From chabad.org Rosh Hashanah Eve Meal
Rosh Hashanah Seder According to Ashkenazi Custom
Before starting the Rosh Hashanah meal, we sanctify the holiday by reciting the kiddush over a cup of wine or grape juice. Click here for the Hebrew text of the kiddush.1
On the second night of Rosh Hashanah, a “new fruit,” i.e., a seasonal fruit which we have not yet tasted since its season began, should be present on the table when the holiday candles are kindled and during the kiddush. While reciting the Shehecheyanu blessing after candle-lighting and after the kiddush, one should have the new fruit in mind.2
This fruit is eaten following the kiddush, before washing for bread. Before partaking of the fruit we say the following blessing:
Challah in Honey
Immediately following the kiddush (and on the second night, the eating of the new fruit), we perform the ritual washing for bread, after which we say the following blessing:
When everyone has returned to the table, we raise the two challah loaves and recite the Hamotzie blessing:
Cut the challah, dip it in honey (some also dip it in salt), and have a bite. Pass around pieces and make sure everyone does the same.
On the first night of Rosh Hashanah, after eating the challah with honey, it
is customary to eat several foods which symbolize the type of year we wish to have:
We dip a piece of sweet apple into honey. Before eating it we say:
A head of a fish, ram, or other kosher animal, is served. This symbolizes our desire to be at the “head of the class” this year.
A pomegranate is eaten, symbolizing our wish to have a year full of mitzvot and good deeds as a pomegranate is filled with luscious seeds.
Throughout the meal, it is customary to also eat foods whose names in the vernacular allude to blessing and prosperity. For example, many have the custom of eating a carrot dish, because in Yiddish the word for carrots, meren, means to multiply.
Rosh Hashanah Cuisine
On Rosh Hashanah it is customary not to eat foods which are sour or tart (the gefilte fish will have to do without the horseradish…). Instead, the focus is on sweet foods, symbolizing our desire to have a sweet year, blessings and abundance. It is also customary not to eat nuts on Rosh Hashanah, as the numerical value of the Hebrew word for nuts (“egoz“) is the same as the Hebrew word for sin (“chet“).
From aish.com Symbolic Foods
On Rosh Hashanah, we eat foods that symbolize good things we hope for in the coming year. We contemplate what these foods symbolize, and connect with the Source of all good things. Here is a list from the Talmud of symbolic foods customarily eaten on Rosh Hashanah. (The food and its related meaning are written in capital letters.)
You can also use other foods and make up your own “May it be Your will…” For example, eat a raisin and celery, and ask God in the coming year for a “raise in salary” (raisin celery)!
From chabad.org Rosh Hashanah Seder According to Sephardic Custom
On both nights of Rosh Hashanah, a number of foods are eaten to symbolize our prayers and hopes for a sweet new year. Many of these foods were specifically chosen because their Hebrew names are related to other Hebrew words that convey our wishes for the coming year.1 An accompanying prayer is recited, expressing our wishes inherent in these words and foods.2 Recite each prayer while holding the particular food in the right hand, immediately before it is eaten.
Before Rosh Hashanah, gather the following items:
After chanting kiddush, washing, and breaking bread, the following foods are eaten:
Dates. Related to the word תם—to end.
Take a date and recite:
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה’ אֱלֹהינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הָעֵץ
After eating the date, take another one and say:
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה’ אֱלֹהינוּ וֵאלֵֹהי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁיִּתַּמּוּ אוֹיְבֵינוּ וְשׂוֹנְאֵינוּ וְכָל מְבַקְשֵׁי רָעָתֵנוּ
May it be Your will, Lord our G‑d and the G‑d of our fathers, that there come an end to our enemies, haters and those who wish evil upon us.
Small beans. Related to the words, רב—many, and לב—heart.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה’ אֱלֹהינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הָאֲדָמָה
Blessed are You, Lord our G‑d, King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the earth.)
Take some white beans and say:
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה’ אֱלֹהינוּ וֵאלֵֹהי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁיִּרְבּוּ זָכִיּוֹתֵינוּ וּתְלַבְּבֵנוּ
May it be Your will, Lord our G‑d and the G‑d of our fathers, that our merits shall increase and that You hearten us.
Leek. Related to the word כרת—to cut.
Take a leek and say:
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה’ אֱלֹהינוּ וֵאלֵֹהי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁיִּכָּרְתוּ אוֹיְבֵינוּ וְשׂוֹנְאֵינוּ וְכָל מְבַקְשֵׁי רָעָתֵנוּ
May it be Your will, Lord our G‑d and the G‑d of our fathers, that our enemies, haters, and those who wish evil upon us shall be cut down.
Beets. Related to the word סלק—to depart.
Take a beet and say:
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה’ אֱלֹהינוּ וֵאלֵֹהי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁיִּסְתַּלְּקוּ אוֹיְבֵינוּ וְשׂוֹנְאֵינוּ וְכָל מְבַקְשֵׁי רָעָתֵנוּ
May it be Your will, Lord our G‑d and the G‑d of our fathers, that our enemies, haters and those who wish evil upon us shall depart.
Gourd. Related to the word קרע—to rip apart, and also קרא—to announce.
Take a gourd and say:
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה’ אֱלֹהינוּ וֵאלֵֹהי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁתִּקְרַע רוֹעַ גְּזַר דִּינֵנוּ, וְיִקָּרְאוּ לְפָנֶיךָ זָכִיּוֹתֵינוּ
May it be Your will, Lord our G‑d and the G‑d of our fathers, that the evil of our verdicts be ripped, and that our merits be announced before you.
Take the pomegranate and say:
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה’ אֱלֹהינוּ וֵאלֵֹהי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁנִּהְיֶה מְלֵאִים מִצְוֹת כָּרִמּוֹן
May it be Your will, Lord our G‑d and the G‑d of our fathers, that we be filled with mitzvot like a pomegranate [is filled with seeds].
Apple and Honey.
Dip an apple in honey – some have the custom of using an apple cooked with sugar – and say:
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה’ אֱלֹהינוּ וֵאלֵֹהי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁתְּחַדֵּשׁ עָלֵינוּ שָׁנָה טוֹבָה וּמְתוּקָה כַּדְּבָשׁ
May it be Your will, Lord our G‑d and the G‑d of our fathers, that You renew for us a year good and sweet like honey.
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה’ אֱלֹהינוּ וֵאלֵֹהי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁנִּהְיֶה לְרֹאשׁ וְלֹא לְזָנָב
May it be Your will, Lord our G‑d and the G‑d of our fathers, that we be a head and not a tail.
(The following is added only over the head of a ram:
וְתִזְכֹּר לָנוּ עֲקֵדָתוֹ וְאֵילוֹ שֶׁל יִצְחָק אָבִינוּ בֶּן אַבְרָהָם אָבִינוּ עַלֵיהֶם הַשָּׁלוֹם
…And You shall remember for us the binding and the ram of our forefather Isaac, the son of our forefather Abraham, peace be onto them.)
|How to put together your Rosh Hashanah seder:
Swiss chard latkes – Get the recipe here.
Dates – Simply serve plain dates, or if you can get fresh yellow dates (available in September at many Middle Eastern stores) you can chop them into green salads.
Haricots verts – Mix with a little olive oil, sprinkle with salt and roast in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes or until tender.
Squash – The traditional Mizrahi and Sephardi way is to fry chunks of pumpkin or squash and serve it dipped in sugar. You could also mix butternut squash chunks with honey, olive oil and kosher salt and roast in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about an hour, or until tender.
Pomegranate – You can either serve the seeds plain or try this recipe for pomegranate and roasted beet salad (two blessings in one dish) or this recipe for tilapia and pomegranate ceviche (again, two blessings in one, the fish and pomegranate).
Apple Jam – An Iraqi tradition. In a large bowl, mix 2 pounds of red apples with 1 pound sugar and 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom. Cover and let sit overnight. The next day, transfer to a pot, bring to boil, remove foam, and cook on low heat until very tender. Add juice of one lemon at the end. Keep in the fridge.
Leek latkes – Excellent with or without meat. Those are hard to resist, especially hot straight out of the pan, so hide them well until dinner.
An unusual Rosh Hashanah custom—which is actually mentioned in the Talmud and in other halakhic codes—is making puns on foods. No, the Talmud doesn’t tell us we should make puns; R. Abaye says that each person should eat at the beginning of the year certain foods that have a symbolic significance. But it turns out that the significance the Talmud cites is based on some adroit wordplay—in Aramaic (b. Horayot 12a). We know about the custom of eating pieces of apple dipped in honey, which is symbolic of the hope for a sweet new year. After Nehemiah read the Law to the assembled people on Rosh Hashanah, he sent them home with the advice to “Go your way, eat the fat and drink the sweet…” (Neh. 8:10). Taking the idea of symbolic foods a little further, the Talmud enjoins us that on Rosh Hashanah night we should eat foods whose names suggest good things for the future. The examples the Talmud mentions would not make much sense to us since they are, of course, in Hebrew and Aramaic, but this idea could certainly be extended to whatever language we speak.
To get into the mood, consider these examples. One may eat an avocado in the hope that God might be our advocate, or the thought that “I will pare away my sins in this new year” could be accompanied by eating a pear. But let us not take this too far: “Lettuce look forward to a wonderful year” might be going over the edge. But restraint wasn’t apparently on the mind of one well-known rabbi, who commented that perhaps eating a raisin with a celery stalk could certainly express the hope for “a raise in salary” (attributed to Rav Moshe Heinemann of Baltimore). But more on this later.
There are many celebratory activities that take place at Rosh Hashanah, and many of these take place at the festival table. Not only do we dip apples in honey; it’s traditional to have honey on the table during the festive meals and dip the challah in it, instead of salting it as is done during Shabbat and all other festivals. The Rosh Hashanah challah is different, too. It is round, to signify the cyclic nature of the year. Some even bake raisins into their challah, perhaps again to enhance its sweetness. In some communities the holiday challah may be formed into the shape of a five-runged ladder; the ladder, Hebrew: sulam, in gematria (study of the mystical relationship of words and numbers), has a value of 130, equal to the name “Sinai.” The symbolism refers to Moses’ ascent of Mt. Sinai to receive the Torah, and also to the ascent of prayers to heaven. Another view of the ladder symbolism is a prediction of how people will fare in the coming year—those whose fortunes ascend and those whose fortunes decline.
Many of us are familiar with some or even most of these food customs. But do you know the reasons that underlie these customs? Let’s look at some Rosh Hashanah food customs. The first three are common, but the ones that follow are less so. Much less common. Remember what I said above about puns? Keep that in mind when reading about some of these foods.
Eating a new fruit, that is, one that has just come into season or that the family has not eaten in some time, like several months, is a custom that is observed on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, so that one has an additional reason for reciting the sheheheyanu blessing over something new.
One food that is avoided during Rosh Hashanah is nuts. No nuts. Why? According to gematria, the Hebrew for “nut,” egoz, is equivalent to the word for “sin,” chet. But if you try it yourself, and add up the numerical letter values, you’ll find that egoz = 17 but chet = 18. So what’s the problem with nuts, or didn’t the mystics who did this calculation know how to add? Nothing like that—one of the primary gematria tricks (we would call it fudging) was to assign the comparison word itself a value of one, so that the gematria in both cases is 18. if you don’t buy that argument, consider that on Rosh Hashanah we don’t even want to come within shouting distance of a sin, and 17 is awfully close to 18. So just skip the nuts for two days.