One of the more popular customs associated with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is the eating of apples and honey. This is to symbolize hopes for a sweet new year. It is also fitting for the beginning of the fall season when several varieties of apples are fresh and in season. It has become a tradition here at the JCC to plan a young family apple picking program to coincide with Rosh Hashanah for this same reason, which will take place again this year on Sunday morning, September 16 at Mills Farm in IL.

Apples and honey are well known but you may not be as aware of other customary foods and table traditions associated with Rosh Hashanah. In some communities it is traditional to place on the table and/or eat a head of a fish or a head of lamb. This is to symbolize that we should have a year in which we have success and are treated like a head and not like a tail. In other communities, people eat new fruits that they have not eaten in several months. This taste of something new helps to literally remind us that we are about to enter a new year. Yet another custom is one that is based on Hebrew puns. An English equivalent would be to eat hardboiled eggs and proclaim, “We are egg-cited for a great new year” or to eat nuts and say, “Let’s go nuts over celebrating a new year.” Challah, typically braided throughout the year, is formed in the shape of a circle for Rosh Hashanah in many communities. This is to symbolize the circular nature of the year and the cycle of life. In some communities, the challah is even shaped like a ladder, reminding us to think of God in the heavens, the one who created the world and the true eternal judge.

I share these food customs as a way to encourage all of us who celebrate Rosh Hashanah to make the holiday one that is memorable and meaningful. Whether one goes the classic route of apples and honey, incorporates a lesser known custom, or tries to create a different modern twist on one of these customs, the important thing is that we all take a moment to pause, appreciate our blessings, hope for a better tomorrow, and think about how fortunate we are to live in this glorious world.

Best wishes for a year full of blessing, love, health and peace
Shanah Tovah