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Jewish IdentityRosh Hashanah Simanim & Symbols.

Rosh Hashanah Simanim & Symbols.

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Last Updated on October 23, 2021

Interesting facts about Rosh Hashanah symbols – ‘simanim’.

Simanim Le Rosh Hashanah – סימנים לראש השנה  

ROSH HASHANAH SIMANIM

Rosh HaShanah (ראש השנה) the Jewish New Year is celebrated on the 1st and 2nd of the Hebrew month of Tishrei.   Candles are lit by the lady of the house, at the designated time, prior to sunset, to usher in the Sabbath or a Jewish festival.  After lighting the candles, the blessing on the festival candles is said.  On the first night of a festival we also recite the Shehecheyanu blessing. Blessings on the Rosh Hashanah simanim or symbols are also recited.

Blessing on Rosh Hashanah Candles

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה אַדֹנָ-י אֱ-לֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ לְהַדְלִיק נֵר שֶׁל יום טוב

English Translation: Blessed are you, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to kindle the light of the holiday

Transliteration: Baruch a-ta A-do-nay Elo-hei-nu me-lech ha-o-lam a-sher ki-di-sha-nu bi-mitz-vo-tav vi-tzi-va-noo li-had-leek ner shel Yom Tov.

Israel and International Shabbat candle lighting times for Rosh Hashanah

Shehecheyanu

Shehecheyanu is a blessing that gives thanks to God for enabling us to experience a new or special occasion. On the first night of a festival it is customary to recite the Shehecheyanu blessing, after the blessing for the candles, as follows:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה’ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְהִגִיעָנוּ לַזְּמַן הַזֶּה

English: Blessed are You, L-rd our G‑d, King of the Universe, who has granted us life, sustained us and enabled us to reach this occasion.

Transliteration: Baruch Atah Adonay E-loi-hei-nu Me-lech ha-o-lam she-he-chee-ya-nu v’ki-yi-ma-nu vi-hi-gi-ya-nu liz-man ha-zeh.

Blessing for the Challah (Hamotzi)

On the first night of Rosh Hashanah, we dip challah into honey and say the blessing over the bread. It is customary to bake a round challah bread which symbolizes the continuity of Creation. You might want to fill your home baked challah with grated apples or perhaps chocolate chips.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה’, אֱלקֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם הַמּוֹצִיא לֶחֶם מִן הָאָרֶץ

English: Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, King of the universe who brings forth bread from the earth

Transliteration: Baruch ata adonay elohaynu melech ha’olam, hamotzi lechem min ha’aretz

The Blessing on Apples and Honey

After eating the challah we dip a small piece of apple into a little honey (or a lot if you prefer) and we say a prayer asking G-d for a sweet year. In the bible, Israel is often referred to as the land of “milk and honey”. Have you ever wondered why? In biblical times honey represented good living and wealth.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הָעֵץ.

English: Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the trees

Transliteration: Baruch ata adonay elohaynu melech ha’olam, borei pri ha’etz

Ashkenazi & Sephardi Rosh Hashanah Customs

Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews have slightly different customs. Ashkenazim generally eat the simanin after Hamotzi (the blessing for the bread) while Sephardim generally eat them after saying the Kiddush (the blessing on the wine).

Over the centuries it has become an almost universal custom for Jews to eat sweet foods during Rosh Hashanah symbolizing our hopes for a sweet year. This custom is based on a Talmudic teaching. We are also taught to eat foods that symbolize abundance, and others that symbolize destruction – a short prayer is recited for each. These symbolic foods are known as ‘Simanim’ – Heb: סימנים

The eight symbolic foods (simanim) & blessings mentioned in the Talmud

1. Carrots

Blessing: Yehi ratzon mi’lefanecha, adonay elohaynu ve’elohay avotainu, she’yir’boo zchu’yotay’nu

May it be your will Hashem, our G-d and G-d of our forefathers that our merits increase

2. Leek or cabbage

Blessing: Yehi ratzon mi’le’fanecha, adonay elohaynu ve’elohay avotainu, she’ye’kar’tu sonay’nu

May it be your will Hashem, our G-d and G-d of our forefathers that our enemies be decimated

3. Beets

Blessing: Yehi ratzon mi’le’fanecha, adonay elohaynu ve’elohay avotainu, she’yis’talku oyaveinu

May it be your will Hashem, our G-d and G-d of our forefathers that our adversaries be removed

4. Dates

Blessing: Yehi ratzon mi’le’fanecha, adonay elohaynu ve’elohay avotainu, she’yitamu sonay’nu

May it be your will Hashem, our G-d and G-d of our forefathers that our enemies be consumed

5. Gourd/pumpkin

Blessing: Yehi ratzon mi’le’fanecha, adonay elohaynu ve’elohay avotainu, she’yi’kara g’zar dineinu, veyikaru lefanecha zchu’yo’taynu

May it be your will Hashem, our G-d and G-d of our forefathers that the decree of our sentence be torn asunder; and may our merits be proclaimed before You.

6. Pomegranate

Blessing: Yehi ratzon mi’le’fanecha, adonay elohaynu ve’elohay avotainu, she’nir’be zchu’yot k’rimon

May it be your will Hashem, our G-d and G-d of our forefathers that our merits increase as (the seeds of) a pomegranate

It is customary to eat a “new fruit” on Rosh Hashanah. The pomegranate is often used as this new fruit has just come into season. Did you know a pomegranate has 613 seeds? And, did you know there are 613 mitzvot?

7. Fish

Blessing: Yehi ratzon mi’le’fanecha, adonay elohaynu ve’elohay avotainu, she’nif’re ve’nir’be k’dagim

May it be your will Hashem, our G-d and G-d of our forefathers that we be fruitful and multiply like fish

8. Head of a sheep or fish

Blessing: Yehi ratzon mi’le’fanecha, adonay elohaynu ve’elohay avotainu, sh’ni’he’ye le’rosh ve’lo le’zanav

May it be your will Hashem, our G-d and G-d of our forefathers that we be as the head and not as the tail.

Traditional Rosh Hashana Foods

Honey Cake

Many Jewish households eat honey cakes on Rosh HaShanah as another way to symbolically express their wishes for a sweet New Year. Honey cake can be made with a variety of spices. Spices like cloves, cinnamon, ginger or allspice are especially popular. Different recipes call for the use of coffee, tea, orange juice or even rum to add an additional dimension of flavor.

Apples with Everything

The apple symbolizes Gan Eden (the Garden of Eden), which according to the Midrash had the scent of an apple orchard. In Jewish mysticism the apple represents the Shekhinah (the feminine aspect of God). During Rosh HaShanah some Jews believe the Shekhinah is watching us and evaluates 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. The Zohar (Acharei Mot) says that the apple has healing qualities: Just as the apple heals all, so the Holy One, blessed be He, heals all.

Chag Sameach and Shana Tovah!

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