Low Hanging Fruit: Pomegranates and Rosh Hashanah
The pomegranate has been growing in the Mediterranean region for thousands of years, and has become a symbol of Judaism, Israel and Rosh Hashanah. In Israel, the pomegranate is the centerpiece on the Rosh Hashanah table.
Below, find key questions and activities to bring the pomegranate to your Rosh Hashanah table and other educational settings this new year and for years to come!
Crowns In Israeli Symbols
The pomegranate (רמון in Hebrew) is written about in the Bible. It is one of the seven species identified with the Land of Israel, and is also mentioned as a symbol of royalty:
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 these mitzvot.
"...we eat pomegranates as a symbolic gesture in the hope that our merits will increase like the seeds of a pomegranate." (original quote here)
Ask your students if they've ever seen what the inside of a pomegranate looks like. If they haven't, 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 Hashanah symbol - the apple. How do the seeds of both fruits compare?
Here's video about how to de-seed a pomegranate with ease and mess-free: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qfQ3_N7S6Y
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. Now have students 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 2 shekel coin - see our "Things We Carry" post)
What plants/fruits/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 Hashanah (cycles, new harvest, rebirth), trees and the fruits they spawn are a seamless transition.
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)
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?
Plant a tree or flower with the class (or create a small garden), and monitor its growth throughout the year.
Bake a holiday dish with pomegranates.