Pomegranates are traditionally eaten on the second night of Rosh Hashanah. More specifically, the pomegranate often serves as the “new fruit”- a fruit not yet eaten this season – for second evening Rosh Hashanah rituals
The New Fruit
There are two reasons why the pomegranate is used as the "new fruit" on the second night of Rosh Hashana in many (but not all) Jewish homes. The Land of Israel is praised for its pomegranates in the Bible.
Secondly, pomegranates supposedly contain 613 seeds. Thus, Jews display their desire to fulfill God’s 613 mitzvoth (commandments from the Torah) by eating the pomegranate.
After the blessing over the wine and before washing hands for the blessing over the bread, the ritual leader blesses the new fruit.
First, the Shehechiyanu blessing thanks God for keeping us alive and bringing us to this season:
You are blessed, Lord our God, King of the world, Who has kept us alive and sustained us and enabled us to reach this season.
Then the blessing for the fruit is recited:
You are blessed, Lord our God, King of the world, Who creates fruit from the trees.
After the fruit is passed out for everyone to eat, the food’s symbolism is explained:
May it be Your will, Lord our God and God of our forbears, that our merits increase like the seeds of a pomegranate.
The pomegranate is a fruit, native from Iran to northern India, that has been cultivated and naturalized over the whole Mediterranean region since ancient times. Spanish settlers introduced the pomegranate tree to North America in the 18th century, and today it is grown there primarily in California and Arizona.
The popularity of the pomegranate has increased greatly in the 21st century due to the fruit’s health benefits. Studies have found that pomegranate juice can improve heart health, protect against prostate cancer, slows cartilage loss in arthritis, and even help diabetics.
Many diseases have been linked to unstable little molecules called free radicals. Antioxidants protect the body from free-radical damage. And pomegranate juice has high levels of antioxidants.
Cooking with Pomegranates
An increasing number of people today seek kosher recipes that use pomegranates due to the fruit’s Rosh Hashanah ritual role, health benefits, sweet flavor, and colorful appearance. Enjoy these pomegranate recipes.
Danesi F, Ferguson LR. Could Pomegranate Juice Help in the Control of Inflammatory Diseases?. Nutrients. 2017;9(9). doi:10.3390/nu9090958
Les F, Prieto JM, Arbonés-Mainar JM, Valero MS, López V. Bioactive properties of commercialised pomegranate (Punica granatum) juice: antioxidant, antiproliferative and enzyme inhibiting activities. Food Funct. 2015;6(6):2049-57. doi:10.1039/c5fo00426h