Rosh Hashanah: A Glimpse Beyond The Food

By: Saira Malhotra

This is the year of 5771-5772 in the Jewish religion and Rosh Hashanah will be observed around the globe from sunset this September 28th to night fall on September 30th. This pivotal date on the Jewish calendar marks the creation of the world and Man, according to most perspectives of Judaism. From a cultural standpoint there is certainly an emphasis on food and festivities, but like all religious holidays, Rosh Hashanah has a much deeper significance.

Rosh Hashanah is also known as Judgment day, the day where God decides upon whom He bestows life and death to for the coming year. The days leading up to Rosh Hashanah are for repentance and forgiveness, both of which live in the world of self-reflection. It is this analysis and acknowledgement of the self that allows followers to make necessary adjustments for the New Year and ultimately a fresh start.  For those prey to mental slumber and unaware of their corrections, there is of course the whistles of the Shofar (the ram's horn), to give them a jostle and remind them of the homework to be done.

The holiday is visual and prayers are recited by the water where one can rid their sins in to the ocean depths. Like other Jewish holidays, the ladies of the house light candles in their warmly lit homes, say blessings over Challah and enjoy a ceremonial meal.

The food is a very symbolic part of the holiday and everything present at the table is served by design. Apples are dipped in honey to ensure a sweet year ahead and dishes are served to fulfill your objectives. Rosh Hashanah's literal translation is 'head of the year' which is why one would often expect to see an animal head at the table, such as fish. No table would be complete without a dish incorporating pomegranate, the fruit of good deeds; and carrots, the emblem of bountiful.

These ingredients are celebrated through a vast gamut of recipes and of course, depending on the sect of Judaism you belong to, the dishes can be completely different. Sephardic Jews will often have meats cooked in pomegranate and tamarind sauce, olives and a beet citrus salad echoing their Mediterranean and Middle Eastern ways; while an Ashkenazi spread will boast of Eastern European influenced kugels, honey cake, and matzo balls. Regardless of how it is celebrated, Rosh Hashanah is definitely a rich and cultural holiday in the Jewish heritage. A special greeting goes out to those of you observing this special week, 'Yehi Ratson'!

What will you be preparing for Rosh Hashanah?

Photo: Avital Pinnick