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Symbolic Rosh Hashanah Foods

Rosh Hashana is the Jewish New Year, a time for soul-searching and repentance as well as a season for celebration. The complexity of this pinnacle Jewish holiday is reflected in the multitude of symbolic foods eaten at the Rosh Hashana table. Here is a look at some of those foods and the meaning behind each one:


Round Challah

Challah is a sweet, braided bread, traditionally eaten every Shabbat (Sabbath) and holiday. On Rosh Hashanah, the braid challah is formed into a circle, representing the circle of life and the continuity of the Jewish year. Raisins are often added to make the challah extra sweet (see honey below for an explanation of sweet foods on Rosh Hashana.)


Honey

On Rosh Hashanah, it is customary to eat sweet foods, as an omen of the sweetness for the coming year. One way in which honey is eaten is as a dip for the challah. During the rest of the year, challah is usually sprinkled with salt; on Rosh Hashana, challah is dipped into honey. Beyond using honey on challah and apples (see below), many homes also serve honey cake for dessert or use honey in savory recipes for chicken and other dishes.


Apples

Apples are the quintessential Rosh Hashanah symbol. In addition to being a seasonal fruit, apples are also a sweet fruit. At the start of the festive Rosh Hashanah meals, a plate of apples and dish of honey is passed around. Each person takes on apple and some honey for dipping. Before eating the apple, a special prayer is said, asking G-d to bless them with a sweet near year -- as sweet as the food they are about to eat. Like the honey, apples are not only a symbolic food partaken at the beginning of the meal, but are also featured prominently in the Rosh Hashana menu. Apple cake is a common dessert, as are baked apples and apple tarts.


New Seasonal Fruit

Apples are traditionally eaten on the first night of Rosh Hashana; on the second night of this two-day holiday, Jews partake in a diffeent seasonal fruit -- one which has not be eaten yet this season. When doing so, a special blessing is recited known as the Shehechiyanu. The Shehechiyanu prayer thanks G-d for bringing us into this new season, commemorated by eating a new fruit. The tradition of eating a new seasonal fruit also connects the Jewish people to the agricultural calendar and reminds them to appreciate the fruits of the earth.


Pomegranate

One of the most common new fruits is a pomegranate, which comes into season in Israel in the late summer/early fall. The pomegranate is said to have 613 seeds, which is the same number of mitzvot -- or commandments -- proscribed in the Bible. When eating the pomegranate, a special blessing is said beseeching G-d to make the Jewish people as fruitful as the seeds of the pomegranate.


Fish Heads

A symbol of abundance and fertility, fish heads are a traditional Rosh Hashanah food representing the "head" of the New Year. When eaten, a special prayer is recited invoking G-d to make the Jews as fruitful and multiple as the fish in the sea.


Fenugreek

Less common than round challah, apples, honey or even fish heads, fenugreek is traditionally eaten on Rosh Hashanah by Jewish people of Middle Eastern descent. The tradition likely started since the Hebrew word for fenugreek sounds similar to the Hebrew word for "increase". When eating the fenugreek, a special prayer is recited asking G-d to increase our merits.


Leeks, Beets & Dates

There are a handful of foods traditionally eaten during Rosh Hashanah that are intended invoke G-d's protection of the Jewish people from their enemies. Leeks, beets and dates all fit this category.






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Related Articles:
Rosh Hashanah Menu Ideas
High Holy Days Recipes
The Sweet Foods of the High Holy Days


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Comments
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Judith from New York, US
18:44 09/26/2011
 
Your site is fantastic. You have given a wonderful description of the meaning of every aspect of the holiday. I so enjoyed reading it. Happy Holidays!
Comment
theen yen
04:00 03/26/2010
 
i like your wedside it is the best i like you picture too it is so insterting i love it see you again
Comment
Mary from Fiji
10:25 12/19/2009
 
Thanks for the help on what to cook!
Comment
mm from New Mexico, US
14:29 09/19/2009
 
happy holidays
Comment
Esti Berkowitz
19:56 09/14/2009
 
I love what you are doing with all of this great information about the Jewish holidays! I am now following you on twitter, check me out as well @jewishshmooznet
Comment
bob from Minnesota, US
11:07 09/07/2009
 
how is the fish head prepared and served? what part is eaten?
Comment
Brianna GOmes from Massachusetts, US
10:44 01/22/2009
 
Hey this holiday looks very interesting!!!
Comment
susan from Australia
21:31 10/20/2008
 
hi there... i was wondering i f u could help me with a question on ramadan... the question is: ARE THERE ANY FOODS OR BEVERAGES THAT HAVE SYMBOLIC IMPORTANCE IN RAMADAN... PLZ. HELP ME ... i have an assignment on this question which is due tomorrow... HELP ..!!!!!!!!!!!!
Comment
Bianca Rogoff
08:10 09/29/2008
 
I think that this site REALLY helped me. I was meant to go to Jerusalem with my family to have Rosh Hashanah dinner there, but I got sick the day before and the doctor said i shouldn't travel. The next day i was better but still not aloud to travel. I had just moved to Tel Aviv and i was unaware of the different foods i must eat on this occasion... Thank you soooo much... You are a life saver!!! :D


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