Low Hanging Fruit: Pomegranates and Rosh Ha'shanah
The pomegranate has been growing in the Mediterranean region for thousands of years, and has become a symbol of Judaism, Israel, and Rosh Ha'shanah. In Israel, the pomegranate is the centerpiece on the Rosh Ha'shanah table.
Below, find key questions and activities to bring the pomegranate to your Rosh Ha'shanah table and other educational settings this new year and for years to come!
Crowns In Israeli Symbols
Exodus 28:33-34 – The robe worn by the High Priest was decorated with pomegranates.
1 Kings 7:13-22 – Pomegranates were depicted on the Temple King Solomon built in Jerusalem, and it is also said that King Solomon designed his crown based on the "crown" of the pomegranate.
- What do you notice about the crown of a pomegranate?
- What else in Israel has a crown?
- If you were a king or queen, what would you want your crown to look like?
In education, we often use the expression "planting seeds" in reference to instilling a strong foundation that has the ability to grow. But what's unique to the seeds of the pomegranate?
According to the Midrash, every pomegranate contains 613 seeds – the same as the number of mitzvot in the Torah. So, eating a pomegranate can be a symbolic way of displaying the desire to fulfill the mitzvot.
"...We eat pomegranates as a symbolic gesture in the hope that our merits will increase like the seeds of a pomegranate." (Source)
Ask your students if they've ever seen what the inside of a pomegranate looks like.
- If they haven't seen the inside, have them use all of their senses to guess: what does it look like, how does it taste, how does it feel?
- To get to the seeds, we have to peel away a tough skin. What could you learn from the anatomy of a pomegranate?
- Compare the seeds of the pomegranate with the seeds of another common Rosh Ha'shanah symbol – the apple. How do the seeds of both fruits compare?
Here's a video about how to de-seed a pomegranate with ease and mess-free.
Depictions Through Art
The synonymous relationship between Israel and the pomegranate can be seen through the many depictions on the streets, in stores, and hanging on walls of Israeli homes. The pomegranate has become a symbol of Israel, and artists depict it in a variety of ways.
- Introduce sample depictions of the pomegranate in art. Let students imagine how they would create their own. How is it designed? What materials are you using and why? What does your pomegranate symbolize?
- Where else can you find the pomegranate in Israel? (hint: the old 10 agorot coin and the current two-shekel coin – see our "Things We Carry" resource.)
- What plants, fruits, or other elements of nature are symbols in America and Israel? Why do you think America has the symbols it does? Why do you think Israel has the symbols it does?
"Low Hanging Fruit"
Pomegranates grow on trees and as they become heavier, they approach the ground. Some scholars speculate that the pomegranate was the forbidden fruit offered to Eve in the Garden of Eden. When discussing themes related to Rosh Ha'shanah (cycles, new harvest, rebirth), trees and the fruits they bear fit right in.
- What stories are there about the pomegranate (and/or trees and fruit)? Have the students write and illustrate one of their own! ("The Magic Pomegranate: A Jewish Folktale" by Penninah Schram)
- Plant a tree or flower with the class (or create a small garden), and monitor its growth throughout the year.
- Compare fruits and discuss the places they grow. What can we find in our gardens? What types of fruits can you find around Israel and where?
- Bake a holiday dish with pomegranates.
- iCenter's "An Exploration of the Rosh Hashanah Card"
- iCenter photo album - Pomegranate Art Around Israel
- Video: De-seeding a pomegranate
- Israel21c's "Top reasons to love the pomegranate"
- Pomegranates and the High Holidays 1
- Pomegranates and the High Holidays 2
- Pomegranates and Judaism 1
- Pomegranates and Judaism 2