Friday, October 7, 2011

Honey Cake: Segula for Parnossa

On the morning of the day before Yom Kippur each person asks another for a piece of lekach [Yiddish for "cake" - traditionally honey cake], and eats it. Many Rabbis observe this custom by distributing lekach and giving a blessing for a good and sweet year.

Among the reasons for this custom is to avoid any possible Heavenly decree that the person would have to ask another for his food. Once one asks for lekach, the decree has been fulfilled and there will be no further need to ask: all one's needs will be provided for by G-d.

On a deeper level, we can say even more. Since the purpose of the custom is to avoid having to receive good from a person, it is logical to say that even the lekach is not really being received from a person. The explanation of this is that in reality, all food comes from G-d, and therefore a poor person who receives food from another person thanks G-d - "Who provides nourishment and sustenance for all". This is because the giver is only an intermediary for delivering G-d's blessings.

However, both parties still feel that a transaction has taken place between two human beings. The poor person naturally feels some sense of shame, as seen from the fact that we all ask in birchas hamazon "please do not make us dependent upon the gifts of mortal men". The giver also feels that he is the giver; and the Torah therefore must stress to him that he must give generously etc.

The giving of lekach on Erev Yom Kippur is not like this, however. Since these are the days when G-d is "close", all parties involved feel that G-d Himself is doing the giving, and the giver is no more than a messenger. Even more so, the giver is not even seen as a messenger, but just a link enabling G-d's gift to come to the person. For this reason, the giver needs no warning, since he naturally gives generously, as G-d Himself gives. Similarly, the recipient feels no shame and takes the lekach not out of need, but in order to fulfill the custom.

On a yet deeper level, one can assume that everyone has already been signed and inscribed for a good year on Rosh Hashanah. One need not take special measures to avoid a possible decree, since we are confident that there is no such decree. What, then, is the purpose of taking lekach?

Perhaps the explanation is that in the past year either the giver or the taker did not have the proper awareness that everything really comes from G-d. By requesting (and giving) lekach, this realisation is reinforced, and the shortcoming of the past year corrected.Torah is also called "lekach" as in the verse [Proverbs 4:2] "Lekach tov nasati lachem". In addition, p'nimiyus haTorah (the inner dimension of the Torah) is compared to honey. And since "G-d and His Torah are one", giving the lekach together with Torah helps strengthen the bond between the Jew and G-d. This in turn helps one realise that G-d is really the giver, not man. The inner part of Torah which bonds the innermost part of the Jewish soul to the innermost levels of G-dliness accomplishes this to an even greater extent.

Source: Sichos in English: The Lubavitcher Rebbe 

Honey Cake
250g honey
2 small eggs
3/4 cups caster sugar
1/2 cup oil
vanilla essence

Mix all ingredients together well, then add:

3/4 cup self raising flour
3/4 cup plain flour
3/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 tablespoons cocoa
3/4 cup very hot water [with the bicarb and cocoa dissolved in it]

Pour into large pan and bake at 180 degrees until firm and skewer comes out clean.

or try this one


Moriah said...

The one from Smitten Kitten is superb. I baked several lat week. The whiskey ads a very nice touch. I highly recommend it...

Batya said...

I've never heard of the custom. This is a good post to send to the Kosher Cooking Carnival. Information on me-ander

Devorah said...

I think it's a chassidic custom Batya.