10 Essential Foods for Rosh Hashanah

by Nicki on September 8, 2010

Commonly referred to as the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah celebrates the creation of the world in the Hebrew calendar. While specific meals very according to custom – whether Ashkenazi, Sephardic, or Mediterranean Jews – these foods are essential to any Rosh Hashanah High Holiday.

1. Challah
One of the most recognizable foods of the holiday, challah is a rounded loaf of braided egg bread. Its spiral shape symbolizes the cyclical nature of life, growth and change. Depending on preference and family recipes, raisins, apple, sugar or honey can be added to make the loaves extra sweet.

2. Apples & Honey
The Land of Israel is often referred to as the land of ‘milk and honey’ in the Bible. On the first night of Rosh Hashanah, the challah is dipped in honey and the bread is blessed. Next, a prayer for a ‘sweet’ year is offered as apples are dipped in honey. Every family has their own recipe for honey cake and some variations include apple, raisins, cloves, cinnamon, orange, even rum to add another dimension of flavor.

3. New Fruit (Pomegranate)
On the second night of Rosh Hashanah it is customary to eat a new fruit, especially one that has just come into season and has not been eaten before. One fruit typically found on the table is the pomegranate, which is said to contain 613 seeds, the same number of God’s mitzvot (commandments from the Torah). Pomegranate seeds are delicious on their own but can also complement in salads, marinade or desserts.

4. Head of a Fish- Rosh Hashanah means “head of the year” in Hebrew, thus contributing to the tradition for a head of a fish to be at the table during a Rosh Hashanah holiday meal. Fish are also a symbol of abundance and fertility.

5. Carrots
Meaning ‘more’ in Yiddish, serving carrots on Rosh Hashanah shows the desire for more of the good things in life- wealth, health, happiness, etc.

6. Gourd
The first food mentioned in the Gemara, the Hebrew word for ‘gourd’ sounds like the word for ‘proclaim’. The hope is that in serving gourds, one’s virtues may be proclaimed and celebrated.

7. Fenugreek
The second food mentioned in the Gemara, fenugreek (which in Hebrew sounds like the word for ‘increase’) is served with the hopes that our merits will increase.

8. Leeks or Cabbage
In Hebrew ‘leek’ sounds like another Hebrew word, meaning ‘to cut off’. As the third food mentioned in the Gemara, leek is served with the intention of ‘cutting off’ one’s enemies.

9. Beets
The Hebrew word for ‘beet’ sounds like the Hebrew word for ‘remove’. The fourth food mentioned in the Gemara, beets are eaten to remove our adversaries.

10. Dates
The fifth food mentioned in the Gemara, the Hebrew word for ‘date’ is close in spelling to the Hebrew word for ‘consumed’. Dates are eaten with the hope that one’s enemies may be consumed or finished (much like the delicious meal itself, yum!)

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