Watch this video to hear original Rosh Hashanah kavannot written for this challenging New Year of 5781, paired with symbolic foods from the Mizrachi-Sephardi tradition. Read the blessings and kavannot below and download the recipe cards at the bottom of this page.
- Symbolic foods: dates, green beans, pumpkin/squash, spinach/beets, leeks, fish/lettuce, pomegranate
- Blessings over each food
- Original kavannot for 5781 (personal prayers/intentions)
- Four Mizrachi-Sephardi recipes for leeks, beets, pumpkin, beans (scroll down for printable recipe cards)
This Rosh Hashanah, like every year, many Mizrachi and Sephardi Jews will welcome the New Year with an array of blessings – many of which are unfamiliar to Ashkenazi communities. These additional prayers include blessings for different types of foods, in which a second, hidden meaning comes to life through wordplay with the Hebrew word roots. Each blessing is recited over a fruit or a vegetable chosen to symbolize a specific hope for the New Year. The traditional blessings focus on the needs of Jewish communities in the Diaspora, living in the shadows of threats and fears for survival.
As I thought about Rosh Hashanah this year (5780–81), and the many challenges and opportunities facing our people, I decided to write a kavannah – an intention for each of the blessings – that I will recite with my family during our Rosh Hashanah seder (a ritual similar to the Passover seder, which will lead us to our holiday meal). This year, as we transform our homes into a temporary sanctuary, I invite you to add a new ritual to your own Rosh Hashanah celebration.
Regardless of where your ancestors came from, whether these rituals are part of your family tradition or new, you are welcome to add them to your family’s table and add color, meaning and taste to your home this Rosh Hashanah and into the New Year. Blessed you'll be!
1. Before eating dates (tamar): May it be your will, God, that hatred will end. (Tamar resembles the word for “end,” yitamu, and the word “innocence,” to become innocent)
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה' אֱלֹהינוּ וֵאלֵֹהי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁיִּתַּמּוּ אוֹיְבֵינוּ וְשׂוֹנְאֵינוּ וְכָל מְבַקְשֵׁי רָעָתֵנוּ
Shower the ones who want to harm us with the innocence of a child, pure and gentle, new and curious. Sweeten their bitterness and hatred with love and compassion, and with the acceptance of others and being able to see beyond our differences. Amen.
2. Before eating string beans (rubia): May it be Your will, God, that our merits increase. (Rubia resembles the word for “increase,” yirbu.)
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה' אֱלֹהינוּ וֵאלֵֹהי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁיִּרְבּוּ זָכִיּוֹתֵינוּ וּתְלַבְּבֵנוּ
Open our hearts, dear God. Open our eyes to see the diversity of experience and identity in our communities. Replace our prejudice and false beliefs with acceptance and empathy. Help us respect and empower those who are neglected, and share a new song of unity, trust and love among our people. Amen.
3. Before eating pumpkin or gourd (k’ra): May it be your will, God, to tear away all evil decrees against us, as our merits are proclaimed before you. (K’ra resembles the words for “tear” and “proclaimed.”)
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה' אֱלֹהינוּ וֵאלֵֹהי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁתִּקְרַע רוֹעַ גְּזַר דִּינֵנוּ, וְיִקָּרְאוּ לְפָנֶיךָ זָכִיּוֹתֵינוּ
Oh dear God, we have been torn apart from one another, from our friends and families. From our communities. Our ability to stay strong and hold back have been tested. This year, may we be called back to our places of gathering, to share the simple joys of dwelling together in your home. Amen.
4. Before eating spinach or beet leaves (selek): May it be Your will, God, that all the enemies who might beat us will retreat, and we will beat a path to freedom. (Selek resembles the word for “retreat,” yistalku).
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה' אֱלֹהינוּ וֵאלֵֹהי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁיִּסְתַּלְּקוּ אוֹיְבֵינוּ וְשׂוֹנְאֵינוּ וְכָל מְבַקְשֵׁי רָעָתֵנוּ
Dear God, we have been suffering. We are suffering from sickness and the loss of our loved ones. We urge you to help us fight this destruction, to find a cure and spread it on earth faster than the virus itself. Guide our way toward health and vigor. Amen.
5. Before eating leeks, chives, or scallions (karti): May it be Your will, God, that our enemies be cut off. (Karti resembles yikartu, the word for “cut off.”)
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה' אֱלֹהינוּ וֵאלֵֹהי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁיִּכָּרְתוּ אוֹיְבֵינוּ וְשׂוֹנְאֵינוּ וְכָל מְבַקְשֵׁי רָעָתֵנוּ
May we be able to cut off all the parts of ourselves that we want to be rid of, all the thoughts, feelings and beliefs that do not serve us anymore. Dear God, help us let go of the things that keeps us from progressing forward to a better version of ourselves. Amen.
6. Before eating head of fish/lettuce: May it be your will, God, that we be a head and not a tail. (The word rosh means “head.”)
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה' אֱלֹהינוּ וֵאלֵֹהי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁנִּהְיֶה לְרֹאשׁ וְלֹא לְזָנָב
In my family, it is a tradition to eat a whole fish as one of the courses in the Rosh Hashanah meal. As a young girl, I remember not loving the idea of the fish looking back at me from the plate – and to this day, I do not. I was glad to find an alternative of bringing a different head to the table – a head of lettuce. It is also green, fresh and sweet – exactly the way I want to hold my new year. And with this idea in mind, I would like to offer my kavannah:
May it be possible, dear God, that this year we will not apologize for who we are. We will not hide or try to change, to fit someone else’s ideals. This year we will walk with our heads held high, remember our worth and all the gifts you created within us. Amen.
7. Before eating pomegranate (rimon): May we be as full of mitzvot as the pomegranate is full of seeds.
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה' אֱלֹהינוּ וֵאלֵֹהי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁנִּהְיֶה מְלֵאִים מִצְוֹת כָּרִמּוֹן
Dear God, lead our way as we plant seeds of change in our life and in the lives of others. Shine your light upon these seedlings, bless them with your holiness and help them grow and affect this world with love and goodness. Amen.
8. Before eating apple: May it be your will, God, to renew for us a good and sweet year.
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה' אֱלֹהינוּ וֵאלֵֹהי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁתְּחַדֵּשׁ עָלֵינוּ שָׁנָה טוֹבָה וּמְתוּקָה כַּדְּבָשׁ
May we take our sweet time this year making memories that will last a lifetime. May we remember to make every moment count, with our loved ones, with ourselves, with nature and our world. Make it so, dear god, that the year approaching us will be all that we hope for, and more. Amen.
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