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Jewish Recipes --> Judaism --> Rosh HaShanah

Symbolic Sephardic Foods For Rosh Hashanah

Published in the Philadelphia Jewish Voice

The Sephardic community has a unique mystical tradition for Rosh Hashanah. Symbolic foods are served at a Rosh Hashanah Seder. Some of these foods are also puns, and are called “simanim,” or “signs.” Special blessings called “Yehi ratzones,” Ladino Hebrew for “May it be God’s will,” are chanted over these dishes. Here are some of them, and the traditions associated with them.

Black-Eyed Peas And Fenugreek

Black-eyed peas are called “ruvia” in Aramaic. ”Ruvia” is like the Hebrew word “rov” which means most or many. Fenugreek is also referred to as “ruvia” which may connote “irbu” or “will increase.”

The blessing before eating it is:

“Yehi ratzon milfanecha Adonai Eloheinu Sheh’yirbu ze’chu-yo-taynu.”
“May it be your will Eternal God that our merits increase.”

Black-eyed peas and fenugreek are stewed with vealin a dish called Lubiya. The recipe for Lubiya recipe is adapted from Gilda Angel’s Sephardic Holiday Cooking.

No Nuts!

Nuts are avoided during Rosh Hashanah

The word for “nut” in Hebrew is “egoz.” Its gematria or numerical value is “chet” which means “transgression.” In order to avoid transgressions during the new year, even foods that carry the suggestion of a transgression are avoided.

Fish Or No Fish!

The word for “fish” in Hebrew is “dag.” It sounds a lot like “daagah,” which means “worry.” There are people who avoid eating fish on Rosh Hashanah in order to avoid a year full of worries. Other sephardic communities do have the tradition of eating fish as a symbol of fertility for the new year. The yehi ratzon blessing for fish is:

“Yehi ratzon milfanechaAdonai Eloheinu
She nifre ve nirbe ke dagim.”

“May it be your will Eternal God
That we be fruitful and multiply like fish.”

It is traditional to serve chraime for this course. Chraime is a fish and vegetable casserole.

Sugar For Dipping The Bread

Raw And Processed Sugar

Some Sephardic families avoid consuming honey during Rosh Hashanah. In Ancient Israel, honey would render the incense used in the Temple impure if it was added to it.

For a pure and sweet Rosh Hashanah, they dip their bread in sugar.

Couscous With Seven Vegetables

It is customary to wish for a year with as many blessings as there are grains of couscous in a bowl. Seven appears many times in the Torah. It epitomizes blessings, good luck, and Creation. Couscous With Seven Vegetables is a recipe adapted from Christine Benlafquih.

Quince

Quinces are native to the Caucasus. They are from the same family as apples and pears. Moroccan Jews have the custom of reciting the shehechiyanu and “Yehi Ratzon” blessings over a candied quince. I adapted a recipe for making your own candied quince from Simply Quince by Barbara Ghazarian.

Squash or Gourd

Squash or gourd is called “qara” in Aramaic and Hebrew. ”Qara” has two meanings. It can mean “to read, or to call out.” It can also mean “to rip or tear up.” The following prayer is recited over the gourd:

“Yehi ratzon milfanecha Adonai Eloheinu she yeekorah g’zar dee’neinu ve yeekaroo lefahnecha zechuyoteinu.”

“May it be your will Adonai our God that our harsh decrees are torn up and our merits are proclaimed before You.”

Spaghetti squash and pumpkin are thought to be “qara.” A traditional Rosh Hashanah recipe adapted from Copeland Marks’ book, Sephardic Cooking, is Tirshi: Pumpkin Salad.

Round Flatbreads

Saying the blessing over a challah is a tradition acquired in Germany, which spread to all of the Eastern European Jewish communities. In the Sephardic tradition, the blessing over the bread is chanted over flatbreads. The round shape of the flatbread connotes the same symbols as the round shape of the Rosh Hashanah challah. It symbolizes the never-ending circle of life and the yearly cycle. It helps us express our wish for a good year, which will bring blessings, peace, prosperity, and sweetness. Twelve flatbreads are baked and arranged in the same pattern as the showbread used in the Temple. The two flatbreads on the top are held together for the blessing. Many use Homemade Pita Bread for this blessing.

“Baruch ata Adonai
Eloeinu melech haolam
Ha motzi lechem min haaretz.”

“Blessed are you God, King of the Universe,
Who brings forth bread from the earth.”

Leeks

Leeks are called “karsi” in Aramaic, which is related to the Hebrew “karet” which means “sever, destroy, or cut off.” They are accompanied by a prayer to God to cut off our enemies. The traditional way to serve leeks is to prepare leek fritters also known as Keftes De Prasa or Leek Fritters.

The blessing we say over the leek fritters is:

“Yehi ratzon milfanecha Adonai Eloheinu she yeekartu soneinu.”

“May it be your will Adonai Our God that our enemies will be cut off.”

Dates

Dates are called “tamri” in Aramaic. ”Tamri” means “to finish.” The blessing over dates experesses the hope that our enemies will end their enmity.

“Yehi ratzon milfanecha Adonai Eloheinu she yitamu oyevenu.”

“May it be your will Eternal God that our enemies will be finished.”

Fresh dates from Israel, unadorned, are delicious with this blessing. Some families have the tradition of dipping their dates in a mixture of anise seeds, sesame seeds, and powdered sugar.

Colorful Beets

The Aramaic for beets is “silka” which sounds like the Hebrew word “siluk.” ”Siluk” means removal. We pray that our enemies will be removed.

“Yehi ratzon milfanecha Adonai Eloeinu she istalku oyevenu.”

“May it be your will Eternal God that our enemies will be removed.”

Roasted Beet Salad is often served.

Apples

The traditional way to serve apples in the Sephardic Rosh Hashanah table is called Mansanada. Mansanada is a type of apple compote.

The yehi ratzon blessing over the apple is:

“Yehi Ratzon Mil’fa’necha, Adonai Eloheinu

She techadesh aleinu shana tova u’metuka.”

“May if be your will Adonai our God

to renew us for a good and sweet year.”

Pomegranate

Pomegranates are said to have 613 seeds, the same number as mitzvot in the Torah. On Rosh Hashanah we eat a fresh pomegranate preceded by the blessing:

“Yehi Ratzon Mil’fa’necha, Adonai Eloheinu

She nirbeh zechuyot ke rimon.”

“May if be your will Adonai our God

That our merits increase like the seeds of a pomegranate.”

Head Of A Ram, Fish, Or Rooster

It is a very ancient tradition to bake and present at the table the head of a ram. This is done to symbolize a desire for the Rosh Hashanah celebrants to be leaders, not followers. This symbol helps us remember that God allowed Abraham to replace his son Isaac with a sheep when making his sacrifice as commanded. The head of a fish or rooster symbolized this hope in some of the Sephardic communities. The blessing is:

“Yehi Ratzon Mil’fa’necha, Adonai Eloheinu

She niyeh ke rosh velo ke zanav.”

“May if be your will Adonai our God

That we will be the head and not the tail.”

I like to serve a whole, smoked fish, like a mackerel. It is very elegant with its beautiful golden color.

As there are protective amulets, so there are protective foods. Long standing traditions dictate that the new year must be welcomed with the proper foods and blessings to merit life, sustenance, and the opportunity to perform mitzvot. Yehi ratzon! Shana tova.


Walking to Jerusalem

Sept 2005 - 2014 - Kosher Recipes - Kosher Cooking - Jewish Cooking - Jewish Recipes - Jewish Foods