Why do we serve Arbes - chickpeas at a Shalom Zachor?

  • The sefer Edut L'Avraham -- Sheruta D'tzaluta, a collection of (pre-WWII Hassidic?) customs on lifecycle events, sounds like it's lentils not chickpeas. Anyone ever heard that? – Shalom Oct 22 '10 at 12:14
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    Some Chasidim do serve lima beans – Gershon Gold Oct 22 '10 at 13:30
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    @Shalom: See the Mishna Brura here: hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=14171&st=&pgnum=121. "Adashim" are usually translated as lentils, so for Friday nights, it seems lentils would e preferred to other kitniyos such as chickpeas. – intuit Jun 22 '15 at 15:25

Aveilus for the Torah forgotten. Taamei Haminhagim 902

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  • He also says lentils rather than chickpeas. (I say "also" because of Shalom's comment on the question.) – msh210 Oct 27 '10 at 14:47
  • True. The reason that a mourner eats lentils is because they are round, and mourning is a normal cycle of life and also because lentils do not have a "mouth", i.e. they are smooth all around, just like a mourner who really cannot verbalize his loss. The chick pea, or rather the garbanzo bean is round but seems to have a mouth. Maybe we eat it at the Shalom Zachor to symbolize that although the mourning of the lost Torah is part of the normal cycle of life, this loss itself is what gives the Zachor the ability to attain his portion in Torah SheB'al Peh, the oral Torah! – Yahu Oct 29 '10 at 4:58
  • What I just wrote fits well with one possibility of interpreting Rabbi Soloveitchik's comment that Sholom wrote in his answer to the above question. It would seem that the chick peas are served instead of lentils to make the Vilna Gaon's point of the Torah coming from one's own effort being that more valuable. – Yahu Oct 29 '10 at 5:02

Reading about it online, people seem to be saying that it's for aveilus (mourning): either because the baby was taught the entire Torah in the womb (like here), and was then forced to forget it, or because the baby was forced to come into the world (like here).

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I heard that it was originally a takanah of the Vaad Arba Aratzos to LIMIT the expense of a shalom zachor food by limiting it to Chickpeas (Arbes) that were very inexpensive and beer (the most inexpensive alcohol).

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    @No_Cake_At_Simchas, Welcome to Judaism.SE, and thanks very much for the fascinating historical note! Where did you hear this? Please consider registering your account, to make it easier for the site to keep track of your contributions. – Isaac Moses May 12 '11 at 16:34
  • I heard this too, but also don't have a source – Menachem Jun 3 '11 at 5:26

Another explanation is it's a Yiddish/Hebrew pun, referencing to G-d's blessing to multiply Abraham's offspring: "arbeh es zar'acha".

Rabbi Joseph Dov Soloveichik's last public event (due to his declining health and mental function) was the wedding of Rabbi Kenneth Brander. Rabbi Brander told his ailing mentor, "G-d willing we'll have you for many more happy occasions, maybe soon we'll have a boy and we'll invite you to his Shalom Zachor." Rabbi Soloveichik replied, "don't serve chickpeas."

Rabbi Brander is uncertain whether the comment was one simply of "I don't think I'll make it", or if Rabbi Soloveichik genuinely felt that we shouldn't serve chickpeas. The case could be argued, he said, that we don't mourn forgetting the Torah, as now we earn it on our own instead of it being a freebee. (Corresponding to Rabbi Chaim Volozhiner's recording how his mentor, the Vilna Gaon, ordered his disciples to refuse any angel who might come and offer to teach the entire Torah -- we do it ourselves, thank you very much!)

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  • See what I wrote as to why we eat chick peas as opposed to lentils in the comments on my answer . This would disprove Rabbi Brander's second theory as to what Rabbi Sloveitchik meant. – Yahu Oct 29 '10 at 5:05

My speculative, unresearched reason for this custom is that it's based on the Gemara and Shulchan Arukh's edict to eat foods which increase sperm on Friday night. In medieval times, it was believed that chickpeas was one such food.

Interestingly, based on the sources brought down in Mishna B'rura, we may also explain why the chickpeas are served with black pepper as opposed to salt.

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  • Interesting answer. I usually eat humus Shabbat afternoon. I guess I'll have to change my habit and eat it Friday night. – DanF Jun 22 '15 at 15:44

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