Lekach: A Mini-Lesson for Yom Kippur

Rabbi Larry Ziffer, Chief Executive Officer of the Louise D. and Morton J. Macks Center for Jewish Education (CJE), took an opportunity to share the meaningful tradition of "Lekach" with the CJE staff before Yom Kippur. We thank him for teaching by example, enriching our workspace with Jewish learning, and showing us to practice what we preach.

small_sponge-cake-389071_1280.jpg"There is a beautiful custom this time of year to ask for and receive a piece of sweet honey cake -- signifying a sweet year-- from someone (usually a mentor, parent, colleague or friend) on the day before Yom Kippur.  In many synagogues, it is the shammas or even the rabbi who distributes the honey cake. The custom is specifically to ask for the honey cake, which is known in Hebrew, for the purpose of this custom, as lekach (which translates roughly as “received”).

One of the reasons given for this custom is that if it had been decreed on Rosh Hashana, G-d forbid, that during the year we should require a handout from others, then that decree will have been satisfied with this request for food.

Chasidic literature adds a deeper insight: "asking for lekach" on the eve of Yom Kippur instills in us the recognition that all the sustenance we receive throughout the year, including that which we supposedly "earn" by our own powers and endeavors, is in truth a gift from above, granted in response to our daily requests from "the One who nourishes the entire world with goodness, with grace, with benevolence and with compassion."

A person naturally feels some sense of shame when asking someone else for financial assistance, as evident from the fact that we ask in the Birkat Hamazon (Grace after Meals): "Please, do not make us dependent upon gifts of mortals."  But accepting lekach on the eve of Yom Kippur is different. Since these days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are so filled with spirituality, both giver and receiver are more likely to feel that G-d is doing the giving, and the giver is no more than a messenger. For this reason, the recipient feels no shame, and takes the lekach not out of need, but in order to fulfill the custom.

[Rabbi Ziffer then encouraged us to participate in this tradition.]

With all best wishes for a g’mar chatima tova!

Rabbi Larry Ziffer"

CJE is an agency funded by THE ASSOCIATED: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. www.associated.org