There is a tradition on Rosh Hashanah to eat symbolic foods, simonim, in order to ensure a good and sweet year ahead. Eating the simonim helps to incorporate and remember the seriousness of the day during all parts of the yom tov, even during the more celebratory meals, during which time the simonim are eaten. On this holiday, everything we do and eat is imbued with extra significance as it is a time of reflection and introspection, even regarding the food.
These symbolic foods are among some of the most iconic symbols of Rosh Hashanah, and we eat them to remember the seriousness and importance of the day. There are many different variations of simonim and traditions, and, although it is only customary to eat the simonim and not a mitzvah, it is common in many Jewish homes. Additionally, the specific simonim that are eaten have changed and evolved. Therefore, the exact foods that are served vary from family to family depending on their traditions.
Apples dipped in honey is one of the most recognisable traditions associated with Rosh Hashanah, because how better to ensure a good and sweet new year ahead than to eat one of nature’s sweetest foods. Honey is also incorporated into other foods on this Yom Tov, such as in honey cake.
Pomegranates symbolise the good deeds we have done throughout the year as it is said that there are 613 seeds which correlate to the mitzvos in the Torah. We therefore eat pomegranate and daven that our good deeds be as numerous as the seeds.
The head of a fish or sheep is representative of our hope that we are likened to the head and not the tail, and that we move forward and make progress during the year ahead. The head of a sheep is also in remembrance of Avraham and Yitzchok’s sacrifice of the ram at Akeidas Yitzchak.
Carrots are symbols for increased merits. This is because gezer, the Hebrew word for carrots, sounds similar to the word g’zar, meaning decree. This expresses the hope that Hashem will nullify any negative decrees against us. In addition to the Hebrew interpretation of decree, the Yiddish translation of carrot is merren, which means to increase, making carrots another prayer for a prosperous new year.
Beets, dates and leeks are also eaten in the desire that no enemies can harm us and are no longer a threat against us. The Hebrew word for beets is similar to the word ‘siluk’, which means to remove, dates are similar to the word ‘tam’ which means to end, and the Hebrew word for leek, karti, sounds like ‘karet’ which translates as ‘to cut off’. These meanings all symbolise a hope that our enemies are removed and that we wish an end to our them and people who wish us evil. This can be referring to actual enemies of the Jews, and also our inner demons and yetzer hora.
From all of us at Kosher Kingdom we wish you a Shana Tova and a good year ahead!