Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year (the first day of the Jewish High Holy Days) and is also known as the Feast of Trumpets. The holiday , which is also a day of remembrance, is at once solemn and festive. Joy comes not only from trust in God’s compassion, but also the anticipation of renewal and fresh starts.
The Rosh Hashanah meal becomes more than mere rejoicing as it is also a form of prayer. The table is transformed into an altar to supplicate God, partaking of symbolic foods: honeyed and sugared treats for a sweet year; round foods for a fulfilled year, unbroken broken by tragedy; foods that grow in profusion at this season and those eaten in abundance, such as rice, signifying hopes for fecundity, prosperity, and a wealth of merits.
Dinner begins with a prayer for a sweet year, dipping challah, or other sweet bread, and apples into fragrant honey. Some start with sugared pomegranates, dates, figs, or quince in rose petal syrup.
It is customary for the first course to be fish, which symbolizes fertility and God’s blessings. Seasonal vegetables like leeks, Swiss chard, black-eyed peas, and pumpkins appear throughout the meal in major and supporting roles. Delicious main dishes follow, and usually two or more sweet desserts (such as a plum tart, honey cake, or noodle kugel) conclude the meal.
A few foods, however, are unwelcome at the Rosh Hashanah table. Many Ashkenazi Jews do not eat nuts (because the numerical value of the Hebrew word for nuts is equal to the value of the word for sin). Others do not eat pickles, horseradish, or other sour foods, while Moroccans avoid foods that are black, like olives and grapes (which are considered bad omens).
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