The Rosh Hashanah Meals
A Mitzvah to eat:
- It is a Mitzvah to eat, drink and rejoice on Rosh Hashanah.
- Rich meat and sweet beverages: Throughout the meals of Rosh Hashanah the custom is to eat rich meat and drink honey [beverages] and other sweets as an omen that the year should be sweet and rich. [One should however avoid eating the meat of a goat as goats are rooted in Gevura.]
- Not to fully satiate oneself: One should not eat to his full capacity in order so he not be led towards frivolous behavior, and so he keep the fear of G-d consciously on his mind.
- The Mitzvah of Simcha does not apply on Rosh Hashanah. Hence one is not obligated to drink wine, or buy his wife clothing or jewelry on behalf of Rosh Hashanah.
- Although there is no obligation to drink wine due to the Mitzvah of Simcha on Rosh Hashanah, unlike other Holidays, nevertheless due to the Mitzvah of Oneg one is obligated to establish his meal on wine. This means that he is to drink wine in middle of the meal, as is the law by all Holidays. However there are opinions which rule that one is not to drink wine on Rosh Hashanah [other than for Kiddush]. Many Poskim argue on this opinion.
- One is allowed to fast until midday on Rosh Hashanah. This normally occurs if one did not eat or drink anything in the morning and the prayers continued until past midday.
When during the day is one to eat the day meal?
- The day meal of the first day of Rosh Hashanah is to begin prior to the 10th hour of the day. However, if one has not done so then he is to eat the meal even past the 10th hour. However the day meal of the second day of Rosh Hashanah may begin even after the 10th hour, with exception to when the 2nd day of Rosh Hashanah falls on Erev Shabbos in which case the day meal is to begin before the 10th hour likewise on the 2nd day.
Inviting the needy to one’s meal:
- It is an obligation for one to invite orphans, widows and those which are in need to the Yom Tov meals. If one does not do so then it is not considered a meal eaten in honor of the Mitzvah but rather for the satiation of his abdomen.
The meal menu
- Setting up the table before Yom Tov: The mother of the home is to arrange that the table is set with a nice tablecloth, ready for her husband’s return from Shul. Nevertheless if one came home and saw that the table was not yet set up, he is not to make a quarrel with his wife over this and get angry, as anger is a very bad omen. Rather he is to judge her favorably and not hold any resentment even in his heart.
- Kiddush: The Chabad custom is to stand for Kiddush by all times, whether on Shabbos or Yom Tov. The blessing of Shehechiyanu is recited in Kiddush on both the first and second day of Rosh Hashanah. [One who has not said Shehechiyanu by candle lighting, as is the case by men, is to say Shehechiyanu by Kiddush.] See below regarding having a new fruit on the second night by Shehechiyanu.
- Yaknahaz: When the second day of Rosh Hashanah falls on Motzei Shabbos one says Yaknaha”z in the order of Kiddush of the second night. The blessing of Besamim is omitted from the order of Havdala “Yaknahaz”. The custom is to say the blessing of Meoreiy Haeish over the Yom Tov candles that were lit. We do not place the candles together, and nor do we place our nails towards them. Rather we simply look at the candles after the blessing and then continue with Yaknahaz.
- Rosh Hashanah that coincides with Shabbos: When [the first night of] Rosh Hashanah falls on Friday evening, the following passages prior to Kiddush are read in an undertone: shalom aleichim, eishes chayil, mizmor ledavid Hashem ro’i, da hi se’udasa.
- The day Kiddush: By the day Kiddush of Rosh Hashanah one says the verse Tiku and Ki Chok etc. One does not say Aleh Moadeiy or Askinu. When Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbos, the following passages are said prior to the verse of Tiku. They are to be said in an undertone: Mizmor Ledavid; Askinu; Veshamru; Im Tashiv; Da Hi; Zechor; Al Kein.
- The new fruit-Taking a new fruit by Kiddush of the second night: By Kiddush of the second night of Rosh Hashanah it is accustomed to place a new fruit in front of the person making Kiddush, or for him to wear a new garment, and intend to exempt it with the blessing of Shehechiyanu. Upon him saying the blessing of Shehechiyanu he is to look at the fruit. [Immediately after Kiddush, after drinking the wine but before washing for bread, he is to say the blessing of Haeitz and eat the new fruit. The person who said Kiddush is not to make any interval, even of speech, between Kiddush and eating the new fruit. The Chabad custom is to eat a Kezayis of the new fruit. One may eat other fruits to accumulate the total of a Kezayis. If he ate a Kezayis he is to recite an after blessing afterwards, prior to washing for the meal. If he did not eat a Kezayis of fruit then an after blessing is not said. The custom is that also the people who listened to the Kiddush eat the new fruit, saying a blessing of Shehechiyanu and then Haeitz over it.] If one does not have a new fruit or new garment available, he is nevertheless to say the blessing of Shehechiyanu in Kiddush.
- The custom is that also the people who listened to the Kiddush eat the new fruit, saying a blessing of Haeitz and Shehechiyanu [see next] over it. One first says the blessing of Shehechiyanu and only afterwards recites the blessing of Haeitz.
- The Rimon is not to be used as the new fruit being that one is required to eat it on the 1st night as part of the Simanim. Nevertheless, there are those which use it as the new fruit for the 2nd night.
- Dipping the Challah in honey: During the Rosh Hashanah meals, after saying the blessing of Hamotzi, one dips the Challah in the honey [three times]. Nevertheless one should also have salt on the table. It is customary to dip bread in honey throughout all the Yom Tov and Shabbos meals until Simchas Torah, as well as Hoshanah Raba, Erev and Motzei Yom Kippur. During the week it is not customary to do so.
- Round Challahs: The ancient custom of Ashkenazi Jewry is to eat round Challahs on Rosh Hashanah. This symbolizes the roundness of a crown and corresponds to the coronation of Hashem on Rosh Hashanah. Alternatively it is done as a symbol of good omen as all round items do not have a start or finish and hence reflects long life. Likewise round represents unity. Some write that this applies only on Rosh Hashanah itself, however on Shabbos Shuva one is to return to the accustomed shape of the two Vav’s.
- Apple dipped in honey: After eating the Challah after Hamotzi, one is to eat a sweet apple dipped in honey saying first the blessing on the apple and immediately afterwards the “Yehi Ratzon” printed in the Machzor. After saying the Yehi Ratzon one is to eat the apple. One is to first eat the apple even if there are other fruits of the seven Minim on the table. One should have in mind all the fruits to be eaten during the meal, and not say a separate blessing over them later on. This includes fruits eaten as dessert prior to Birchas Hamazon.
- The apple represents the “orchard of apples” which is well known in Kabalistic literature. The significance of the apple is as follows: An apple contains three benefits: Smell; Taste and Sight. These three senses represent the three channels of blessing in Banaiy [children], Chayaiy [Health] and Mezoni [livelihood]. Eating the apple on the night of Rosh Hashanah serves as a good omen to these three channels of blessing.
- The Midrash states that the apple tree does not give off shade. This means to say that its shade is very minute. In Kabala shade represents a contracted level of Makif revelation. All the fruit trees receive from this level with exception to the apple. The apple is rooted in Tiferes and receives directly from the level of Emes of which there is no shade or contraction. Based on this it is said in the name of Admur [the Tzemach Tzedek] that this is the reason we are accustomed to eat the sweet apple in honey on the first night of Rosh Hashanah, as Tishreiy is the seventh month which corresponds to the Tikkun of Emes. In Tishreiy Atzmus is revealed without any contraction and through our Teshuvah in this month we reach Atzmus. We thus eat a fruit that is rooted in the level of Emes as a symbol of this matter.
- Honey comes from Gevurah. Nevertheless honey is a sweetened Gevura [Gevura Shebichesed] and thus has the ability to sweeten all other items. It is able to preserve all items preventing them from deteriorating as it compacts the item and prevents its four Yesodos from separating. Furthermore it has the power to eventually turn the item it is preserving into actual honey. It thus is able to turn the bitter into the sweet in play of the Avoda of Is-hapcha.
- The Simanim-Foods of significance that are eaten on Rosh Hashanah: The purpose of eating the Simanim is in order to remind the person and arouse within him feelings of repentance for him to request from G-d the matters that the Simanim represent [such as long life, children no war etc]. If for whatever reason one is unable to eat the Simanim he should nevertheless bring them to the table, and at least look at them during the meal for a good omen.
- One should be accustomed to eat the following foods on Rosh Hashanah:
- Karti [Leek]
- Silka/Tradin [Beets]
- Tamri [Dates]
- Kara [Squash]
- Rubya/Tilsan: The Rubya, which refers to Tilsan, is eaten as it means “many” in Yiddish. [Some say this refers to “Meheren” which is a carrot. Others say this refers to a beet or other red herb substance. Many argue on this opinion. Many consider this the “Lubya” bean, which is the Cowpea legume, and so is the custom of various communities. Others consider this Chilba [Fenugreek]. In modern Hebrew the Rubya refers to the cowpea been while the Tilsan refers to Clover.
- “Many” [carrots]: Similar to the Rubya, all vegetables that are etymologically rooted to the word “many” in others languages are to be eaten by all the inhabitants of the native countries in which that language is spoken, each country according to their language. [Carrots are called “Meheren” in Yiddish. Meheren means more in Yiddish. Thus the custom of European Jewry is to eat carrots as part of the Simanim in a traditional European dish called “Tzimis”. This especially applies according to those opinions mentioned above that interpret the Rubya as the carrot. This custom is also found amongst Yemenite Jewry.]
- Apple dipped in honey: See above!
- Fish:Some [are accustomed to] eat fish to signify that we should multiply like fish. The fish is not to be cooked in vinegar.
- רימון/Pomegranate: Some have the custom to eat [sweet] Rimonim as an omen that we should multiply our merits like the seeds of the Rimon. [Practically this is the widespread custom today. One is to eat a Kezayis of the Rimon. The Rimon is to be eaten after Hamotzi on the first night of Rosh Hashanah. It is best to eat the fruit in the beginning of the meal, rather than the end. When eaten on the first night, as is suggested, if it is a new fruit the blessing of Shehechiyanu is said. However in such a case the fruit should not be brought to the table until after Kiddush in order so one is able to say a separate blessing of Shehechiyanu over the Rimon without any question.]
- A head of a ram: One is to eat the head of a ram in commemoration of the ram of Yitzchak. If the head of a ram is not available, one should eat from the head of a sheep. If this too is not available one is to eat any other available head [such as the head of a fish or chicken] as an omen that we should be the head and not the tail. Some Poskim write that if there are no heads available of any species one should try to at least eat the meat of a ram in commemoration of Yitzchak.]
- Other Simanim: See footnote for a list of Simanim mentioned in other Poskim.
- Saying the Yehi Ratzon: The Chabad custom is to only recite the Yehi Ratzon upon eating the apple. It is not recited upon eating any of the other Simanim.
- The order of the Simanim: The Chabad custom is to first eat the apple dipped in honey. Others however list the following order: One says the blessing over dates and one then eats: Silka/beets; Karti/Leek; Kara/Squash; Rubya/carrot/cowpea; Rimon; head of ram; apple with honey.
- Are the Simanim eaten also during the meal of the second night of Rosh Hashanah? Many Poskim rule that the Simanim are to be eaten also on the second night of Rosh Hashanah. Others however rule that it is not necessary to eat the Simanim on the second night and so is the widespread custom, and so is the Chabad custom.
- Are the Simanim eaten also during the day meal? Some Poskim write that if available, the Simanim are to be eaten also during the day meal of Rosh Hashanah. [Practically the widespread custom is to only eat the foods by the first night.]
Foods that are avoided on Rosh Hashanah:
- Nuts: Some are particular to avoid eating Egozim and Luzim [and all forms of nuts] on Rosh Hashanah.
- Sour and pickled foods: The fish [eaten as the Siman] is not to be cooked in vinegar. [Many people avoid eating all pickled or sour foods, such as lemons [pickles and olives] and the like. Likewise all bitter foods are avoided.]
- Goat meat.
- Grapes: Some Poskim write one is to avoid eating grapes on Rosh Hashanah. From other Poskim however it is evident that there is no need to refrain from eating sweet grapes. Practically this stringency is not the widespread custom. Some explain that the above stringency only refers to black grapes, while white grapes are specifically to be eaten as a good omen. Others explain the above stringency is only with regards to sour grapes while sweet grapes may be eaten according to all.
- Beans/legumes: All foods that increase phlegm and saliva, such as certain beans and legumes, are to be avoided.
- Garlic: Some are accustomed not to eat garlic. Others however were not particular in this matter.
- Fruits: All sour fruits, such as lemons, are avoided as stated above. Some avoid eating [sour] Rimonim, grapes and pears. One is to avoid any fruit that is not yet ripe. Some write one is to avoid eating a large amount of sweet fruits such as apples and citrus as they can cause Keri impurity.
- May one use the above foods as seasoning for other foods? It is permitted to season ones food with any of the above ingredients so long as the food will not become bitter or pickled due to the seasoning. Thus one may season salad with lemon and the like.
- May one eat cake and cookies that contain nuts? It is permitted to eat cakes, cookies and the like that contain ground nuts within their ingredients even if their taste is slightly felt within the food. This applies even if it contains the Egoz nut. Nevertheless many are accustomed to be stringent to avoid eating any food that contains the Egoz nut in the ingredients as the Egoz is the Gematria of Chet [sin]. Practically one who is stringent is blessed.
- Must one avoid eating spicy, sharp and hot foods? There is no need to refrain from eating sharp foods, such as chili peppers, Sechug, Charif and the like.
- Until when are the above foods to be avoided? The custom is to avoid eating nuts until after Simchas Torah. Many are accustomed to avoid eating any of the above foods until after Simchas Torah.
- Avoiding anger: One must be very careful not to get angry on Rosh Hashanah, as besides for the great sin of anger, doing so on Rosh Hashanah is a bad omen for the coming year.
- Being joyful and happy as a good omen: One is to be happy and rejoice on Rosh Hashanah as a good omen for the coming year. He is to trust in Hashem that his Teshuvah and good deeds will be accepted before Hashem.
- Not to smoke: Those people who do smoke throughout the year, including on the festivals, abstain from doing so on Rosh Hashanah. It would be proper for Torah scholars to adhere to this restriction and to influence their acquaintances likewise. This applies even in private.
After the meal
- Birchas Hamazon: One recites Yaleh Veyavo within Birchas Hamazon on Rosh Hashanah. By the Harachaman’s one recites the Harachaman for Yom Tov “Harachaman Hu Yanchileinu Leyom Shekulo Tov”. Afterwards one recites the Harachaman for Rosh Hashanah “Harachaman Hu Yechadesh Aleinu Es Hashanah Hazos Letovah Velivracha”. On Shabbos Rosh Hashanah one recites first the Harachaman for Shabbos and then the Harachaman for Yom Tov and then the Harachaman for Rosh Hashanah.
- Meiyn Shalosh-Al Hamichya: One adds the following words when reciting the after blessing of Meiyn Shalosh on Rosh Hashanah: “Vezachreinu Letovah Beyom Hazikaron Hazeh”
- If one forgot to recite Yaleh Veyavo: If one forgot to say Yaleh Veyavo in Birchas Hamazon and he already finished Birchas Hamazon, or remembered only after he already began the first word “Baruch” of the blessing of Hatov Vehameitiv, then if this occurred on the night of Rosh Hashanah [i.e. the night meal] one is required to repeat Birchas Hamazon. If however this occurred during the daytime of Rosh Hashanah [i.e. the day meal] then one has fulfilled his obligation, and Birchas Hamazon is not to be repeated. All the above refers to a case that one already began the first word “Baruch” of the next blessing. If however one remembered to recite Yaleh Veyavo after completing “Uvinei Yerushalyim” but prior to beginning the first word of the next blessing, then in all cases [i.e. whether night or day meal] he is to say the following blessing:
ברוך אתת ה‘ אלקינו מלך העולם אשר נתן ימים טובים לעמו לשראל לזכרון את יום הזכרון הזה. ברוך אתה ה‘ מקדש ישראל ויום הזכרון:
- Rosh Hashanah that coincides with Shabbos: In the event that Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbos one is to say Ritzei and Yaleh Veyavo. If one forgot to say both Ritzei and Yaleh Veyavo and remembered prior to beginning the word Baruch then he is to say:
ברוך אתת ה‘ אלקינו מלך העולם שנתן שבתות למנוחה לעמו לשראל באהבה לאות ולברית וימים טובים לזכרון את יום הזכרון הזה. ברוך אתת ה‘ מקדש השבת וישראל ויום הזכרון.
If one forgot to say only Ritzei or only Yaleh Veyavo then he only mentions the additional blessing of the skipped part.
- Learning Miseches Rosh Hashanah: Based on Kabala one is to study the four chapters of Tractate Rosh Hashanah, prior to doing Mayim Achronim before Birchas Hamazon, of each meal by Rosh Hashanah night and day. One is to intend that each chapter corresponds to one letter of the name Havayah.
- Saying Tehillim after the day meal: After eating the day meal one should return to Shul and say Tehillim. Some have the custom to complete the entire Tehillim. Some have the custom to read the Tehillim together with a Minyan and they do not stop from beginning until end.
- Learning all one’s set Shiurim: The Rebbe Rashab would learn all of his set Torah Shiurim [even in Nigleh] on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Sleeping on Rosh Hashanah day:
- One is to avoid sleeping on Rosh Hashanah day [even after midday], although some have the custom to sleep after midday. [Practically it is best to avoid doing so on the first day of Rosh Hashanah even after midday however on the second day there is more room to be lenient. However certainly from a spiritual perspective one is to utilize all of his time for saying Tehillim and matters of service of G-d on both days of Rosh Hashanah]
- Based on the above one is to awaken prior to Alos and not return to sleep on Rosh Hashanah day. One is especially to avoid sleeping into the first hour of the day which is the first hour that Hashem sits and judges the world. Nevertheless many are lenient today to sleep past Alos, on the basis that the first hour begins from sunrise. Certainly however one is to avoid sleeping past sunrise. Even if one is not feeling well he is to place effort to awaken before morning and if needed to sleep only after midday.
- One who feels the need to sleep in order to re-energize, may sleep a little before going to shul. Even in such a case it is best to withhold oneself from sleeping until after midday. This applies even if one has a headache or migraine and the like.
- One who misuses his time: If one uses his time to learn Torah or pray he arouses his angel above to pray on his behalf. If however he goes to sleep then his angel does not pray for him. The same therefore applies for one who does not use his time properly for learning and prayer, as he does not arouse his angel to pray for him above.
- Marital relations on Rosh Hashanah: One is to avoid marital relations on both nights of Rosh Hashanah, in order not to enter into a state of Keri with exception to if the 1st or 2nd night of Rosh Hashanah is the night of Mikvah.
Preparing on the first day for the 2nd day of Yom Tov or Shabbos:
- It is forbidden to prepare anything on the 1st day of Yom Tov on behalf of the 2nd day, even if one did Eiruv Tavshilin before Yom Tov. Rather all the preparations for the 2nd night are to be done after nightfall. This applies even for the two days of R”H which are considered like one long day. Thus one must beware not to bring wine on the first day of Yom Tov on behalf of Kiddush of the second day. Likewise one is not to search in a Sefer Torah on the first day for the reading of the second day. Likewise one may not wash dishes on the first day on behalf of the second day.
- Likewise even in a scenario that Shabbos falls after the 2nd day of Rosh Hashanah, it is forbidden to prepare on the 1st day of Yom Tov for Shabbos even when Eiruv Tavshilin has been done. Rather all preparations for Shabbos are to be done on the 2nd day of Yom Tov. Food which is cooked on behalf of Shabbos must be cooked enough to be edible prior to sunset of the 2nd day.