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Siman

A siman is a mark, sign or omen. The root is the verb soom, which means to put or place and so also to mark or distinguish.

    A siman is a mark, sign or omen. The root is the verb soom, which means to put or place and so also to mark or distinguish. The best known simanim in Judaism are the fruits and vegetables eaten on the first night of Rosh Hashanah. (Some eat them on the second night as well.)

    The custom is based on a talmudic teaching of Abaye, who said: "Since you say that omens are significant, you should eat gourds, fenugreek, leeks, beets and dates at the start of the year" (Horayot, 12a).

    For each food, something about the name or quality of the food evokes a wish or prayer for the coming year. The most famous is apple dipped in honey, associated with the hope for a sweet New Year. Others include pomegranates, whose many seeds call up the wish that our merits should be correspondingly numerous; and the head of a fish (in some traditions, the head of a sheep) which elicits the hope that we should be the head and not the tail.

    Some have created new simanim, based on far-fetched puns: eg eating dates so that the coming year should bring many dates (as in romantic assignations) or the excruciating lettuce, raisins and celery for "let us have a raise in salary".

    Rosh Hashanah is known as the womb of the year, containing the next twelve months in embryo. Whatever their efficacy, the simanim help us articulate our hopes and prayers for the year.

Jewish words

Darchei Shalom

Rabbi Julian Sinclair

Darchei Shalom
Jewish words

Chizuk

Rabbi Julian Sinclair

Chizuk
Jewish words

Harat Olam

Rabbi Julian Sinclair

Harat Olam
Jewish words

Ga'agua

Rabbi Julian Sinclair

Ga'agua
Jewish words

Nafka Mina

Rabbi Julian Sinclair

Nafka Mina
Jewish words

Machzor

Rabbi Julian Sinclair

Machzor
Jewish words

Geshmack

Rabbi Julian Sinclair

Geshmack
Jewish words

Neilah

Rabbi Julian Sinclair

Neilah
Jewish words

Taharah

Rabbi Julian Sinclair

Taharah