Since Rosh Hashana is the Day of Judgment, it is customary to eat simanim,* foods with symbolic meanings that invoke God’s blessing. We also recite a short prayer before eating them. While apple with honey is a universal custom, other symbolic foods eaten depend on family custom. Here are some examples:
Apple and Honey: A slice of apple is dipped in honey. After reciting the blessing for apples (Boray p’ree ha’etz) and taking a bite of the apple and honey, the following brief prayer is recited:
–May it be Your will, Lord, our God and the God of our ancestors, that You renew for us a good and sweet year.
Beets: The Hebrew word for beets is selek, related to the Hebrew word l’salek, “to remove.”
–May it be Your will, Lord, our God and the God of our ancestors, that our enemies be removed.
Pomegranate: It is said that each pomegranate has 613 seeds, representing the 613 commandments of the Torah.
–May it be Your will, Lord, our God and the God of our ancestors, that our merits be as plentiful as the seeds of a pomegranate.
Head of a Sheep or a Fish: The head of the sheep or fish can be eaten or can be left on the table as a visual symbol. The customary prayer is as follows:
–May it be Your will, Lord, our God and the God of our ancestors, that we be like a head (to lead) and not like a tail (to follow).
There is one type of food that is actually avoided on Rosh Hashana: Nuts. They are not eaten since the numeric value of the Hebrew word for nut, egoz, is equivalent to the numeric value for the Hebrew word for sin, chayt.
This is just a sampling of the simanim. For more foods and their associated prayers, click here.
*The simanim are eaten at the beginning of the evening meal.
This Treat was originally published on September 7, 2010. It is being re-Treated to help us better understand the month of Elul and the High Holidays.
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