You know the drill. You’re home for the Jewish New Year, and you’re heading to the obligatory family dinner. The meal? Exactly the same as it’s been for the past 20-odd years. The table settings? Could be lifted from last year’s Rosh Hashanah dinner. And the company? The same cast surrounds the table as every other year, ready to celebrate.
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What's more, this isn't just at your mother's house; no matter where you are – be it a Chabad house in India or at your grandparents’ place in Ohio – you’re bound to meet a few regulars:
1. The Guy/Girl Your Mom/Dad/Cousin/Neighbor/Pet wants to set you up with. You’ve heard about this person over the course of a year, despite your protestations that you "don’t want to be set up.” Your yenta subserviently agrees to not set you up, but somehow, someway, this very person is at your holiday meal. You’re completely not attracted to him or her. But after three cups of wine, you start to humor the idea. L’Chaim!
2. The Newly-Arrived Israeli Really Confused By American/British/Australian/Indian Traditions. He or she has arrived dressed in a white shirt, jeans, and hiking sandals. He or she has been in the country for a few weeks, and is feeling completely lost. While everyone munches on kugel, he or she is pining away for grandma’s Moroccan fish. And he or she keeps on wondering why everyone who finds out he or she is from Israel tells him or her about their trip to the Dead Sea.
3. The Double Dipper. She’s surreptitiously dunking her apple twice in the honey, even though it grosses everyone out. But everyone is too polite to ask her to stop.
4. The Serial Apologizer. You get it. This holiday begins a period of atonement. But this person has started “deeply” apologizing for everything – from arriving five minutes late to taking too long to pass the challah. It’s driving you crazy – and you’re minutes away from snapping at this person, which will, of course, inspire another apology.
5. The Addict. She hasn’t looked up from her iPhone since you sat down to eat, and she keeps giggling from funny WhatsApp texts and Facebook posts her friends are sharing. Whenever someone addresses her, she looks up, smiles and sets her eyes back on her phone. Eventually, you give up trying to fight her and just text her when you want her to pass the brisket.
6. The Non-Jewish Friend. Your Christian, Muslim or other-religion-espousing friend who really wanted to come to Rosh Hashanah dinner can’t stop raving about how delicious the potatoes are or how juicy the brisket is. Your mother loves it. But the Non-Jewish Friend keeps getting confused about what’s going on – “Is this the holiday where you eat matzah?” You’re not judging, because you know when Christmas or Eid al-Fitr comes around, you’ll ask the same ridiculous questions.
7. The Politician. No matter the topic, this guy or girl will try to goad you into a shouting match on the political topic of the day. Whether it’s the Israeli-Palestinian issue, women’s rights, or the best ice-cream flavor, he or she will continuously bring up controversial topics, give a ridiculous, hyperbolic opinion (“Anyone who likes Rocky Road is a Communist) and watch the sparks fly. Your defense? Becoming the “Addict” and distracting yourself with your trusty sidekick – your iPhone – which you use to browse Tumblr's “Politicians Eating Ice Cream.”
Rosh Hashanah, one of the holiest holidays, is a time for community and family. Whether you love them or hate them, you couldn't live without them. So take a deep breath, enjoy, and toast to a sweet new year.
Yael Miller lives in Washington, D.C.