How to Have a Rosh Hashanah Seder at Home

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Netivyah wishes you a happy Jewish New Year! Usually we celebrate Rosh Hashanah in our community with family and friends. However, this year, due to the global situation, everyone will celebrate at home.

Traditionally, besides being the new year, Rosh Hashanah is also the day on which God’s judgment is set for the coming year. Besides the seriousness, it is customary to celebrate with a festive meal, alongside many blessings. All the while rejoicing and hoping that the coming year will be even better!

Netivyah is pleased to provide you with the blessings for the “Seder Rosh Hashanah” meal, so everyone can celebrate at home. We have added a few of our own blessings that our congregation has added over the years. Blessings for a happy, good and blessed new year!

1. Candle lighting

Nearly every Jewish holiday starts with the lighting of candles before sunset. We light two candles, make three big circles from the flames towards us (to symbolize bringing His light closer, inviting it into our life and home). Then we cover our eyes and say:

“Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments1, and commanded us to light (Shabbat and)2 festival candles.”

2. Kiddush

This year Rosh Hashanah starts on a Friday, therefore we start the meal with the “Kiddush”, as is traditional for each Friday evening. The root of the word Kiddush is “kadosh” (holy). With the Kiddush we sanctify the Shabbat, as,

“God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it He had rested from all His work which God created and made.” – Genesis 1:31

Kiddush for Friday evening (skip if Rosh Hashanah falls on a weekday):

“Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it He had rested from all His work which God created and made.” – Genesis 1:31-2:4

Kiddush on a week day (not Friday evening), begins here. If it’s a Friday evening, continue here:

(Raise a wine glass with wine or grape juice.)

“Attention, Gentlemen! Blessed are you God, our Lord, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.”

(“Amen!”)

“Blessed are you God, our Lord, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and desired us. And with love and goodwill has invested us with His holy Shabbat, a remembrance of the act of Creation. (For it is) the first of the holy festivals, commemorating the exodus from Egypt. (For You have chosen us and sanctified us, among all the nations) and with love and goodwill You have given us Your Holy Sabbath as an inheritance.”

“Blessed are You God, who sanctifies the Shabbat, and Israel, and the Day of Remembrance.”

(“Amen!”)

3. “Shehecheyanu” blessing

The Shehecheyanu blessing thanks our Heavenly Father for sustaining us and giving us the life and strength to reach this special day. Shehecheyanu is a blessing we say on momentous occasions; so, how much more suitable to recite it on Rosh Hashanah, as we look back on the whole year.

We made it! Through bitter and sweet moments, through loss and celebration and day-to-day life. We look back and thank our Creator for having reached this moment, and for being able to share it with our dear ones around this festive table.

“Blessed are you, o Lord our God, King of the universe, Who has given us life, and Who has allowed us to reach this day.”

4. Challah bread

Challah is the traditional, braided bread we serve on Friday evenings and many traditional holidays. We cover it in remembrance of the dew that laid on the manna bread that God provided us with while Israel wandered the desert for 40 years.

On Rosh Hashanah the challah is round to symbolize the circle of life. It may remind us that each end entails a new beginning, and it emphasizes the fullness of life.

Some people eat raisin challah at Rosh Hashanah for added sweetness. However, as we usually sprinkle salt on our challah on a regular Shabbat meal, at Rosh Hashanah we dip it in honey to symbolize our wish for a sweet new year.

“Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, Who brings forth the bread of the earth.”

5. “Simanim” blessings for a sweet year

On Rosh Hashanah it is customary to eat specific fruits and vegetables that express our hope and voice different requests for the new year. However, the dishes are merely a symbol and a hint, and it is not a must to eat or say a blessing over every dish.

Over the years our congregation has added dishes that symbolize our hope. For example, “turnip” or “kohlrabi” means literally “every rabbi”, and we bless, “may every rabbi come to faith”.

APPLES AND HONEY

The Rosh Hashanah table would be incomplete without apples and honey. Slice a crisp apple alongside a small bowl of honey. Before dipping the apple in the honey, we say:

“We praise You, Eternal God, King of the universe, Creator of the fruit of the tree.”

Continue:

“May it be Your will, Lord our God, that this be a good and sweet year for us.” (Eat the apple dipped in honey.)

POMEGRANATE

The pomegranate (or “rimon”) is mentioned several times in the Bible. Especially in connection to beauty. Also, the corners of the robe of the high priest who served at the Temple were decorated with golden pomegranates.

According to Jewish tradition each pomegranate contains 613 seeds, one for every commandment in the Torah. Therefore we bless:

“May it be God”s will that our lives may be as full of mitzvoth as the pomegranate [is filled with seeds].”

GOURDS

The Armenian word for gourd is “kara”. It sounds similar to the verbs “lekro’a” (to tear) and “lekro” (to read).

We ask God to “tear” our evil verdict, and that only our good deeds will be read before Him on this Day of Judgment.

CARROT

Carrot, or “gezer”, sounds like the word “g’zar” (decree), and symbolizes the essence of the day on which God sets the verdict (“g’zar din”) of each and every person. Eating carrots on Rosh Hashanah is meant to express our desire that God will nullify any negative decrees against us.

“May it be Your will, Lord our God, that the evil decrees against us be torn up, and our good merits be read out before you.”

SPINACH OR BEETS:

In Hebrew beets are called “selek”, which can also mean to “remove decisively” or “cast out”.

“May it be Your will, Lord our God and God of our fathers, that our enemies, haters and those who wish evil upon us shall depart.”

(As it is written: “Your hand will be lifted up in triumph over your enemies, and all your foes will be destroyed.” – Micah 5:9)

GRAPES:

“May it be Your will, Lord our God and God of our fathers, that soon and in our days we will see what was prophesied by our prophets: ‘Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the Lord Almighty has spoken (Micah 4:4).’”

FENNEL:

Fennel, or “shumar”, is connected to the word “lishmor” (keep, protect).

“May it be Your will, Lord our God and God of our fathers, that You will protect and save us, and that you will save all that you have created, for ‘…the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore (Psalm 121:8).’”

DATES:

Related to the word “tam” (to end).

“Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe, Who creates the fruit of the tree.”

Continue:

“May it be Your will, Lord our God and God of our fathers, that there come and end to our enemies, haters and those who wish evil upon us.”

TURNIP/KOHLRABI:

Literally “every rabbi”.

“May it be Your will, Lord our God and God of our fathers, that every rabbi will come to faith in Yeshua, like it is written: ‘They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child… (Zechariah 12:10)’”

QUINCE

“Khabush” is related to the word “bandage”.

“May it be Your will, Lord our God and God of our fathers, that You will bandage and heal our wounds and sick, like it is written: ‘…the Lord binds up the bruises of His people and heals the wounds He inflicted (Isaiah 30:26).’”

HEAD

Traditionally the head of a lamb or fish, though vegetarians may use the head of a cabbage or lettuce, instead. The word for head is “rosh”, as in Rosh Hashanah (literally: “Head of the Year”).

We pray for a clean slate for new chances and new beginnings after self-reflection. It is our hope to head this year with Godly vision and His strength for our life, rather than follow or linger in the rear. Furthermore, in ancient belief it is told that fish never sleep. This is discredited, but the vigilance of the fish represents our desire to continually seek God’s presence and opportunities to do good.

“May it be Your will, Lord our God and God of our fathers, that we will be a head and not a tail.”
  1. Some add: “…and through Messiah Yeshua”
  2. “Shabbat and” is recited when Rosh Hashanah falls on a Friday evening.

This article originally appeared on Netivyah, September 16, 2020, and reposted with permission.