This Rosh Hashanah, Jews all over the world are going to be indulging in pomegranates. Largely thanks to health researchers touting the benefits of pomegranate consumption, this majestic-looking fruit has enjoyed a resurgence of popularity in recent years. In the Jewish world, however, owing to its religious significance, the pomegranate has never gone out of style. Let’s take a look:
The pomegranate has been grown around the Mediterranean region since ancient times. It is, in fact, one of the Shivat Haminim, the “Seven Species” for which the Land of Israel is praised (Deuteronomy 8:8). Both the decorative items hanging from the Kohen Gadol’s robe (Exodus 28:33–34) as well as the ornaments atop two columns in the Holy Temple resembled pomegranates (I Kings 7:13–22). The pomegranate is mentioned in Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs), as a symbol of beauty (e.g., 4:3) and was used as a symbol on Jewish coins from period of the Great Revolt.
So what’s the connection to Rosh Hashanah? Jewish tradition holds that a pomegranate has 613 seeds, representing the 613 mitzvot of the Torah. On Rosh Hashanah, when we are being judged on the upcoming year, we eat pomegranates to symbolize our hope that our merits will increase like the seeds of a pomegranate, and we will be blessed with a year full of health and happiness.
Nutritionally, the pomegranate has been used for medicinal purposes for millennia. Packed with powerful antioxidants and vitamins, its juicy seeds have been known to help stomach upsets, menopausal hot flashes, hemorrhoids, lower blood pressure, stimulates the immune system, reduces the risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol.
Can’t find any edible pomegranates? Actually, since the pomegranate is so rich in history, symbolism, (and physical beauty), it has for centuries also been one of the most popular decorative motifs throughout Jewish art. In fact, the beauty of the “seeded apple” translates so well into modern jewelry and art, it can be seen on everything from necklaces, bracelets and earrings, to a various array of Judaica and home décor.