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Apples and Honey—Ritual and Traditions
Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year, is also known as Yom HaZikaron (Day of Remembrance), Yom HaDin (Day of Judgment), and Yom T’ru’ah (Day of Sounding the Shofar), a time for review of the events of the past year and repentance—t’shuvah, or return to the principles and practice of righteousness. But along with the serious nature of the season, it is a two-day celebration of the new year—the birthday of the world, with hopes for a sweet year ahead. In that spirit, we wish friends “Shana tova u’m’tukah"—a good and sweet year, and eat apples dipped in honey.

Many families have a tradition of dipping their holiday challah—containing raisins for added sweetness and baked round for the high holidays, symbolizing the cyclical nature of the seasons and all creation—in honey. Eating challah is preceded by haMotzi, the bracha (blessing) for bread:

Baruch ata Adonai Eloheinu melech ha-olam, hamotzi lechem min ha’aretz
Blessed are You Lord, our G-d, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth

Following Kiddush and haMotzi, it is traditional to dip a piece of apple in honey and say the bracha:

Baruch ata Adonai Eloheinu melech ha-olam, boray p’ri ha-etz
Blessed are You Lord, our G-d, King of the Universe, creator of the fruit of the tree.

After eating the apple and honey, the following is said:

Y’hi ratzon mil’fanecha Adonai Eloheynu Veylohey avoteynu, she’t’chadesh aleynu shanah tovah u’m’tukah.
May it be Your will, our G-d and G-d of our fathers, to renew unto us a good and sweet year.

Study and Review Questions:

1. What does honey symbolize on Rosh HaShanah? Why? What does the apple symbolize?

2. What is the bracha (blessing) that is said before eating apples or other fruits?
What else is said after eating apples with honey?

3. How else do we use the idea of sweetness on Rosh HaShanah (in greetings)?

4. What else can be dipped in the honey? Does your family have a particular tradition?

5. What are the other main ways in which we observe Rosh HaShanah?

6. Is Rosh Hashanah a “serious” holiday, or a “festive” holiday? Or both? (Discuss, debate.)

7. What do the words “Rosh HaShanah” mean, literally?

8. What holiday comes after, and is linked with Rosh HaShanah?

9. How many days after Rosh HaShanah is Yom Kippur?

10. What is the period of time from Rosh HaShanah to Yom Kippur called? Why?

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