Heads You Win

Let us be like the head and not like the tail.

On Rosh Hashana, one of the simanim, the food symbols that we put on the table is a fish head. Jientje went to Portugal, and she nicely let me borrow her fish photo:

Jientje's photo of a fish head in Portugal
Jientje's photo of a fish head in Portugal

I really wasn’t looking forward to photographing a fish. Years ago, I remember doing a print of a fish (have you ever done this? You paint the fish, then press it unto a piece of paper).

Last year I took some gefilte fish (the frozen loaf type: you boil it in its paper wrapper for over an hour with a carrot) and cut it into the shape of a fish head. I used a piece of carrot for an eye.

A Simple Jew wrote that the Maharshal did not use fish, because he liked it too much:

Since the Maharshal enjoyed eating fish, he was afraid that he might not eat them for the sake of the mitzva. Rather than indulge in mundane pleasure, he did not touch the fish.

More on the Maharshal (Wikipedia).

You don’t need to use the head of a fish. You could use the head of something else, for example, the head of a sheep. What do you think of that? That would make quite a presence on the table.

Years ago, a relative was living for about a year in Israel. She went to the butcher before Rosh Hashana. She could not remember how to say “roast” in Hebrew. Well, the butcher went into the back and came out with a “rosh”, a head, of some animal or another. My relative was a bit mortified, and she managed to talk her way out of getting the head.

If you don’t want an animal as a symbol, you have other options: head of lettuce, head of broccoli, head of cabbage, head of gummy bears. Maybe some animal cracker heads?

Update: A fun suggestion from Batya, who claims blonds have more fun.

 See all my posts on Rosh Hashana.

8 thoughts on “Heads You Win

  • So far the only symbols I have put on the Rosh Hashanah table are the apple and honey (of course) and the carrots. Your different posts on the simanim have encouraged me to put more but I don’t think I’ll put a fish head, yet fish will be part of the menu for the first evening.

  • I like your ideas of alternative heads, particularly the gummy bears. In the UK we don’t have many kosher sweets in the shape of animals, but you can get gummy fish. Maybe we should use the heads of some of those.

  • Daniel, oh, the gummy bears and gummy fish wasn’t my idea. Larry Lennhoff mentioned it on my first post on simanim. Then I noticed others mentioning this, too.

    Personally, I prefer an animal product to a sugar product. I’ll probably do my gefilte fish head again. But maybe I’ll add a broccoli head. My kids actually eat broccoli.

  • I was brought up protestant and am not familiar with these religious fishes, sorry. But this is a cool education on the subject.

    Thanks for your comment on my humble fledgling blog. I imagine I’ll have to consult a WordPress-savvy person to help me mould it to my Grande Vision. Quite the adventure, yikes!

    Have a happy blessed day.

    Jannie, a well-meaning happy shiksa.

  • Yuk! Yesterday I went on a field trip with my daughter (age 6) to a trout farm. She saw (apparently for the first time in her life) people fishing. She was intriuged until someone caught one, then she ran away crying and wouldn’t go back. “They killed the fish!” she screamed when I asked what was wrong. I think a fish head would not suit her well!
    I lived in Iceland for a while. At Christmas lambs heads are a delicacy. I worked in a school with a walk-in refrigerator. Imagine my utter disgust when I walked in one morning to find a bucket full of lamb’s heads sitting in there. I think I’d prefer the fish!

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