Halacha for Thursday 25 Elul 5781 September 2 2021

The Symbolic Foods of Rosh Hashanah

Symbolism is Real
The Gemara (Horayot 12a and Keritut 6a) states that one should make sure to see the following foods on Rosh Hashanah as a good omen: Gourd, leek, spinach, and dates. Rashi explains that these fruits and vegetables are symbolically good to see on Rosh Hashanah because they grow faster than other fruits and vegetables. The Gemara in Masechet Keritut, however, states that one should eat these items, as opposed to merely seeing them as the Gemara in Masechet Horayot states. Indeed, this custom of eating these symbolic foods is codified by the Tur and Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 583). The Sefer Kol Bo writes that one should recite prayers in the form of “Yehi Ratzon” texts corresponding to the respective names of these items (as printed in Machzorim).

It is therefore customary to eat black-eyed peas, gourd, leek, spinach, dates, pomegranates, apples in honey, and head of lamb on the nights of Rosh Hashanah.

When These Symbolic Foods Are Eaten
By eating fruits or vegetables before a meal, one places himself in a doubtful situation regarding whether an after-blessing is required on these items or perhaps one fulfills his obligation to do so by reciting Birkat Hamazon at the conclusion of the meal. Since one should preferably not place one’s self into a doubtful situation regarding blessings, it is preferable to eat the aforementioned fruits and vegetables during the meal, meaning after one has eaten an olive’s volume (approximately 27 grams) of bread following the “Hamotzi” blessing. This was indeed the custom of Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l.

Reciting the Blessing First
Are Blessings Recited on These Foods

When the various vegetables (black-eyed peas, leek, pumpkin, and spinach) and the meat of the sheep’s head are eaten during the meal, a “Ha’adama” or “Shehakol” blessing (respectively) should not be recited before eating them, for the “Hamotzi” blessing exempts them even when these items are eaten without bread since cooked vegetables are usually eaten along with bread.

When the various fruits (dates, pomegranates, and apples dipped in honey) are eaten during the meal, one must recite the “Ha’etz” blessing before eating them, for the “Hamotzi” blessing does not exempt them as they are not usually eaten together with bread.

When the “Yehi Ratzon” is Recited
Some have the custom to first recite the “Yehi Ratzon” text and only then to recite the appropriate blessing and eat. This custom is quoted by the Sefer Mateh Moshe (Chapter 590) and others. Nevertheless, this custom is not recommended since it is inappropriate to pose our own requests before blessing and praising Hashem. The prevalent custom is therefore to recite the blessing, taste the food, recite the “Yehi Ratzon” text, and then continue eating the food. This was indeed the custom of Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l. He proceeds to support this ruling from a Gemara (Nedarim 32b) which states that Shem, son of Noach, also known as Malki Tzedek King of Shalem, who approached Avraham Avinu with bread and wine after winning the war against the four mighty kings. He blessed Avraham saying, “Blessed is Avram to G-d on high Who created Heaven and earth.” Only afterwards did he exclaim, “And blessed is G-d on high Who delivered your enemies in your hands.” Avraham Avinu exclaimed to Shem, “Does the blessing to a servant precede the blessing to the master?” Here too, it is therefore preferable to first recite the appropriate blessing on the food, taste a little bit, and only then recite the “Yehi Ratzon” text, which is our personal request for Heavenly mercy. (See Chazon Ovadia- Yamim Nora’im, page 94 and on)

Day and Night
Maran Ha’Chida writes (in his Machazik Beracha, Chapter 583) that the custom is to perform the symbolic eating of these foods on the second night of Rosh Hashanah as well. The Ben Ish Hai (Parashat Nitzavim) writes that it is customary to hold this order on both daytime meals of Rosh Hashanah. Nevertheless, the prevalent custom is to hold this symbolic order only during the Rosh Hashanah night meals. This was indeed the custom of Maran zt”l.

Individual Recitations
Every member of the household may recite the respective blessings and “Yehi Ratzon” texts on their own and they are not obligated to listen to the recitation of the head of the household and fulfill their obligation in that manner. One may nevertheless do as one pleases in this regard.

The Customary Order for the Nights of Rosh Hashanah
For the customary order of the nights of Rosh Hashanah, click here.

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

The Proper Way to Immerse Vessels in a Mikveh

One must make certain that there is nothing separating between the vessel one is immersing and the waters of the Mikveh. Thus, when one is immersing a vessel, one must hold the vessel loosely, for if one holds it tight, one’s hand will be separating between the vessel and the waters of the Mik......

Read Halacha

Reading Scripture at Night

Question: May one read chapters of Tanach or Tehillim at night or is this forbidden according to Kabbalah? Is there room for leniency when this reading is being done for the sake of an ill individual or a woman in labor? Answer: Maran Ha’Chida in his Responsa Yosef Ometz (Chapter 54) quotes......

Read Halacha

Spiritual Blockage of the Heart

Question: Must one be careful regarding the Kashrut standards of the foods one’s children eat as well? Answer: Regarding any food which is prohibited for consumption by the Torah, such as milk and meat or an impure animal’s milk, it is certainly forbidden to give such foods to childre......

Read Halacha

Question: Is one obligated to wait six hours after eating meat foods before eating dairy foods?

Answer: The Gemara in Masechet Chullin (105a) states: “Mor Ukva said: When my father would eat meat, he would not eat cheese until the next day. Regarding myself, however, within the same meal I do not eat meat and then cheese, but I would eat cheese during the next meal.” The Rif writes......

Read Halacha


Drinking Beverages in a Café or in a Home Where the Vessels have not been Immersed in a Mikveh

Question: May one drink coffee in a friend’s home or in a Café (such as an espresso without milk served in Cafes) when they are not meticulous about immersing their vessels in a Mikveh? Answer: In the Halachot discussed before Tisha Be’av, we have explained that vessels produc......

Read Halacha

Question: Do disposable vessels and electric kettles require immersion in a Mikveh?

Answer: In the previous Halachot, we have discussed the general law that any new vessels purchased from a non-Jew must be immersed in a Mikveh before using them. We shall now discuss whether or not disposable vessels require immersion. We have already explained that according to Maran zt”l,......

Read Halacha

Eating Dairy Items after Eating Poultry

In the previous Halacha we have discussed in general the law that one must wait six hours after eating meat before eating dairy foods either because the nature of meat is to get stuck between one’s teeth or because meat gives off a taste in one’s mouth for a prolonged amount of time. ......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Fire on Yom Tov

In previous Halachot we have explained that Yom Tov and Shabbat are equal regarding all prohibitions besides for certain works associated with food preparation, such as cooking, which are permitted on Yom Tov. Igniting a Flame One may not produce a new fire on Yom Tov, for instance by striking a......

Read Halacha