The etymology of Sfratti
as the name for this marvelously tasty dessert is a curious one. There was a time when the law that prevailed was the "law of the stick." When landlords could not collect from poor tenants, they would evict them with the persuasive aid of a stick. The same treatment was applied to the Jews when they were no longer wanted in a community. In Italian the word sfratto
means eviction, and sfratti
look just like the sticks used by those landlords and the enemies of the Jews.
Much of Jewish food lore is based on reproducing, in a sweet form, some symbolic item of the unhappy events of the past as a reminder of the constant and dreadful danger of their recurrence and also to ward off such a possibility. At Passover we have the Charoset, symbol of the mortar used by our forefathers who were slaves in Egypt; at Purim , Haman's Ears; at Rosh Hashanah, Sfratti
. Of course, this is but one example of how deceptive appearances can be: sfratti
look very unappealing but they taste delicious. They bear an unpleasant name but are traditionally served on the very happy New Year holiday. - The Classic Cuisine of the Italian Jews; Traditional Recipes and Menus and a Memoir of a Vanished Way of Life, by Edda Servi Machlin
(Debbie has discovered the source of some of her grandmother's secrets!)
I decided that this year that when I recite the short prayer before eating apples in honey; "May it be Your will, God, our Lord, and the Lord of our forefathers, that You renew for us a good and sweet year," I will have in mind a request for God to sweeten the bitter experiences of the past year. The sweetness of the coming year will be enhanced if the bitter aftertastes of the previous year are sweetened.
We cannot sit back and wait for God to turn sfratto
. We did it in the past and we must do so again. We can repair a relationship, and rediscover its sweetness. We can look back on difficulties and discover how they helped us grow. We can use the power of Teshuva that transforms the past to sweeten the sfratto
; it may not be pretty, but it will be delicious.
I wish all of you a year of delicious sfratti
without any sfratto
Rabbi Simcha L. Weinberg
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