901. Simanim

129:8 After the end of maariv on the first night of Rosh Hashana, the practice is to greet one another “l’shanah tovah t’kaseiv v’seichaseim” (“May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year”). One would say “…t’kaseivi v’seichaseimi” to a woman (because of Hebrew grammar).  One does not use this greeting by day because the judgment has already been written by midday. Nevertheless, some have the practice to use this greeting also on the second night because sometimes one is judged on the second day.

129:9 At the evening meal, the practice is to have “simanim,” signs symbolizing a good year. We dip a piece of the bread on which we said haMotzi in honey and, after eating an olive-sized portion, we say “May it be Your will to renew for us a good, sweet year.” (Mishnah Brurah 583:2 fleshes out the text: “May it be Your will,  our G-d and the G-d of our fathers…”) After this, we dip a piece of apple in honey and recite the bracha “Borei pri ho’eitz.” We eat it and again say “May it be your will…” It is customary to eat the head of an animal and to say “May it be your will that we be at the head.” The head of a sheep is good to use for this because it is also a symbol of the ram from the akeidah (the binding of our forefather Isaac). (Therefore, a ram is actually even better than a sheep, but any animal or bird may be used – MB 583:6-7.) We also eat vegetables whose names suggest good things. For example, carrots (“mehren” in Yiddish, similar to the word for “more”)  and we say “May it be Your will to increase our merits.” Some have the practice to eat fish, which alludes to being fruitful and multiplying like fish. They should not be cooked in vinegar because we shouldn’t eat anything sour or bitter on Rosh Hashana. Rather, we should eat rich meats and all kinds of sweets. The practice is likewise not to eat nuts or almonds because the numerical value of nut (egoz) is the same as sin (cheit, spelled without the letter alef usually found at the end). Also, nuts make phlegm, which could cause one to pause his prayers to spit it out. One should study Torah at the table. Some have the practice to study mishanyos from tractate Rosh Hashana.