Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year. I can’t believe it’s already upon us because it feels like we only just celebrated Pesach (Passover), but I guess that a global pandemic and subsequent lockdown would have some kind of impact on time perception.
I’ve always known that apples and honey go hand-in-hand with Rosh Hashanah, largely because of a rhyme taught to me as a child. “Apples dipped in honey we do eat; we daven (pray) to Hashem (God) to make the new year sweet.” When it comes to symbolic sweetness, I don’t think you can do better than apples in honey, short of upending the sugar canister onto your waiting tongue (…tempting).
However, there are actually a few more fruit and vegetable inclusions around Rosh Hashanah that I didn’t know about. For instance, apples are the fruit of choice because of their hardy, year-round nature, making the fruit accessible to Jews all over the world. In Europe, Jews are feeling Summer come to an end. In South Africa, September marks the start of Spring.
The second night of Rosh Hashanah should also be accompanied by new fruit that has just come into season to celebrate the gift of life and the opportunity to taste fruits that we haven’t enjoyed for a long time. For a lot of Jewish people, this means going for something exotic and tropical – kiwis, pomegranates, or dragon fruit. However, recently in New York City, Jews are going out of their way to get some of the less commonly available tropical fruits. Like, have you ever heard of monstera fruit? I’ve heard it tastes like a cross between a pineapple and a banana. What about jackfruit? They use it as a meat substitute. Novelty is the spice of life!
Seven Vegetable Couscous
A savoury dish sometimes served is couscous with seven vegetables added to it. The plentiful couscous represents the number of blessings you hope for in the New Year and seven is an auspicious number…seven books in the Harry Potter series (and also God making the world in seven days). The big seven are up to you, but just make sure they’re in there. I’m quite fond of recipes that involve some hardier winter-type veggies: squash, turnip, onion, cabbage, tomatoes, and chickpeas. And hey – feel free to throw some apples in there as well.
Looking to add a bit of honey to your soup?
Find this Vegan Butternut Squash soup recipe here!
Let’s Go on a Date
Sweet dates are one of the ‘seven species’ (that magic number again), a group of staple agricultural products found in Israel that also includes barley, wheat, figs, grapes, pomegranates, and olives. Dates are actually named ‘t’marim’ in Hebrew – which somewhat strangely refers to punishing or finishing off enemies (remember those poisoned dates in the first Indiana Jones movie?) As fun as it is to imagine chomping your enemy’s head while biting into a date, the common symbolism of dates actually relates to finishing off the enemies within – by banishing our own prejudices and toxic beliefs. Oddly enough, dates used to be boiled and distilled into a thick, syrupy spread that Israelites gave the name ‘honey’ to – so when you see the classic description of Israel as the ‘land of milk and honey’, it’s actually referring to the land of milk… and dates.
And there you have it! I learned something, you learned something, and now we’re all hungry for some apples, some couscous, and probably a whole lot of honey just to make sure that 5781 is a little bit sweeter than 5780 was. So, what are you waiting for? Blow that shofar and let the people know you’re trying out something new this Jewish New Year!