Rosh Hashanah’s symbolic foods


During High Holy Days, we do a lot of thinking. We reflect on our actions throughout the year; we seek forgiveness; we make amends; we worry about the fate God will inscribe for us in the upcoming year. All this pondering and questioning can make a person hungry! Since we, as a people, like to assign meaning to everything, we can’t just sit down to a bowl of spaghetti. No, our holiday food must be symbolic!

This tendency to imbue even our desserts with significance goes back to the times of ancient Jews, who believed that apples are not simply sweet, but have healing properties, presenting them as a cure to those who were ill. For all we know, they were the ones who came up with the “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” theory. It’s more likely, however, that they established the symbolism of apples and honey, the foods we eat during the celebration to ask for a sweet year.

Apples are not the only fruit we assign meaning to during Rosh Hashanah. We also bring new fruit – one that has recently come into season – to the table. For instance, we think that pomegranates are a suitable addition to the meal since their seeds represent our future good deeds, which will be just as plentiful.

Abundance is a recurrent theme since fish is often a featured meal as it represents profusion and fertility. It complements the idea behind round challah, which symbolizes the continuity of creation. So much more elaborate than the straightforward association of honey cake with sweetness!

Enjoy the recipes.

Judy Seplowin shared her Aunt Ruth’s apple cake recipe. She says that her aunt “lived a healthy 96 years, fueled by sassiness and nutritious, home-cooked food.” Robin Homonoff sent in a recipe for apple studel muffins she plans to serve after services. Here’s to a sweet new year!

Delicious apple cake

(Ruth Lerner, z’l)


1/2 lb. butter, melted

2 eggs

2 tablespoons sugar

1-3/4 cups flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

9 large apples

1 teaspoon, cinnamon

juice of one orange (1/4 cup)


Blend melted butter, sugar and eggs. Sift flour and baking powder together. Mix with other ingredients. Divide pastry in two parts and put in refrigerator overnight or in freezer for an hour.

Roll one part and line large baking dish. Peel and slice about 9 large apples. Add 1/2 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon to apples and juice of one orange (about 1/4 cup).

Place apples in the lined pan, dot with butter. Roll out other half of dough and put on top of apples. Sprinkle dough with a little sugar and cinnamon.

Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees F. Delicious when served with ice cream!

Apple strudel muffins


2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter (the real kind)

1 cup white sugar

2 eggs

1-1/4 teaspoons vanilla

1/4 cup applesauce

1-1/2 cups chopped apples (various types)

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1 tablespoon butter


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Grease a 12-cup muffin pan (or about 30 mini muffins).

In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a large bowl, beat together butter, sugar and eggs until smooth. Mix in vanilla. 

Stir in apples, and gradually blend in the flour mixture. Spoon the mixture into the prepared muffin pan(s).

5. In a small bowl, mix brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg. Cut in butter until mixture is like coarse crumbles. Sprinkle over tops of mixture in muffin pan(s).

6. Bake 20 minutes for the larger muffins (less time for the mini muffins). Keep an eye on these for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Allow to sit 5 minutes before removing muffins from pan. Cool on a wire rack.

Hide from family.