Is there such as thing as Rosh Hashanah Seder?
There are three Seder ceremonies during the year.
One that I knew about, one that I celebrated and didn’t know I actually did, and once I learned as an adult.
Passover Seder is the one we all celebrate, Tu B’shavat seder (Birthday of the trees), and Rosh Hashanah. That was the one I discovered and celebrated, but never knew it was actually a Seder.
Since we are gearing towards the High Holidays I’ll share the latter.
If you are like me growing up celebrating Passover Seder wasn’t the most fun ceremony in the world. It took forever just to get to the first blessing to eat a piece of parsley… “Yoo-hoo”, how exciting. Dinner was so far in the future, a dream. We were dreaming of dinner like slaves who are waiting for their freedom.
But Rosh Hashanah was fun. Short, to the point, round Challah with raisins, yummy fruits and vegetables… yes, vegetables, which for some of them we were looking forward to all year.
Rosh Hashanah – is the New Year. When you translate it literally from Hebrew to English it means the Head of the Year (Rosh- head, Shanah –year).
Please, don’t forget about the head, it’s an important part of the ceremony. I’ll come back to it.
On Rosh Hashanah eve, just before sunset when the holiday started my Mom lit the candles, which brought light and warmth to our home.
Shortly after my father’s arrival from the synagogue, we started the Seder.
My Dad made the Kiddush over the wine, and then over the Challahs. And that was the moment when happiness started. Usually, my Dad will dip the Challah in salt and then hand us a piece, but Rosh Hashanah was special, this time it was honey. That was the time where carbs and sugar weren’t counted.
It was only when I was in my early 20s that I realized that these blessings weren’t chosen randomly, and has a meaning to them. Some of them I learned and some of them are my personal interpretation.
I find it interesting that all the blessings are actually not blessings. A blessing usually will start with Baruch Ata, which is praise to G-d. It is actually a request, a wish- “Yehi Ratzon …” May it be the will of G-d. That’s the reason why they are not called B’rachot (blessings) they are called Simanim ,which mean signs.
With my love of letters, I looked at the fruits and vegetables and realized there is a straight correlation between the Siman (sign) and the fruit/vegetable.
Since I grew up in a Yemenite home this is the order of our Seder.
We blessed on the Date, Pomegranate, Apple dipped in honey, K’raa (pumpkin), Rubiya (cowpea, a vegetable, looks like a long and thin string bean, has a lot of pods in it), Karaat (leek), Beets, and Fish.
The essence of the Simanim applies for us as a nation/community and as individuals. Personally I think each of us can look at their life and apply any of the Simanim to their current life and state of mind.
The wish is to end all enmity towards us. I looked at the Hebrew word Tamar and saw not one rather two words in it.
Tam which means – end The second part of the word is Mar- which means bitter.
So in essence we are asking to end our bitter circumstances. Only when that happens, happiness will flourish.
RIMON - POMEGRANATE
This is the sweet fruit that has many seeds. The claim was that there are 613 seeds in it, and therefore it’s like all the commandments we are required to keep.
Unfortunately these days we know that a single pomegranate has between 200-1,000 seeds. However, on average they have about 600. We are close.
The Siman of the Pomegranate is positive. May it be that our rights will increase? I understand it as our as a wish that our righteous actions will be increased or actions will be translated as positive rather negative. (we are heading to Yom Kippur- the day of judgment)
TAPU'AACH - APPLE
Tapua’ach- The apple has so many meanings. (Below are some links you might enjoy reading)
When I look at the root of the word Tapu’aach ת פ ח. The root means to rise, to swell, just like dough.
There was no place I could make any connection between the root and the apple. However, we know that the apple is a very special fruit, starting with the tradition that Adam and Eve ate from it to the claim that an apple a day will keep the doctor away.
But being curious and stubborn I had to find an interesting and different facts about the apple.
So I turned to Gematria, where we use the value each word to teach us different facts.
Apple תפוח- the numeric value is 494
ת = 400 פ = 80 ו = 6 ח= 8
What other word or a phrase from the Bible will have a value of 494 (apple)?
The passage is from Psalms Chapter 136, and you can find it in other places in the book of Psalms. It is a very famous line that praises G-d for his goodness and mercy.
הללו-יה הוֹדוּ לַיהוָה כִּי-טוֹב: כִּי לְעוֹלָם חַסְדּוֹ
Praise G-d, give thanks unto the LORD, for He is good, for His mercy endures forever.
הללו-יה הוֹדוּ לַיהוָה כִּי-טוֹב: כִּי לְעוֹלָם חַסְדּוֹ
78 +176 + 30+17+30+56+21+ 86 = 494
Is there any correlation? You’ll have to decide, but I find it quite interesting.
Let me know if you are interested and I’ll write about this topic.
There are two kinds of honey. One is produced by bees and the other is honey from dates. In this case, the Torah and the blessing refer to date honey.
The funny thing is that while we were growing up we all blessed on the bee’s honey. I don’t think we had really heard of date honey. It became very popular in Israel in the last few decades. It is called Sil’aan.
Eating Tapuach B’dvash (Apple dipped in honey) has so many explanations on so many levels. Here are just a few of the links
When we usually think about honey we think about honey produced by bees.
K’RAAH – PUMPKIN
Did you ever eat a large piece of pumpkin after it was boiled, softened, and cooled?
Appetizing it doesn’t sound like. But we all just loved it. Different strokes for different folks.
The Siman is the wish to have the verdict of our sins to be torn up like a paper is torn up, and our righteous actions will increase.
The root of the word is ק ר ע is a harsh word, it’s to tear apart, to rip.
It’s an act you can not repair. Usually, when you rip something apart or tear it, you cannot reassemble it.
That’s how strong the desire to change the decree of our wrong actions is desired, and therefore the right actions will be counted more.
GEZER- CARROTcarrot is also used since the root of the word is ג ז ר could be translated as to cut ( Like with scissors) which can relate to the word to tear apart.
However in this context, it means a verdict, and as we know once there’s a verdict against someone there is no change of the faith of that individual or people/ community.
One of the things I will never forget as my siblings and family friends was my Dad’s Hummmmm with closed lips, as a sign of warning of a big sin we are making. This Hummmm meant “I’m blessing”, and when that happens until we say the Amen and tasting the blessed food we must be silent!
We had quite a few hummm during the Seder. What can you do with excited children eating favorite foods? To be quite frank, we were never able to be totally quiet which meant the hummm never stopped.
How much we miss those days!
RUBIA- a long and thin string bean with many small pods.
The root is ר ב א which relates to the word Harbe- which means plenty.
It is a positive Siman. We wish to have plenty of righteous actions. That a lot of our actions will be favored as the right actions. The more the merrier.
KARAT - LEEKThe root of the word כ ר ת is to cut off, to cut from the root. And the wish is that our enemies will be cut off from our lives. And I do believe that these wishes are not only referring to our enemies as a nation but also our personal enemies, the thoughts, situations one wishes to cut off from their life.
The root of the word ס ל ק is to get rid of, to expel. And again it is used against our enemies.
If someone will tell you to “L’histalek” (Using it as a verb) it’s an extremely offensive way to convey one's feelings. Quite often when you hear people argue and one of them is fed up with the other, one would say “ Tistalek/I Li Mehapanim”, which will be translated as “Get out of my face”. But if you think about the meaning of that sentence in Hebrew it is deeper than just get out, it’s your wish to get rid of someone, to expel them from your life.
The good news, we might be angry at that moment and use this phrase but in all reality not meaning it.
DAG – FISH
It’s one of my favorite dishes and probably my favorite Siman.
Remember the head I talked about at the beginning… Rosh Hashannah- Head of the Year.
This is the Siman we wish to be the head rather than the tail.
And for your curiosity, we actually had the head of the fish as part of the ceremony… on the table! It wasn’t bad, even though, there were all the ‘YUCK!’ from the kids and some of the adults too.
The fish is the last Siman. If you’ll notice this is the wish for the future. It’s not about our previous actions, our regrets, and wishes for the best. It doesn’t address our enemies.
This Siman is all about the future. We make the decision now how our next year will be. It’s the future where we’ll choose to be “the head“rather “the tail”, our choice of becoming leaders rather than followers.
I take it as a personal Siman. To me, it’s a great reminder of the inner strength I have to create and pave my way. To have the belief that I can and will achieve the future I want. To have the Rimon (pomegranate) with all its 613 Mitzvot (commandments) as guidance, that will bring insight to do the right things.
Looking at the whole Seder and its Simanim, the food is yummy and sweet. However, the Seder is not about eating sweet foods only. It is actually a preparation for the day of judgment- Yom Kippur.
We wish we ask, we hope for forgiveness and at the same time, we are asking to be rewarded for our positive rewards and to grant us another good year.
There are 4 positive Simanim and 4 negative Simanin. If we add the wine and Challah we have a total of 10- that number is good luck in Judaism.
Shannah Tova U’MetukahP.S I was just thinking of a title for this article when I realized that in English when you toss a coin – you have to choose Heads or Tails… I wonder how it connects… Is there actually a connection?