Our Sages explained in the Talmud how it is possible for there to be two valid interpretations of a particular Jewish law. Or even a custom. "These and these are [both] words of the Living G‑d!"

Take for example the Askenazic tradition to eat from the head of a fish on Rosh Hashanah night. There are profound mystical traditions involved here. But among many Sefardim (Iraqi especially) this is a big "No-No." For dag (the Hebrew word for ‘fish’) is related to De'agah ((the Hebrew word for ‘worry’), and we don't want to include worry as a for a symbol in the beginning of the year, right?

...we all want to start the year off sweet.

What is most noticeable to me, a Sefardi who moves among Chabad circles, concerns the use of devash (honey). Of course, we all want to start the year off sweet. In fact sour foods—Borsht, herring, pickles, olives—that we normally love are generally pushed off for Rosh Hashana (or even till after Yom Kippur in some communities). Don't want to have a sour year, G‑d forbid!

Honey tends to flow at this time, covering tables with sticky, gloopy, goodness. But not so at many a Sefardi Rosh Hashana meal. Why? Since the destruction of the Temple, our tables have taken the place of the altar. So our eating in holiness parallels the sacred eating and offerings of biblical times. May the Holy Temple be built with the coming of the Messiah soon in our day, Amen!

A verse recited daily as part of the prayer for the incense offering goes: "For any leaven or any fruit-honey, you are not to burn from them a fire-offering to G‑d." (Vayikra 2:11). Yet we do dip bread into salt, Why?

[Lechem – spelled lamed-chet-mem – has a numerical value of 78, which is equivalent to three times 26, the numerical value of the most holy four-letter name. c

[Melach (salt) – spelled mem-lamed-chet (the same three letters that spell lechem/bread) – also has the numerical value 78, equivalent to three times the numerical value of G‑d’s name. Therefore, our eating bread dip[ped in salt stands for the sacrificial meat that was eaten with salt.

To take the bread that we have just blessed on Rosh Hashanah, and to dip it into honey, according to the Ben Ish Hai and others, is to, so to speak, taking our offerings and mixing it with the Torah-prohibited honey. And at a time when we want to be extra careful about all our actions, why would we want to, so to speak, flaunt the Torah at this time?!

I remember fondly being newly-observant and cognizant of this Torah-based custom, and being honored to break bread at a Shabbat Evening meal for a couple who were to be married in two days. After we washed and I picked up the bread to bless it, the host motioned that he wanted me to dip the bread in honey and give it to the couple. Oy! What to do? Of course when in Rome, I mean Jerusalem's Ashkenazik area, do like the Ashkenazim!

On reason why honey is not offered is because its letters stand for "Dini Hagedulot" (great judgments). Why would we want to mix this into our sacrificial service to solicit Hashem's mercy?

Too, Devash is gemataria 306, which is also the combined numerical value of Shin and Vav, the first letters of ‘Shofar’ (used to encourage our G‑d, our King to move from His Throne of Judgment to HIs Throne of Mercy). Add in 14 for Yad (’hand’ - that holds the shofar) and you arrive at 320, the 320 strong judgments that are sweetened by the Shofar.

Also, we sweeten the strong judgments of Devash 306 by saying the words Av HaRahaman (‘Merciful Father’) – also gemataria 306 - -in the addition to the second blessing of the Amidah (‘standing’) prayer during the Ten Days of Teshuva [except in Musaf we say HaRahamim].

...honey is problematic for the mystical tradition of the Arizal through the RaShaSh.

So, honey is problematic for the mystical tradition of the Arizal through the RaShaSh. It has no place at the Rosh Hashanah table for those adherents.

This seems to smack right up against all those who see Apples and Honey as essential elements for Rosh Hashanah. Here's a sweet solution:

Apples in Sugar (apple jam)

Eaten on Rosh Hashanah during the Yehi Ratzon Seder.
(from midrash.org — recipe by Traditional Ingredients:)

6 apples
2½ tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. ground cardamom or cloves
½ cup water

Peel and slice dessert apples (sweet, or sweet and slightly sour). Cut into wedges, about 6 or 8 to an apple. Place in a pan, add sugar to taste, cloves or cardamom (seeds or powder). Add water and bring to a slow boil, then simmer until softening. If the apples are fairly firm, they will remain in wedges. Cool.

Only joking! See there are tremendous mystical energies in the dipping of apples into any sweetness, including honey. For the apple is considered by some to be the aspect of Malkut, related to Hakal Tapuhin Kadishin (‘the Field of Holy Apples’), which when dipped into honey—according to many—sweetens all judgments in the world. That simple.

For us Sefardim, we can rely on the ruling of our great master, Rabbi Hayyim Pelagi, in his book Moed LeKal Hai, where he gives over a wondrous intention for Sugar, which he compares to Mercy.

Sugar (Sukar in Hebrew) is spelled Samech Vav Kaf Resh.

Kaf Vav is gemataria 26 for G‑d’s four-letter Name of Mercy Havayeh

Samech (the first letter of sukar/sugar) is gemataria 260, 10 times Havayeh.

Sugar is complete Mercy: Hawaya plus 10 times Havayeh!

[One could speculate that as Sugar is 11 times Hawaya, this would have the same effect as the 11 spices of the incense. This contrasts to the honey, which in our daily incense recitation is particularly excluded]

May this year be the sweetening of all harsh and soft judgments.

May these food meditations help to enliven the Holy Sparks in all your consumption.