The Custom Behind Buying A New Knife For Rosh Hashanah (Plus Our Top Picks!)
Can you feel it?
It’s in the air.
The new school year has finally settled into a rhythm, albeit temporarily.
The air is filled with trepidation—a sense of hope for being inscribed in the Book of Life.
Aside from introspection and filling our days with extra prayer and tzedakah, we also throw in a few extra deeds. One can never do enough to hope for a good year.
On Rosh Hashanah, we eat Simanim, specific foods that are symbolic of good tidings for the year ahead. These include eating apples dipped in honey (yum!), the head of a fish (not so yum), pomegranate (also yum), and more.
Some communities have their traditions passed down for generations. One such practice is buying a sharp, non-serrated knife for Rosh Hashanah, which is symbolic of asking Hashem to provide us with an abundant livelihood.
The specific custom of buying a knife has Chassidic roots. The correlation between parnassah (livelihood) and a knife is in the words of Rosh Hashana's prayers. We tell Hashem, “hachotech chayim l’chol chai,” He cuts life to every living person.
Reb Yitzchok Eizik of Zidichoiv (1805-1873) explains it even further. The last letter of the words, “poseach es yodecha,” open your hands to receive His blessings of sustenance. In Hebrew, this spells out the word “chotach” (ches, tof, chof) which means to cut.
This idea also connects the knife to our livelihoods.
The Lubliner Rebbe used to gift his close disciples with a new knife on Rosh Hashanah.
It may not be your custom, but it’s a great excuse to treat yourself to a new kitchen knife, not that we need a reason.
Besides being a vessel through which one can bring sustenance into their life, a good knife is the most helpful kitchen gadget . You can survive without an air fryer, avocado slicer, and (gasp!) a Betty Crocker. However, a dull knife makes food prep a nightmare. Never mind, you’re more prone to cut yourself with one.
So many questions… What knife to buy? What purpose does it serve? What is it best for?
Usually, when you pair a dish, you do so with wine. Now we’ll pair each Yom Tov favorite with the most suitable knife.
Let’s break it down Rosh Hashanah-style.
Challah or Bread
You’ll be washing for bread a minimum of twenty-five times the month of chagim.
Not sure who’s in charge of cutting the bread, or how many people will be at your table? One thing is certain: that amounts to a lot of slices of bread.
You can use your trusty old knife or spare your arm and use a new sharp knife specially designed for cutting bread.
These days simply eating bread or challah is downright boring. It has to be accompanied by some kind of confit or delectable spread and perfectly complemented by an elegant butter knife. This one stands upright so you don’t have to hold it awkwardly until you find a proper place to lay it down.
Fish or Appetizers
A proper meal always begins with some sort of appetizer, and fish is always a popular option.
It sounds absurd, but the right knife makes all the difference. It really cuts down meal prep. Struggling to cut something or struggling to slice it properly is frustrating and exhausting.
This knife was especially designed for fish to aid in deboning it.
Think of that whole branzino you ordered from your local fishmonger only to realize it hadn’t been fileted. You debate not using it, but realize you’re having the new neighbors from down the block and you need it. But you have a great fish knife, so the problem is solved. There really is no better kitchen gadget than a good knife.
You could write an entire thesis on the topic of meats alone. The various cuts of meat are prepared in all different ways. Did you sous vide it, grill it, sear it, roast it, cook it, let it simmer for hours low and slow? Is it well marbled, bone in, or butterflied? Do you like it smothered in onions, in a sweet sauce, or savory and spicy?
No matter the cut or how it was prepared, every good cook worth their money takes pride in how nicely they managed to slice it. (Against the grain, of course)
To get your guests oohing and ahhing over your perfect slices, you need a good knife.
This is the perfect carving knife that you'll surely get some good use out of come Thanksgiving.
If you opted for grilling or searing that prime rib you’ve been saving for the chagim, this knife is sure to work while cutting into a juicy piece of steak (a true Michelin Star-rated experience).
How can we forget the fruit we eat on Rosh Hashanah? Imagine taking all those exotic vibrant fruits and butchering them with a dull knife that has never been sharpened.
You know those gorgeous drool-worthy fruit boards that you can stare at for hours? You can create that for your Yom Tov table.
The trick is a sharp knife for smooth cuts. This one doesn’t only cut well but is really sleek. I know, looks don’t matter and all, but they kind of do. What do you think?
Dessert (The real main dish)
Between me and you, we only sit at the table so long because dessert is sure to make an appearance at the end. I’m also pretty certain that the phrase “save the best for last,” is derived from the concept of dessert, or at least it should've been. It only makes sense.
Whether you’re a chocolate lover who appreciates a decadent dessert or someone who likes a lighter lemon mousse, either way, you need a knife for cutting and serving.
It would be a shame to cut that perfect slice of pie only to have it fall apart as you’re plating it. If it doesn’t look perfect, how will anyone ever know you went to seven different stores to find that ingredient you needed a tablespoon of that you’ll never use again. It’ll hang out next to the miso paste in the back of the pantry.
So tell me, which knife do you plan on purchasing this year?
May you all be blessed with a year full of good health and lots of wealth and the ability to celebrate many chagim surrounded by your loved ones with hearts bursting with joy.
As Slay Copy Inc.'s founder, Goldy Buxbaum helps business service providers reach more clients by combining business strategy with web writing. Check her out on Linkedin to see how you can grow your business.