New Fruit on Second Night of Rosh Hashanah.
When do we eat a new fruit on Rosh Hashanah – on the first night, the second night, or both? Is this done in addition to the special fruits we eat as a sign for the new year?
The Aish Rabbi Replies
What you are referring to seems to be a cause of confusion for many people. On the first night of Rosh Hashanah there is a widespread custom to eat special foods, most notably a slice of apple dipped in honey, as a sign of our wish for a good year. A short prayer is said together with each food, see here. Most do this only on the first night of Rosh Hashanah, while some do it on the second as well.
Unrelated to this, there is a custom on the second night of Rosh Hashanah to eat a new fruit (i.e., a fruit from the new season which you haven’t eaten yet this year). This is done because of a dilemma in Jewish law. There is an unresolved question in the early authorities regarding the two days of Rosh Hashanah. Do we view them as one single long holiday or two separate ones? This question is relevant when we make Kiddush and light candles on the second night. For a “new” holiday, we recite the blessing of “She’he’chiyanu” when we do these mitzvot. This is a blessing which thanks God for allowing us to reach this important occasion. But if the second day of Rosh Hashanah is merely a continuation of the first day, we would not recite this blessing.
To resolve this question, it is proper to buy a new fruit (or a new suit or dress) for the holiday which is saved for the second night of Rosh Hashanah. A new fruit, as well as expensive new clothing, also warrant the blessing of “She’he’chiyanu”. The fruit is placed on the dining room table before the candles are lit and Kiddush is made. You then include “She’he’chiyanu” with the candle lighting and/or at Kiddush, and have in mind that that blessing is for the fruit as well. (Note that you won’t say another “She’he’chiyanu” when you eat the fruit since it was already said earlier.) This avoids the question of whether or not the other mitzvot require “She’he’chiyanu”.
The new fruit should be eaten at the very start of the meal, right after washing on the bread – as close to its “She’he’chiyanu” as possible. Also, its regular blessing of “ha’eitz” should be said on it, since fruit is generally not covered by the blessing said on the bread.
Note that you need not take an exotic fruit for this, as some people do. It merely has to be one from the new season, and the first time you’re eating it. (When I grew up, people would attempt to find fruits they had never heard of before, such as starfruit and kiwifruit (in the days when kiwis were still exotic).)
Note also that the fruit you save for the second night should not be taken on the first night for a good omen. Here in Israel pomegranates become in season shortly before Rosh Hashanah. We sometimes save that for the second night and do not eat it on the first – as it’s far more important to save a new fruit for the second night than to have an additional special fruit on the first.
Finally, even if you cannot find a new fruit for the second night of Rosh Hashanah, you should still say “She’he’chiyanu” on the candles and Kiddush. By the letter of the law, this is the more proper practice. We take a fruit only as a precaution – to be stringent for the minority opinion that the blessing should not be said on the holiday alone.
(Sources: Shulchan Aruch O.C. 600:2, Mishna Berurah 2, Shulchan Aruch O.C. 177:1.)