Marriage · Mesorah (Jewish stuff)

What I will (and will not) be eating on Rosh Hashanah – a Menu Plan

Yes, I’m going there.  Rosh Hashanah is only three-and-a-half weeks away, as a good friend of mine pointed out to me today.  It’s time to think about what to make, what I can make ahead, what meat I’m going to order from Grow and Behold, who I’m going to invite, & who I’m going to share a meal with (you know who you are!).

All this kitchen time has the potential to sidetrack me from the spiritual work I need to be doing during this month of Elul, which is a great month for introspection and self-improvement.  It’s prime time for this kind of reckoning and tshuvah.  So, when I’m really on my game, I’ll listen to shiurim on  I’m also participating in Rabbi Nivin’s chabura, which is an amazing personal development class, which I highly recommend.

Anyhoo, I’ve been meaning to post this menu plan for a while now, but, you know, life has been a little hectic.  I have another post up on Partners in Torah.  It’s about having a positive perspective, and I’d love for you to go check it out & leave some comment love over there for me.  Also, my baby is 2-and-a-half-months old, and just irresitably cute.

see? Ridiculously cute!

And we’ve been doing potty training with Little Man (successfully, I might add.  YAY!), and all the kids are home all day, and, well, you get the picture.  It’s wonderful and amazing and really, really busy.

But you know what they say:  if you want something done, ask a busy person.  I know I certainly get more accomplished when I have to be more exacting with my time.  If anyone can offer a reason as to why that is, I’d totally love some insight into that.

Right, so Rosh Hashanah, Yom HaDin (that’s Day of Judgment.  Duhn duhn DUHN).  It’s an intense time, a time where we pray for a favorable judgment for the next year, that we strive to really improve ourselves, to be honest where our failings are, and to take steps to correct our mistakes.  And then, in the way of many Jewish holidays, we eat.  And eat and eat.

Some fun facts about foods which are and are not included on the menu (I can only speak to the Ashkenazi customs, this is not representative of Jewry as a whole).

Do eat:

  • Hello, dip the apple in the honey, for a sweet year, and because honey is representative of good living and wealth.  Also, Israel is the land of milk and honey.
  • Round challahs (Mara at Kosher on a Budget has a great video on how to braid the challah).  The round shape symbolizes the continuity of Creation, the circle of life.  Also, some people add raisins to make it sweeter

  • Sweet foods like Honey cake.  This represents our wish to have a “sweet” new year
  • Carrots – the Yiddish word for carrot is merren, which is similar to more, which is what we want.  More blessings, more children, more success in Torah learning, more success in general, etc., which is how we end up with tzimmes on the table.
  • New fruit – a fruit that has  come into season and we haven’t eaten yet.  Chinese markets are great places to get awesome-looking fruits, like these:

dragon fruit!

  • star fruit!Fish head –  Yeah, it’s about as appealing as it sounds, but it represents fertility and abundance, which are generally things I want.   I used an actual fish head last year, boiling it up in a pot and everything.  After much dry heaving, I decided that we will, from now on, be using gummy fish heads to represent this traditional food.  One of my best friends uses a sheep’s head.  I’ve seen it, and it’s awesome, but I’m really glad that we don’t keep that particular custom.
  • Pomegranates – the seeds of the pomegrante represent the mitzvos, and we want to be as full of mitzvos as a pomegranate is of seeds.  Hannah over at shows a good way to deseed one.
  • Food Stuffed with other food – I’m not sure if this is actually for Rosh Hashanah or some other holiday. I couldn’t find anything on the web to support my suspicion of a stuffed-food tradition.  Can anyone help me out here?

Don’t eat:

  • Nuts – this is a little esoteric, so bear with me.  Each hebrew letter has a numerical equivalent.  Aleph is one, Beis is two, and so on.  The sum of a word is called a gematria (still with me here?), and the gematria of “nut” and of “sin” is the same.  Since we don’t even want to hint about sin on Rosh Hashanah, we avoid eating nuts.
  • Vinegar – ’cause we don’t want a sour (negative) year.

And this is what we will be eating:

1st night (Sunday, September 16th)

  • Simonim!  (I always seem to forget to include these symbolic foods on my shopping list.  That’s why I put this in bold and italics)
  • Baked Gefilte Fish, probably with tomato sauce or something along those lines.
  • Green Salad (no nuts!), and various other vegetable-based salads.  I’ll probably just roast some veggies and do a light marinade, maybe make some babganoush.
  • Chicken soup with knaidlach (that’s matzoh balls) – Hadassah Jewish Holiday Cookbook 
  • Tzimmes (HJHC)
  • Stuffed Breast of Veal (HJHC)
  • Gourmet Sweet Potatoes (Spice and Spirit)
  • Honey Cake Minis (HJHC)

1st lunch (Monday, September 17th)

  • Salads
  • Sweet Red Peppers (S&S)
  • Sweet and Sour Chicken Fricassee (HJHC)
  • Tzimmes
  • Stuffed Cabbage (S&S)
  • Classic Apple Cake (S&S)

2nd night (Monday, September 17th)

  • Baked Gefilte Fish
  • Sweet Red Peppers
  • Salads
  • Chicken soup with knaidlach
  • Stuffed Veal
  • Stuffed cabbage
  • Spicy Carrot Cake (S&S)

2nd lunch (Tuesday, September 18th)

This is going to be a joint meal, and it’s going to be pareve, since we’ve consumed an awful lot of meat by this point.  I’ll serve whatever’s leftover from the previous meals, and my friend will bring some food, and voila!  The fourth meal is served.

Okay, I’d love to hear what’s on your menu, and how you’re incorporating some good old Elul study while you’re at it.  And don’t forget to check out my post on positivity over at Partners in Torah.  It’s very relevant for this time of year.

I think this picture is pretty representative of my life right now.

28 thoughts on “What I will (and will not) be eating on Rosh Hashanah – a Menu Plan

  1. wow, that’s such an awesome menu! I’ve never heard of eating stuffed foods on RH, but it’s a custom to eat them on erev Yom Kippur, Hoshana Rabba, and Purim. I found a really nice explanation here

    This year we’ll be serving all the simanim again, but haven’t been too organized in the planning yet… hope we can think of some new creative ways to incorporate them into our meals. Now I have to go dig out the laminated simanim pages I made last year :)

    1. Thanks! And thanks for the explanatory link and clearing up the stuffed-foods thing. Maybe it’s cause I usually make kreplach on Rosh Hashana, too, that I got confused. I’m impressed that you made laminated simonim pages – that’s great! Do you keep all your holiday stuff in one place so you can find it somewhat easily? I seem to find my holiday stuff *after* the holidays sometimes…

  2. Just the kind of post I needed to read to help me get my act together. The fish-head-thing used to be tough for me, too. My husband came up with a solution that works very well for us. We buy small whole smoked fish. Since he passes out the simonim, he takes a bit from the head for each of us. Then we have the rest of the yummy fish to eat for our fish course. Also–the nut issue is hard for me. What can I say? I eat a lot of nuts. During this time I swap in roasted sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds. Finally, I found honey at Trader Joe’s that is sort of solid. It’s maybe the consistency of margarine. I’m hopeful by the second lunch seuda, we won’t have anything (dishes, elbows, etc.) glued to the table in the dripped honey. Your menus are fantastic.

    1. I like your fish head solution, but I still prefer the gummy fish! Your seed solution sounds really yummy. I think I’ll throw some of those into my salads. I wish we could share a meal, pity we’re not close enough anymore.

  3. So happy to hear you’re also doing the chabura! I’m going to try and listen to the make up class tonight. I finally (this year) feel like I’m connecting to Elul. Awesome menu, btw.

    1. Ditto about the chabura! Isn’t it great? I listened to the recording last night, as the class is held during the afternoon when everything is flying over here. Here’s to connecting, and to eating yummy food!

  4. You’re not really serious about the nuts, are you??? Even if there was a shred of sense in this, it literally doesn’t add up: “egoz” is 17 and “chet” is 18…

    1. Whoa, there. I didn’t make this stuff up. Anyways, I’m not sure how not eating nuts makes any more or less sense than eating carrots or pomegranates. As for the gematria not adding up part, you are totally right. According to, we calculate the gematria going by how the word “chet” is pronounced as opposed to how it’s actually spelled. Even if the math is, shall we say, creative, I still think the message (avoiding the suggestion of sin on RH) is worthwhile. An additional reason for not eating nuts was that nuts tend to lead to greater saliva production, which would be problematic for those who are praying all day.

    2. Bracha, the nut thing doesn’t really appeal to me either (although I think in general gematria is allowed to be off by one). But I wouldn’t be too concerned about Rivki promoting the custom. She just mentioned it on her blog, and people can disagree if they want. It’s not like she started a national campaign about it. :)

        1. I think it was a valid point to raise. It is really helpful to those who might otherwise forget and find themselves in an embarrassing situation (even if you don’t follow the minhag, others do). My first year, I mistakenly brought a nice gift to my Rabbi and his family on RH and it contained nuts, LOL! Rivki, thank you for the lovely menu idea to make our lives easier :)

          1. Thanks for the thanks, Meira. I hope it does make life easier. :) And thanks for the reminder to ask before bringing a gift. You never know when people are allergic, etc.

  5. Oh and that’s an amazing menu, yeshar Koach! I can’t imagine doing what you’re doing, and I only have 2 babies.

  6. My husband and I actually started our own minhag for “being like the head”, we buy “smiley” cookies. They’re sandwich cookies sold here that have a little face on them and they’re really cute. The bet part is the girl faces have pig-tails and the boy faces have yarmulkas! lol :) We also usually do Jelly/candy fish. I also love when people add their own simanim – the most common I’ve heard is eating celery stuffed with raisins for a “raise in salary”. Singles eating dates – “may this year bring an end to dating”. Some people can be really creative. I think customizing it makes it more interesting for kids and adults!

    1. an end to dating – clever! We like the “raise in salary” one, too. The smiley cookie custom sounds very cute. Maybe we’ll adopt that one. Thanks for sharing!

  7. We eat stuffed cabbage in simchas Torah cos It’s rolled like the Torah ! :))

    Kreplach on erev Yom Kippur and hashana Raba are cos they are both judgement days … And we ask HaShem to cover the harsh judgements ( represented by meat/chicken) with softness ( represented by soft white dough)

    Have a sweet new year !! And I live Brachas idea abt singles eating dates :))

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