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Why do we eat "new fruit" on the second night of Rosh Hashanah?

by Rabbi Shlomo Chein

  

Library » Holidays » Rosh Hashanah » Laws and Customs | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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Biblically speaking Rosh Hashanah is just one day. For thousands of years, however, Rosh Hashanah has been, and continues to be, celebrated for two days.

This extra day is not exclusive to Rosh Hashanah. As a matter of fact, the Jewish courts of old added an extra day to all of the biblical holidays (with the exception of Yom Kippur). However the added day of Rosh Hashanah is unique for two reasons: 1) It is observed in Israel as well (whereas the other added days only apply to Jews living in the Diaspora). 2) The 48 hours of Rosh Hashanah are not seen as two days, but rather as "one long day".

Due to this second reason it is doubtful whether one should make the Shehecheyanu blessing on the second night/day of Rosh Hashanah.1

It is therefore preferable to have a new fruit, one we haven't eaten yet this season, on the table when lighting the candles and reciting the Kiddush. Since the new fruit is sufficient reason to make a Shehecheyanu we thus avoid any doubt regarding the appropriateness of this blessing. After Kiddush (before washing the hands for bread) we recite the blessing for fruit and eat some of the fruit.2

Alternatively one can wear a new garment, which is also sufficient reason to make a Shehecheyanu, and this is actually what the Shofar blower does on the second day of Rosh Hashanah.

If new fruit are not availabe and one does not have a new garment, the Shehecheyanu blessing is still recited.3

Footnotes

  • 1. The Shehechiyanu blessing is only recited on the first day of a Holiday. With regard to all other Holidays, the added day was instituted as a possible first day (in case the day before wasn't actually the right day for the Holiday), thus until today we say Shehechiyanu on the second day as well. However, since Rosh Hashanah was established and celebrated as "one long day", it is not clear whether the second day is a possible first day, or merely an extention to yesterday which was the first day.
  • 2. It is questionable whether an after-blessing has to be said on those fruit since you are about to begin a meal which will be followed by the Grace After Meals. Consult with your local Halachic authority for the custom followed in your community.
  • 3. Sources: Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 600:2, and Magen David ibid. See Shulchan Aruch Harav chapter 600 for a detailed explanation.

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Rosh Hashanah
The Jewish New Year. An early autumn two day holiday marking the creation of Adam and Eve. On this day we hear the blasts of the ram's horn and accept G-d's sovereignty upon ourselves and the world. On Rosh Hashanah we pray that G-d should grant us all a sweet New Year.
Shehecheyanu
A blessing recited on joyous occasions. The blessing thanks G-d for "sustaining us and enabling us to reach this occasion."
Yom Kippur
Day of Atonement. This late-autumn high-holiday is the holiest day of the year. We devote this day to repentance and all healthy adults are required to fast.
Shofar
The horn of a Kosher animal. The Shofar is sounded on the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, and is intended to awaken us to repentance. Also blown to signify the conclusion of the Yom Kippur holiday.
Kiddush
Prayer recited at the beginning of the Sabbath or Holiday meal--both the evening and afternoon meals. This prayer, acknowledging the sanctity of the day, is recited over a cup of wine or grape juice.