Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Rosh HaShanah 1 - Nuts!

Josh at ParshaBlog discusses the custom not to eat nuts on Rosh HaShanah. One of the reasons given by the Rema (OC 583:2) in the name of the Maharil is that nuts cause an excess of mucus and phlegm which can disturb one's davening.

I asked my source on arcane medico-halachic topics if he knew anything about this, and he said that he wasn't aware of any classical medical literature describing this connection, but there exists alternative medical literature that connects nuts to an excess of mucus, despite its counterintuitive nature that monounsaturated fats of the variety found in nuts usually prevents the formation of mucus.

Update: The ADDerabbi has a very interesting explanation based on the similarity of a walnut to the human brain (a la Galen) and the idea that the phlegm (as opposed to the blood and black and yellow biles) was associated with rationalism and logic, which are antithetical to prayer and which are connected with the Etz HaDa'as, which Adam ate from on this day.

Mordechai Manowitz of Bar Ilan also deals with this question, and suggests that just as many of the reasons for the positive simanim are because of the names of the foods, so too is the reason for not eating nuts because of the name - in German, the word for nut is nus, which is pronounced like the Hebrew word for "flee". He supports this contention based on the Chida, who explains a minhag in some places not to eat fish based on its being spelled in Nechemiah with an intermediate aleph, thereby being spelled like the word "da-ag", to worry.

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