Kreplach (pronounced krep-lakh; singular, krepel. Some call them krepkhin) is the Yiddish name for the traditional triangular pieces of dough filled with ground meat or chicken, similar to dumplings. Some boil the pockets and eat them with their chicken soup; others fry them and serve as a separate dish.
There are three times a year when some have the tradition to eat kreplach: during the meal on the eve of the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur; on Hoshana Rabbah; and on the holiday of Purim.
Days of Judgment
Each of these occasions is considered a day of judgment on the Jewish calendar. On Yom Kippur, G‑d judges us with regards to the upcoming year. On Hoshana Rabbah, the books of judgment are finally sealed. On the holiday of Purim, the Jewish nation was judged, and we emerged victorious against the wicked Haman, who strove to destroy us. Although these are days of harshness and judgment, there is definitely great opportunity for mercy and compassion as well.
Meat is a food which can sustain humans, but at the same time it takes away life from animals. As such, according to Kabbalah mmeat represents the divine attribute of strength and severity (gevurah), which may conceal G‑d’s presence.
Bread and dough, on the other hand, sustain life on this planet without destroying any creatures. Thus, these foods represent, and are symbolic of, the divine attribute of kindness (chesed) in its purest form.
On these days, when judgment is more direct, it is considered fitting to eat kreplach—meat covered with dough. The meat, signifying harshness in judgment, when covered by white dough (a form of bread), symbolizing compassion and mercy, is a physical manifestation of our greatest hopes and prayers that G‑d in His all-encompassing mercy will also clothe His strength with compassion and overlook our negative traits. The food itself reminds us to add a specific prayer on this day that kindness should soften and sweeten any harsh judgments that may be in store for us.
Life has its ups and downs, and the world around us is itself in turmoil. Often, we may see in life more “meat,” judgment, than “bread,” compassion. This makes it easier for us to be judgmental rather than compassionate.
It is a worthwhile endeavor to try and envelop our own judgments in compassion, thus promoting more peace and tranquility in our personal world. In turn, may G‑d infuse His compassion upon us even if we are not found deserving.
See our Basic Kreplach Recipe for kreplach-making instructions.