Rosh HaShanah is the Jewish New Year and like most Jewish holidays there are food customs associated with it. One of the most popular and well-known food customs on Rosh HaShanah has to do with dipping apple slices into honey. This sweet combination stems from an age-old Jewish tradition of eating sweet foods to express our hope for a sweet new year.
In addition to symbolizing our hopes for a sweet new year, according to Jewish mysticism the apple represents the Shekhinah (the feminine aspect of God). During Rosh HaShanah some Jews believe the Shekhinah is watching us and evaluating our behavior during the past year. Eating honey with apples represents our hope that the Shekhinah will judge us kindly and look down on us with sweetness.
Beyond its association with the Shekhinah, ancient Jews thought apples had healing properties. Rabbi Alfred Koltach writes in The Second Jewish Book of Why that whenever King Herod (73-4 B.C.E.) felt faint he would eat an apple, and that during Talmudic times apples were frequently sent as gifts to people in ill health (pg 328).
You can learn more about Rosh HaShanah food traditions in: Rosh HaShanah Food Customs
The Blessing For Apple and Honey
Though apple and honey can be eaten throughout the holidays, they are almost always eaten together on the first night of Rosh HaShanah. Jews dip apple slices into honey and say a prayer asking God for a sweet New Year. There are three steps to this ritual:
- Say the first part of the prayer, which is a blessing thanking God for the apples: Blessed are you Lord, our God, Ruler of the world, Creator of the fruit of the tree. (Baruch atah Ado-nai, Ehlo-haynu melech Ha-olam, Borai p'ree ha'aitz.)
- Take a bite of the apple slices dipped in honey.
- Now say the second part of the prayer, which asks God to renew us during the New Year: May it be Your will, Adonai, our God and the God of our forefathers, that You renew for us a good and sweet year. (Y'hee ratzon mee-l'fanekha, Adonai Elohaynu v'elohey avoteynu sh'tichadeish aleinu shanah tovah um'tuqah.