Rabbi Mark’s Recipe for a Resplendent Rosh Hashanah
Rosh Hashanah Symbolic Foods
Adapted from Mazornet.com and Chabad.org
Recipe for “An Auspicious New Year” by Rabbi Mark Melamut
Rosh Hashanah Symbolic Foods
Ransack the pantry, search out the grocery stores, there is a wondrously long and diverse list of foods to eat as omens for a good year. The notion that eating certain foods on Rosh Hashanah is a useful thing to do was mentioned by the Talmudic sage, Abaye: “Now that you have said an omen is significant, at the beginning of the year each person should accustom himself to eat gourds, fenugreek, leeks and dates.” (Keritut 6a).
The foods themselves are not magic vitamins for a good year. Eating them is a reminder that doing superficial acts, like gulping down food and resolutions, are not enough to secure a favorable judgment. True change is the only way.
Rosh Hashanah is not a time that we spell out a wish list to God. Most of the liturgy is consumed with God’s coronation. Eating the good-omen foods is just a little reminder hinting God of our desire and hopes for a happy and blessed new year.
Round Challah Loaves
Circular challot represent the unending cycle of life and the prayer that another year will be granted. From another perspective the round loaves look like a royal crown, a reminder of the coronation of God as Ruler on Rosh Hashanah.
There’s a tradition that back in the days before the Exodus, the Egyptian taskmasters ate multi-cornered bread evincing their belief in many gods. Jews formed round breads to display their defiant belief in one indivisible God. (Project Genesis)
Apples Dipped in Honey
Why have apples become the Rosh Hashanah symbol?
There’s a pragmatic reason. Even in the frigid Eastern European countries, where Ashkenazic traditions formed, apples are ripe for the picking around this time of year.
Then there are reasons that can enrich the eating experience. According to Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf, author of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur Survival Kit (Levitathan Press, 1992), an apple tree grows differently than other fruit trees that sprout leaves to shade their new fruits. Apples make their way into the world without leafy protection, just like Jews who practice their beliefs even though being different leaves Jews vulnerable to prejudice.
Take a look in Genesis 27. It is there that Jacob claims the prized firstborn blessing that his father Isaac had intended for Esau. Jacob managed to do this by disguising himself as Esau and his ruse was helped along by Isaac’s poor eyesight.
But Isaac suspected that something wasn’t right. His first words to Jacob are “Who are you, my son?” What gave Jacob away? His voice and his smell, says the Midrash, writings on the underlying meaning of the Torah narrative. Esau smelled of blood of the hunt. Jacob exuded the scent of a field, an apple field according to some commentators. In the end, Jacob got the blessings of wealth and power he set out to get. Rabbi Eliyahu of Vilna, the Vilna Gaon (genius), (1720-1797), wrote that we eat apples to express our hope that we too will receive these blessings in the year to come.
What to do?
After the challah has been dipped in honey, take an apple in hand. Say the blessing over the apple:
Barukh Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melekh HaOlam boray peh-ree hah-aytz.
We bless you Eternal God Sovereign of the World who created the fruit of the tree.
Then say the short prayer that ties the honey-dipped apple to the wish for a sweet new year.
Yehi ratzon Adonai Eloheinu sheh-tee-cha-daysh ah-lay-nu shana tovah u’meh-tu-kah.
May it be your will Eternal God that we are renewed for a year that is good and sweet.
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה’ אֱלֹהינוּ וֵאלֵֹהי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁתְּחַדֵּשׁ עָלֵינוּ שָׁנָה טוֹבָה וּמְתוּקָה כַּדְּבָשׁ
Say Nuts to Nuts
Some Jews avoid eating nuts on Rosh Hashanah because the Hebrew word for nut is “eh-goze” which has the same numerical values as “chet,” meaning sin. On the Day of Judgment, the thinking goes, it’s worthwhile to avoid all shades of sin even numerical ones.
Egyptian Jews and others eat black-eyed peas because they are called Rubya, related to the Hebrew word rov meaning a lot, many. Black-eyed pea dishes, such as Hoppin’ Jack, are traditional New Year’s eats in the American Southeast. One wonders if the slave trade had something to do the migration this dish.
Couscous with Seven Vegetables
The many tiny couscous grains represent a wish for a year with blessings aplenty. Tossing seven different vegetables plays on the number seven, which represents goodness in the natural order. Seven earns this distinction because God created the world in seven days.
Honey, Sugar or Salt on the Challah
Challah dipped in honey is one of the joys of an Ashkenazic Rosh Hashanah feast. Sticky sweet honey represents the wish for a sweet new year. The bees who made the honey impart another lesson. Bees are bring the sweetness of honey, the bounty of pollination, and the pain of a sting. We, too, can bring about joy, productivity or pain. It’s our choice.
Some Sephardic Jews deliberately avoid honey because it was a fouling agent if added to the Temple incense. Challah is dipped into sugar instead. Jews who observe this sugar custom might dip their bread three times in sugar and three times in salt. Throughout the year, challah is dipped into salt in remembrance of the sacrifices that had salt sprinkled on them.
To Fish or Not to Fish
Fish multiply in great number. They never sleep. They swim in water. Believe it or not these are reasons why they are eaten by some Jews on Rosh Hashanah. We hope the year will be one of plenty, just as fish are extremely fruitful. Just as fish never sleep, we hope to maintain a constant awareness of our mission in life and to remain cognizant of God’s expectations at all times. Since fish are underwater the evil eye cannot penetrate the depths, and we wish to be free of any negative wishes.
Yet there are some Jews, among them certain Sephardim, who will not eat fish on Rosh Hashanah. In Hebrew fish is “dag” and that sounds too close to “da’ahgah,” worry, for comfort.
When Jews were closer to agriculture and to the ways of the marketplace butcher, the following custom probably didn’t sound as nauseating. With the prayer “May it be God’s will that we will be the head and not the tail,” Jews kept a sheep, rooster, or a fish head on the Rosh Hashanah table.[This one works just as well with a head of lettuce or as our B3 Sunday teacher, Andrew, used, the head of the candy, Swedish fish]
Yehi ratzon milfanecha Adonai Eloheinu veilohei avoteinu, sheniyeh l’rosh v’lo l’zanav.
May it be Your will, our G‑d and the G‑d of our fathers, that we be a head and not a tail.
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה’ אֱלֹהינוּ וֵאלֵֹהי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁנִּהְיֶה לְרֹאשׁ וְלֹא לְזָנָב
Rabbi Abaye mentioned gourd eating in his list of New Year’s symbolic foods because of two puns that may be made on the gourd’s Hebrew name “k’rah.” The word means “read out, proclaim” as in “May our merits be proclaimed before God.” K’rah also means “rip up” as in “May harsh decrees be torn.”
Yehi ratzon milfanecha Adonai Eloheinu she’yee-korah g’zar dee’nay-nu v’yee-kar-oo l’fah-necha zechu-yo-tay-nu.
May it be Your will that our harsh decrees are torn up and our merits are proclaimed before You.
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה’ אֱלֹהינוּ וֵאלֵֹהי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁתִּקְרַע רוֹעַ גְּזַר דִּינֵנוּ, וְיִקָּרְאוּ לְפָנֶיךָ זָכִיּוֹתֵינוּ
Fenugreek is known as “rubia,” increase, and is eaten with the short prayer:
Yehi ratzon milfanecha Adonai Eloheinu sheh’yirbu ze’chu-yo-taynu.
May it be your will Eternal God that our merits increase.
Leeks or Cabbage
These vegetables are known as karti, related to the word karet, to cut off or destroy.
Yehi ratzon milfanecha Adonai Eloheinu sheh’yee-kar-tu soh-nay-nu.
May it be your will Eternal God that our enemies will be cut off.
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה’ אֱלֹהינוּ וֵאלֵֹהי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁיִּכָּרְתוּ אוֹיְבֵינוּ וְשׂוֹנְאֵינוּ וְכָל מְבַקְשֵׁי רָעָתֵנוּ
Beets are known as “silka,” related to the word “siluk,” meaning removal. The adversaries referred to in the prayer before eating the beet are the spiritual roadblocks created by the past year’s missteps that must be removed before a sweet New Year is granted.
Yehi ratzon milfanecha Adonai Eloheinu sheh-ye’stal-ku oy-vay-nu
May it be your will Eternal God that our adversaries will be removed.
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה’ אֱלֹהינוּ וֵאלֵֹהי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁיִּסְתַּלְּקוּ אוֹיְבֵינוּ וְשׂוֹנְאֵינוּ וְכָל מְבַקְשֵׁי רָעָתֵנוּ
Dates are known as “tamri” is related to the word “tamri,” meaning consume or finish. This food is similar to the beets and leeks in that it is eaten with the intent that all enemies will end their detrimental wrath.
Yehi ratzon milfanecha Adonai Eloheinu sheh-yee-tahm’u oy-vay-nu.
May it be your will Eternal God that our enemies will be finished.
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה’ אֱלֹהינוּ וֵאלֵֹהי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁיִּתַּמּוּ אוֹיְבֵינוּ וְשׂוֹנְאֵינוּ וְכָל מְבַקְשֵׁי רָעָתֵנוּ
Yehi ratzon milfanecha Adonai Eloheinu veilohei avoteinu, sheniyeh m’lei’im mitzvot k’rimon.
May it be your will Eternal God, that we be filled with mitzvot like a pomegranate [is filled with seeds].
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה’ אֱלֹהינוּ וֵאלֵֹהי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁנִּהְיֶה מְלֵאִים מִצְוֹת כָּרִמּוֹן
Rabbi Mark Melamut’s Salad for an Auspicious New Year
Whether your dinner table includes young children or hungry guests, this is the quick way to say all of the blessings and get to the food, faster. Serves 8-10
8 cups bite-size pieces of romaine and/or green leaf lettuce (about 1 large or 2 small heads)1 cup chopped carrots, cut in 1⁄4-inch pieces
1⁄2 cup chopped leek (white and very light green part only), cut in 1⁄4-inch pieces
1⁄2 cup diced cooked, drained beets (canned OK), cut in 1⁄4-inch pieces
1/2 cup chopped, pitted medajool dates, cut in 1⁄4-inch bits
2 cups diced cooked winter squash, cut in 1⁄4-inch pieces
4 oz. lox or smoked salmon
1⁄4 cup pomegranate seeds
1 cup of balsamic vinaigrette, approx.
Toss lettuce, carrots, leeks, beets, dates and squash in a large bowl. Refrigerate if making in advance. Before serving, shred lox into 1⁄2-inch bits and add to salad with pomegranate seeds. Just before serving, toss with almost all the dressing, adding more if needed to taste.
Note: Make your own salad dressing by blending olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and honey.
And for dessert…‘The Norma’ Apple Cake
1 cup almond flour
1 2/3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
Finely grated zest of one lemon
6 large egg whites, lightly beaten
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
6 plums, chopped
2 medium baking apples, peeled and thinly sliced
In a large bowl, combine the almond flour, powdered sugar, all-purpose flour, cinnamon, salt, and lemon zest. Whisk in the egg whites and slowly stir in the butter. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 450 with a rack positioned in the center.
Grease a pretty, round pan with butter or oil. Spoon half the batter into the pan and sprinkle the plums all around. Spoon the other half of the batter and use a spatula to carefully spread the batter over the plums. Arrange the apples on top.
Bake for 10-15 minutes until the cake batter begins to solidify. Lower the temperature to 400 and bake another 10 minutes. Turn off the oven and let cake stand in the oven until firm, about 10 minutes more. Let cool on a rack and dust with powdered sugar.