13. The Order of Eating

Some eat the symbolic foods after kiddush but before eating challah. However, the more correct custom is to have the challah first, since halakha views bread as the more important food (Peninei Halakha: Berakhot 9:8). Additionally, if the symbolic foods are eaten before the bread, it is not clear what should be done about a berakha aḥarona (ibid. 3:12).

Therefore, after making kiddush, we wash our hands and make the berakha on the challah (which many dip into honey or sugar, as explained in the previous section). Afterward, we eat the symbolic foods. The berakha of Borei Pri Ha-etz should be recited over one of the fruits, which then covers all the rest of the fruits. The fruits require a separate berakha because Ha-motzi covers only foods that are filling and are an integral part of the festive meal. However, the symbolic fruits are meant to add meaning to the meal rather than being an integral part of it. Therefore, they require their own berakha (ibid. 3:7). Dates should be eaten first and the berakha of Borei Pri Ha-etz should be recited over them (even though eating an apple and honey is the best-known custom), because dates are one of the seven species associated with Eretz Yisrael (and are considered more auspicious than pomegranates as they are closer to the word “land” in the verse that lists the seven species; ibid. 9:9-10). After reciting the berakha, one should eat a bit of the fruit before reciting the traditional Yehi Ratzon, so that there is no interruption between the berakha and the eating.

Symbolic foods whose berakha is Borei Pri Ha-adama do not require a separate berakha. Since they are cooked in the same way as normal vegetables, are filling, and are part of the meal, they are exempted by the berakha of Ha-motzi.

It is customary to recite a Yehi Ratzon before eating each of the symbolic foods. One of the participants recites the Yehi Ratzon out loud and everyone responds Amen and eats.

Some eat the symbolic foods on the first night only (Bnei Yisaskhar, Tishrei 2:11), but many people do so on both nights (Ḥida; Eliya Rabba; Ḥatam Sofer). Some even do so during the daytime meals (Mateh Ephraim 597:4; Ben Ish Ḥai, Year 1, Nitzavim §8).