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Karen Reiss Medwed

Simanim, New Signs, To Eat for a Sweet New Year!

Look, said my grandfather z”l, to me, pointing to a shiny penny on the street. Pick it up, he encouraged me. And at that moment, he introduced me to the idea of good omens that come our way.  This week around the world Jews will welcome the New Year. We welcome the new year with prayers, with new clothing, with the blowing of the shofar, the ram’s horn, and with words, greeting one another with a Sweet New Year.  How did we get a sweet new year?

Like the penny on the street, Jewish traditions are very cautious about the good omens which might present in our lives and about the symbolism of introducing them into our lives as well.  And so it is that on Rosh HaShana we eat food that is circular, so that our year be complete with no ending in sight. We eat apples and honey for a sweet new year.

In many families we also eat food that invites good omens into our lives.  There are traditional omens from many different communities across time. Our family always has Beets for example, “selek” in Hebrew, which also means “remove” as an omen, a siman, to remove all evil from our lives.

Inviting good omens into our lives on Rosh HaShana is found in the Babylonian Talmud, Horayot 12a: “Abaye said: Now that you said that an omen is a significant matter, a person should always be accustomed to seeing these on Rosh HaShana: Squash, and fenugreek, leeks, and chard, and dates, as each of these grows quickly and serves as a positive omen for one’s actions during the coming year.”

This is a great recipe right here, and if you are interested in a wonderful Sephardic dish of cooked vegetables put all of these vegetables, with the dates, into a skillet, add some sumac and cumin, sprinkle with olive oil and salt, and cook till soft and browned. Yum.

We all eat Apples and Honey; we put a pomegranate on our tables (both to say She’hechiyanu on the second day as it is often a new fruit and to bless ourselves with a year that multiplies with goodness like the seeds of the rimon).  Still, if you do not have veggie lovers for whom these Hebrew signs resonate, here is an additional list of some fun foods you can introduce as you prepare to welcome 5784:

Apples and honey:  or a sweet new year

Ice Cream: may the screaming of extremists be iced and cooled down

Peppers: may we pepper your life with fun filled opportunities

Mini Melts: may our many worries melt away

Kiwi: may we find the key to our way forward

Pineapple (or pine nuts): may we not be left pining this year

Celery with Raisins: may we have a raise in your salary this year (thank you Rabbi Futterman)

Shana Tova U’Metuka!

About the Author
Rabbi Karen G Reiss Medwed, Ph.D. is the only certified practicing female identifying mesadder gittin in the Conservative movement, and is an appointed member of the Joint Bet Din of the Rabbinical Assembly. She works as a Teaching Professor at the College of Professional Studies of Northeastern University.
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