Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, like many Jewish holidays, includes its share of festive meals. These foods symbolize sweetness, blessings, and abundance, and are eaten as “good omens,” whose names themselves often suggest good things for the coming year. Let’s take a look:
On Rosh Hashanah we dip the challah in honey and afterwards, on the first night, we eat a piece of apple also dipped in honey to signify a sweet new year. Why apples? One explanation is based on the Torah, where Isaac blessed Jacob by saying, “The fragrance of my son is like the fragrance of a field which Hashem has blessed…” (Gen. 27:27). The Talmud identified this “field” as an apple orchard (Ta’anit 29b, Biyur Hagra). Apples are associated with then with the Garden of Eden.
There are several other foods with symbolic importance which are customary to eat on Rosh Hashanah. For example, we ask that our good deeds in the ensuing year will be as plentiful as the seeds of the pomegranate. We eat beets, as the word for “beets” in Hebrew (“selek”), suggests the word meaning “to remove,” in other words “remove our enemies from us.” Also, carrots, (“gezer” in Hebrew), which are accompanied by the prayer that it “may be G-d’s will to tear up the evil decree (“gezar”) which has been decreed upon us!”
On the second night of Rosh Hashanah, we eat a fruit that has recently come into season but that we have not yet had the opportunity to eat in order to say the Shehechiyanu blessing thanking God for keeping us alive and bringing us to this season.
One food that is avoided during Rosh Hashanah is nuts. Why? According to gematria (the numerical value of each Hebrew letter), the Hebrew for “nut,” “egoz” (17), is almost equal to the word for “sin,” chet(18). This disparity suggests that on Rosh Hashanah, the Day of Judgement, we don’t want to even come close to sin, and the foods we eat (or don’t eat) on this day serve as a powerful reminder for where are mindset is to be on this monumental day.