By Stephen E. Lipken
Rabbi Rigoberto Vinas of Lincoln Park Jewish Center (LPJC), Yonkers is preparing in many ways for the upcoming High Holiday season. Since food for the Holiday meal plays a big part for many, he notes that certain recipes have special meaning for Rosh Hashanah.
“All foods have names, either Aramaic or Hebrew. What you eat becomes part of your prayers,” Vinas noted. “You actually ‘eat the prayer’ and food related to that prayer. Although dipping an apple in honey is an Ashkenazic custom it dates from older Talmudic texts.
“At the Simonim (symbols) Seder, there is food symbolic of G-d’s name with the Kabbalistic ‘chakal Tapuchim,’ or ‘apple orchard.’ When the orchard is in bloom, the smell of the blossoms is overwhelming, symbolizing Hashem’s overwhelming presence. The honey urges G-d to temper His judgement with sweetness.
“We eat the head of a fish, symbolizing that we are leaders, not followers. The Leek is eaten because its name in Arabic was ‘Karti’ which sounds like the words ‘Sheyiskartenu,’ May our enemies be cut off.”
In January 2000 Rabbi Vinas founded El Centro de Estudios Judios, Torat Emet (www.toratropical.org) outreach Torah classes in person and on the internet, encouraging Anusim from all over the world to return to Jewish learning.
Vinas also discussed bringing “Anusim” back into the fold. “’Anus’ means ‘force’ in Hebrew. The Anusim were forced to convert during the Inquisition. Our active Anusim [re] conversions are designed to recognize Spanish and Portuguese Anusim as Jews.”
Rabbi Vinas stressed that he is not trying to create a Spanish synagogue. “We are trying to create a shul of power, strength and diversity through many cultures.”
Born and raised in a traditional Sephardic home of Cuban Jewish parents who came to Miami, FL after the Cuban Revolution in 1960, Vinas, 47 completed his training as a scribe with ordination (kabala in sofrut) at Yeshiva University and received “Yoreh Yoreh” ordination from both Kollel Agudath Achim and Yeshiva VeKollel Zichron Hezkiahu Yoel of Boro Park in Brooklyn.
Now in its 77th year, LPJC has just 65 families and according to Rabbi Vinas, cannot maintain a building that size. “It is in the hands of the Attorney General and will be sold within six months,” Vinas stated. “There will be a small endowment fund and the buyer will rent it back to us for three years, enough time for us to find a smaller place…”
Rabbi Vinas concluded that Rosh Hashanah is a time for deep prayer but often difficult to express our deepest hopes and prayers. “For this reason, the sound of the Shofar is so powerful.
“It can break right into our hearts, reach in and offer our deepest most primitive prayers that we do not even have words for…”
Here are some of Rabbi Vina’s favorite High Holiday recipes: