On Rosh HaShanah, we eat many sweet foods for a sweet year, and we avoid bitter foods. We still need to remember what is really important.
Growing up on a Yeshiva campus, we always spent the Rosh Hashana meals together with the entire Yeshiva in the Yeshiva dining room for many years. It was a very lively crowd.
When we got together for the meals, there was always alumni that joined us that already graduated came back for Rosh Hashana. And one of the highlights is always the food that people brought and the simanim, the symbolic foods that people had in order to merit a sweet year.
And I remember one of the people, for example, put down on the tables sliced banana, and we looked at him and said, slice banana? What’s that symbolic for? And he said with a serious face: “she’banana Beis Hamikdash.”
So these are the kinds of things that everybody was busy with when the meal was just getting started and my father gets up and hushes the crowd in order to make a short announcement.
And he says: many people do not eat nuts on Rosh Hashana, because the Hebrew word for nuts is ‘egoz,’ which is gematria — the numerical value — of ‘cheit,’ which is sin.
And the Kotzker Rebbe points out that we have to remember that ‘cheit’ is also gematria ‘cheit.’ Meaning to say that don’t think that you can keep away from certain foods and go ahead and sin and you’ll be all right. You’re missing the point.
Similarly, my father said to everybody, some people don’t eat spicy foods or sharp foods on Rosh Hashana because they don’t want to have a bitter year. And he said, our minhag is, if you enjoy that jalapeno, go ahead, eat it, enjoy it. It’ll be symbolic of an enjoyable year for you.
It’s more important to have good middos and be nice to the person sitting next to you and be a good person and a good Jew. And if you do that, that is definitely symbolic of you having a sweet year to come. And with that, we started the meal.
And I’d like to wish all of you, regardless of what your minhag is, to have a ksiva vachasima tova, a sweet upcoming year.
Avraham Kohn produces marketing videos for companies and organizations, helping them make money.