September 2020 -- Elul 5780-Tishri 5781,  Volume 26, Issue 9

c2020 Shoreline Publishing, Inc.      629 Fifth Avenue, Suite 213, Pelham, NY 10803      P: 914-738-7869

Apples and Honey, Symbols for a Sweet New Year

By Stephen E. Lipken


Despite the ongoing threat of COVID-19, Temple Israel Center, White Plains (TIC), is eagerly making plans for the High Holidays. For Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, TIC is giving members a choice of many services to attend in the Milstein Sanctuary; Tent Aleph; Tent Bet; and Teen Talk.


TIC Director of Teen Engagement Grades 6-12 Adam Bender (photo, right) appeared on TIC’s website, “Virtual Happenings,” asking, “How do we prepare for the New Year? What are all the food symbols we eat annually around Rosh Hashanah?”


Kicking off the program, TIC Teen Board member Max Kohn (photo, below) sounded a Shofar, “blown every day during the month of Elul, awakening, re-charging and energizing us,” Bender noted.


Bender began by naming apples and honey for a sweet New Year as well as a fish head on a plate, symbolizing the “head of the year.  We want to embody heading into the New Year and not the tail. A round challah represents the cyclical nature of the year.  As a new year begins, we ask ourselves, ‘What was so great about last year?  How can we improve?’

“The Talmud states that a person should eat squash, leeks, chard and dates,” Bender added. “They grow quickly and serve as a positive omen for one’s actions during the coming year.

“Carrots, or Hebrew Gezer sounds like g’zar, the Hebrew word for ‘decree,’ expressing desire that G-d will nullify any negative decrees.  Squash, or Aramaic Kara, to ‘rip apart,’ is eaten to hope that Hashem rips apart any evil decrees.


“Folklore states that Pomegranates supposedly contain 613 seeds, representing the 613 Mitzvot.


“Beets or selek, Aramaic for ‘remove,’ are eaten to express that our enemies will be removed from us.”


Finally, Bender defined an English pun, “peas.” “Peas,” he said, “are all together in a bunch. Peas represent ‘world peace.’”