Monday, September 10, 2012

A sharp Knife on Rosh Hashana

Photo: Miriam Woelke


There are some great books available explaining everything about the high holidays. Customs, backgrounds, halachot, history and chassidic sayings. Some time ago, I bought a whole collection of those books; either in Mea Shearim or in Bnei Brak.

However, the writings on Rosh Hashana mention an interesting custom. A custom which rather seems to apply more to Chassidim than to national religious Jews. But also a custom which seems to be superstitious in a way or, at least, giving hope to some people.

 Photo: Miriam Woelke

Various Chassidim go out in the morning on Erev Rosh Hashana in order to buy a new sharp knife. They would then carry the knife throughout the Chag in their pocket or give it as a present to friends or relatives. The sources I found say that one of the Zidichover Rebbes as well as the Chozeh of Lublin used to keep this custom. Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, on the other hand, said that giving a knife as a present would be too dangerous.

It seems as if the custom is still going on today but what is the reason for the new knife on Rosh Hashana ?

In Sefer Tehillim (Psalms) 145:16 we find the sentence:


When we take the last letter of the first three words
פּותח את ידך
We are getting the word CHATACH. Put together with the CHET TAW CHET SOFIT. CHATACH means CUT.

There are sources saying that there is an angel with the name CHATACH who is in charge of prosperity. 

We all pray for a good, healthy and successful new year where we don't need to starve or lack any financial means. Symbolically speaking, the angel Chatach should grant us a great prosperous new year and this is where the knife comes in. By buying a new knife on Erev Rosh Hashana, we basically ask and hope for a successful new year without lacking anything. 

Further sources, however, state that the sentence in Tehillim 145:16 has a specific meaning in Gematria. 

The word "u'masbe'a" - "and satisfy [the desire of every living being]" - which follows afterwards in the pasuk (Psalms 145:16) has the numerical value of four hundred and twenty-eight which is also the numerical value of "chatach." Thus, the acquiring of a new sharp knife is considered a "segulah" - something spiritually propitious - for parnasah, which we request on Rosh Hashanah for the entire coming year.

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