Rabbi Shlomo Sobol
Former Rosh Kollel in Detroit
1) Minhagei Maharil, Hilkhot Shofar, #2
Mahari Segal (the Maharil) exhorts everyone to take care not to cough or clear their throats during the shofar-blowing. This is to assure that they hear every bit of the shofar blast, since there is a difference of opinion as to whether the most important part of the blast is its beginning or its end. Therefore, on Rosh HaShanah, it is forbidden to eat anything which produces phlegm or mucus. For this reason, some people refrain from eating nuts on Rosh HaShanah before the shofar-blowing, since eating them produces a lot of phlegm.
2) Kol Bo, #64
The Maharam of Rothenberg does not avoid garlic or nuts or any other food [on Rosh HaShanah].
Some people [on Rosh HaShanah] refrain from eating nuts (egozim). This is because the gematria (numerical value) of egoz is the same as that of chet (sin), and nuts lead to the production of phlegm and mucus.
4) Magen Avraham, 583:4
Nuts – I have heard that the large ones are called egozim, while the small ones are called luzim [in which case the small ones are permitted according to the Rema’s first reason]. This is implied in Shir HaShirim Rabbah as well. But if the [Rema’s] second reason is correct, then both egozim and luzim are forbidden.
5) Levush, Orach Chaim, 583
Some avoid eating nuts because they produce a lot of phlegm and mucus, which makes prayer more difficult. A helpful way to remember [not to eat nuts] is that egoz has the same gematria as chet, and we should not eat “sin” on Rosh HaShanah, the day when we are judged for our sins.
6) Eshel Avraham, Orach Chaim, 583
On Rosh HaShanah it is particularly important to be silent and pay attention to what the chazzan (cantor) is saying.
7) Mordechai Manowitz, “Nuts on Rosh Hashanah” Bar Ilan University’s Parashat Hashavua Study Center
Perhaps people refrained from eating nuts on Rosh HaShanah because in Yiddish or German they are called nuss, a name that hints at something negative, namely running away or fleeing (Heb. menusah).
8) Chida, Birkei Yosef and Machazik Berakhah, Orach Chaim 583
The Avudraham writes that [on Rosh HaShanah] one should eat fish (dag). However, the Rashbatz disagrees because the word dag is once spelled with an aleph in Tanakh, which makes it look like da’ag (worry).
I have found further support for the opinion of the Rashbatz. The Tikkunei HaZohar (Constantinople edition, p. 53b) interprets dag (fish) as related to de’agah (worry).
9) The Rema’s Grandson, Note Inserted into Rashi’s Commentary to Yeshayahu 11:1
In my youth I posed a question to a number of sages about the comment of my teacher, my grandfather, the Rema, who wrote that egoz is chet in gematria. For isn’t egoz also tov (good) in gematria? I suggested that this can be understood in light of the Zohar:
Rabbi Elazar asked his father, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, about the statement of our Sages that “While it is true that no prophet comparable to Moshe arose in Israel, such a prophet did arise among the nations – Bilam.” How is this possible? Rabbi Shimon responded based on the verse, “God also has set the one against the other” (Ecclesiastes 7:14). Even if there is holiness in the midst of impurity, it is forbidden to study it. This is as it states: “You may not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil” (Bereishit 2:17).
So even though it is true that egoz is tov in gematria, nevertheless since it is also associated with the negative gematria of chet, we do not eat nuts on Rosh HaShanah. I told this to the sages and scholars, and they nodded in agreement.
10) Professor Joshua Schwartz, “More on the Prohibition of Eating Nuts on Rosh HaShanah”
Nuts were used not only as food but also as toys. Thus Eruvin 104a refers to “women who play with nuts”. . . . Games with nuts were also used for gambling. . . . There was a risk that nuts would be served at a [Rosh HaShanah] meal and the people there would begin to play with them. Improper foods on the holiday table were likely to cause improper behavior. In order to avoid starting off the New Year with something improper, the Rabbis declared that an egoz is equal to chet and should not be brought to the table.
11) Rabbi Shmuel David, “Customs of Rosh HaShanah” Har Etzion Daf Kesher #776
This is the reason behind the custom to avoid eating nuts. Egoz is not chet in gematria. The numerical value of egoz is 17, while that of chet is 18. Rather, the idea our Sages wanted to convey is the same one conveyed by the injunction to a nazir (nazirite, who is forbidden to eat grapes): “We tell the nazir to take the long way around and avoid even coming close to a vineyard” (Avodah Zarah 58b). We tell him not to pass by the vineyard, because if he does so it will be more difficult for him to resist picking some grapes. Rather, he should take the long way around. Similarly, we say to every Jew: Do not even come close to sin. Chet in gematria is 18. Not only should you avoid sin, but you should even avoid egoz, which is only 17 in gematria. “Happy is the man who has not followed the advice of the wicked, has not stood in the path of sinners, and has not sat down in the seat of scorners” (Tehillim 1:1). For when you stand and sit with them, it is extremely difficult to avoid sinning. Therefore you must distance yourself.