Monday, September 10, 2007

Food for the new year

By Gilda Angel (recipes can be found here).


Sweet dates are served to symbolize the wish that the New Year will be equally sweet. After reciting the yehi ratson prayer (below), most Sephardim eat the dates as they are. Some Moroccan Jews add a gourmet touch. They dip the dates in a mixture of ground sesame seeds, anise seeds and powdered sugar. (Apples are also dipped in this mixture). Interestingly, "yitamu", which sounds like "tamar", the Hebrew word for date, is introduced in the yehi ratson in a sense that gives this word another meaning. "Yitamu hata'im" literally means "May the wicked of the earth be removed."

As we eat this date, may we date the New Year that is beginning as one of happiness and blessing, and peace for all men. Blessed are Thou, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who creates the fruit of the tree.

POMEGRANATE (these ceramic ones are from LanaOst on Flickr)

Every pomegranate, it is said, contains exactly 613 seeds, precisely the number of mitzvoth, Biblical commandments Jews are obliged to fulfill. As they eat this fruit, Sephardim pray that their lives during the coming year will be filled with as many good deeds as the pomegranate has seeds.

In the coming year, may we be rich and replete with acts inspired by religion and piety as this pomegranate is rich and replete with seeds.


The apple's roundness symbolizes a hope that the New Year will be joyous from the beginning until it goes full circle. Dipping an apple in honey expresses a wish for a sweet New Year.

May it be Thy will, Lord our God, God of our father, to grant us a year from the first day to the last, goodly as the apple and sweet as honey. "And Nehemiah said to them, go, eat rich dainties and drink sweet drinks, and send portions to him to has nothing ready, for today is holy to our Lord. Grieve not, for the joy of the Lord is your strength."


Food made with pumpkin is served to express the hope that as this vegetable has been protected by a thick covering, God will protect us and gird us with strength. The Hebrew word for pumpkin or gourd is "kraa". Sephardim pun on this and say "yikaru lefanekha z'khuyoteinu," May our good deeds be called out before the Lord at the time of judgment.

"May the coming year grow as a gourd in fullness of blessing. In the year to come, if enemies gird at us, mayest Thou guard us as we eat of this gourd with the prayer: Blessed art Thou, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who createst the fruit of the earth."


"Kartee" is the Hebrew word for leek. In the yehi ratson, Sephardim say "yikartu oyvekha," May all of God's enemies be cut off. This pun in English on "leek" probably evokes more chuckles than any other double-entendre in the yehi ratson ceremony.

Like as we eat this leek may our luck never lack in the year to come.


Sephardim generally perform the yehi ratson with spinach or Swiss chard, although the leafy part of the beet may also be used. In English translation, the stress is on our desire to "beat" those who intend to do us harm. "Silka" is the Hebrew word referring to the greens mentioned above. The verse that begins "yistalku oyvekha" also expresses the wish that the enemies of the Jews will be removed.

As we bite this beet, may those who in the past have beaten us or sought our harm beat to cover in the coming year.


"Rosh Hashannah" literally means head of the year. The sheep or fish head symbolizes the hope that each of us will be at the head of whatever we do, rather than at the tail end.

May it by Thy will, Lord our God, God of our fathers, that in the coming year we may go ahead in all we undertake. "And the Lord will set thee ahead and not back, and thou shalt go only upwards and not down, when thou wilt hearken to the commandments of the Lord thy God which I command thee this day to observe, and to do them."

1 comment:

marciad said...

Sent the pomegranate card to my cousin, and she loves it. Thanks for the inspiration. Would never have known of the pomegranate's importance and usage for the New Year. Happy New Year.