Hebrew Word of the Week: rimmon

The pomegranate is one of several components of the Sephardic seder for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year holiday. The symbolic reason for eating it is “so that we become filled with mitzvot (good deeds, religious observations), as the pomegranate is filled with seeds.” Interestingly, the English word also means “apple/fruit full of grains (seeds),” from French-Latin pomum granatum. Compare to Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruits.

The etymology of the Hebrew word rimmon is not clear. Some connect it with rimmot “worms” (the seeds look like a swarm of worms?); more likely it comes from r-m-m /r-u-m / ramah “hillock.” Indeed, several places in the Bible are called Rimmon (Joshua 15:32; Judges 20:45-47). In Song of Songs 4:3, the beautiful face of the beloved is compared to a luscious and shining split-open pomegranate, and she promises her lover to let him drink of her pomegranate juice (8:2).