Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begins at sundown tomorrow, September 16. Like most Jewish holidays, there are food customs associated with it. One of the most popular and well-known food customs on Rosh Hashanah has to do with dipping apple slices into honey. This sweet combination stems from an age-old Jewish tradition of eating sweet foods to express our hope for a sweet new year.
In addition to symbolizing our hopes for a sweet new year, according to Jewish mysticism the apple represents the Shekhinah (the feminine aspect of God). During Rosh Hashanah some Jews believe the Shekhinah is watching us and evaluating our behavior during the past year. Eating honey with apples represents our hope that the Shekhinah will judge us kindly and look down on us with sweetness.
There is also symbolism implicit in the apple. Solomon writes, referring to the romance between G-d and the Jewish people, (Song of Songs 8:5), “Beneath the apple tree I aroused you[r love].” On Rosh Hashanah we try to, once again, remind G-d of our mutual love.
According to Kabbalah,the apple is an allusion to the mystical level of “chakal tapuchin kadishin” (the Holy Apple Field).
When Jacob came to receive his father, Isaac’s, blessings, he had the scent of an apple orchard upon his clothing. This incident took place on Rosh Hashanah.
Also, when you cut an apple in half horizontally you will see ten little holes and a five pointed star. Ten is the numerical value of the Hebrew letter Yod, and five is the numerical value of the Hebrew letter Hey. Together they spell out G-d’s name. Those two letters are also an acronym for the words “Hand of G-d”. This reminds us that if we look closely and pay attention we will discover G-d’s hand in our life and the world around us.
According to the book of Exodus, when the Hebrews wandered the desert for 40 years they ate “manna,” which was like “honey wafers.” Israel itself, of course, is a land “flowing with milk and honey.”
The Blessing For Apple and Honey
Though apple and honey can be eaten throughout the holidays, they are almost always eaten together on the first night of Rosh Hashanah. Jews dip apple slices into honey and say a prayer asking God for a sweet New Year. There are three steps to this ritual:
Say the first part of the prayer, which is a blessing thanking God for the apples: Blessed are you Lord, our God, Ruler of the world, Creator of the fruit of the tree. (Baruch atah Ado-nai, Ehlo-haynu melech Ha-olam, Borai p’ree ha’aitz.)
Take a bite of the apple slices dipped in honey.
Now say the second part of the prayer, which asks God to renew us during the New Year: May it be Your will, Adonai, our God and the God of our forefathers, that You renew for us a good and sweet year. (Y’hee ratzon mee-l’fanekha, Adonai Elohaynu v’elohey avoteynu sh’tichadeish aleinu shanah tovah um’tuqah.)
- Perky’s Honey Display for Rosh Hashanah (romancingthebee.com)
- Rosh HaShanah Recipes for Starting the New Year (greenprophet.com)
- L’Shanah Tovah 5773 | Happy New Year 2012! (ayannanahmias.com)
- Netanyahu Rosh Hashanah Message Highlights Gov’t Achievements (jewishpress.com)
- Stories To Tell During Rosh Hashanah (handsonjewishholidays.com)
- Rosh Hashanah 2012 (neverpictureperfect.wordpress.com)
- Rosh Hashanah : Jewish New Year – ראש השנה (hebrewdailyphrase.com)