Simanin (literally signs or indicators) are foods that we eat on Rosh Hashanah to symbolize our hopes for the coming year. I like to work simanim into my Rosh Hashanah menus every year for the added blessing, sweetness, and mazal they represent. This menu is exquisite in its simplicity and great-tasting dishes.
When our patriarch Yaakov masqueraded as Eisav to obtain his rightful “firstborn” blessing from his father, Yitzchak, he donned Eisav’s cloak.
Yitzchak exclaimed, “the fragrance of my son is like the fragrance of a field that G-d had blessed” and blessed Yaakov. The Talmud identifies the fragrance as an apple orchard, and the Vilna Gaon says this happened on Rosh Hashanah. We eat apples (tons of them) because we too want those holy blessings given to Yaakov.
Use your favorite challah dough recipe, hopefully, it's my heaven-on-earth challah-recipe or you can use store-bought frozen challah dough.
Carrots are a siman for an increase in our spiritual merits. It’s a play on words; carrots in Yiddish are merren which also means “many.” Wishing that we had more mitzvos on our record this time of year isn’t a shoulda-coulda-woulda guilt trip. It’s a commitment for the future.
Dates in Hebrew are tamarim, a play on the word yitamu, “[may our enemies be] destroyed.” Finished. Yesterday. And you don’t have to be a child to love Winnie-the-Pooh’s “hunny.” The ultimate symbol of sweetness, we consume honey as we pray for a “good sweet year.”
Leeks are a siman for the decimation of our enemies. The Hebrew word for leek—karsi is similar to the word yikorsu, “[may our enemies be] decimated.” Spinach, swiss chard, and beets are also meaningful as their Arabic or Hebrew translations are reminiscent of the Hebrew word yistalku, “[may our adversaries be] removed.” And if you think you see a lot of emphasis on escaping from hostile threats, just think about Jewish history for a minute.
Pomegranates are a siman for increasing our spiritual merits, weighing in to be more worthy of G-d’s blessings. In this case, it’s not the name of the fruit but its character that creates the siman. All those seeds! If only we had as many good deeds to our credit!
Since the custom of eating apples revives our memory of Biblical blessings, let’s combine it with a more recent, beloved tradition. Nu, what’s a Yuntif without brisket?
There are lots of other simanim we could use—fish heads, sheep heads, gourd, or black-eyed peas—but they’re not all that appetizing for a dessert. (Serve those early in the game, while everyone is still hungry.) For dessert, I tapped the trusty pomegranate once more—finish your Rosh Hashanah meal with a super siman swirl!