ping-pong with your wife: “Go to Mommy.” “Go to Totty.” “Go to Mommy.” “Go to Totty.” This only works until Mussaf, when you can’t talk, and you realize that your kid doesn’t know sign language for “Go to Mommy.”

Dear Mordechai,

What’s a good food to eat right before the fast?


Dear P.,

Fish heads.

Actually, I find that it doesn’t matter what you eat; you’re still going to be hungry on the way to Kol Nidrei.

There are minhagim. Some people eat kreplach on erev Yom Kippur, which works to give you noodles now, and after your body digests the noodle — surprise! There’s a meatball in there. It’s a time-release food. I think you’re supposed to swallow them whole.

To answer this question, I looked up two things:

  1. What to eat before a fast
  2. Foods that suppress your appetite.

In the first list, it said not to have coffee, chocolate, pickles, and spicy foods. In the second list, it said you should have coffee, chocolate, pickles, and spicy foods.

So no one really has any idea.

The best strategy is to think back about which things make you lose your appetite in general. For example, I find that when I’m really stressed, I’m not hungry. So let’s bring that to Yom Kippur! What is there to be stressed about on Yom Kippur, though? So right before the fast, I get into a huge argument with my wife. Then I walk out the door. Great idea, right? The only issue I can think of is that when my wife is stressed, she eats. Chocolate, which is either good for you or bad for you, depending on which article you read. But that’s just a small price to pay.

I have to find someone to argue with who also doesn’t eat when they’re stressed.

Call me.

Another thing that probably makes you lose your appetite is eating something that nauseates you. Such as the previous week’s fish heads, which is exactly what I said to begin with. You don’t even have to eat them. Just keep them in a little container all day and sniff them periodically, like besamim. That should help keep your appetite at bay. You can pass it around the shul for other people to smell, too! Don’t tell anyone beforehand that it contains fish heads.

Have a question for “How Should I Know?” The first person to send one in along with a stamp will get — for free! — the rest of my fish head. 

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


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