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Rav Yisroel Reisman (Ki Savo 5775) mentions an interesting concept for dipping apples in honey,

The Mechabeir says that a sweet apple is typically red. I have seen those who wonder of why we use red a sign of blood or of sin as a Siman. But once again, the apple is white on the inside it is only red on the outside. The Shana Tovah Umisuka is never purely white. It comes with some redness in it. We have to understand that the sweetness of life comes from that, from working, from fulfilling a Tafkid which is to overcome things with Mesiras Nefesh.

Where does the Mechaber talk about sweet apples typically being red?

  • have to look it up. But, offhand, it doesn't seem to be saying much. Most apples are red, when they are ripe. I can't attest to what varieties of apples were available at that place and time, compared to the varieties grown in U.S. today. E,g., Golden Delicious, which is yellow (gold) is among the sweetest available - sweeter than most red ones. – DanF Sep 20 at 14:09
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    Strange indeed, for two reasons: 1. The “mechaber” doesn’t mention anything about apples vis a vis RH, it’s the Rema (§583). 2. The Rema doesn’t say “a sweet apple is typically red”, he just mentions the custom of using a “sweet apple” which may only insinuate a red one which is typically sweet. – Oliver Sep 20 at 16:00
  • BTW: As late as the 17th century, the word "apple" was used as a generic term for all (foreign) fruit (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_(symbolism) ) - so they may not even mean specifically the fruit produced by an apple tree (Malus domestica). – Danny Schoemann Sep 22 at 12:23
  • I like red apples so I'll upvote this question. – Turk Hill Oct 22 at 13:35
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The only one I’ve seen discuss specifically red apples is the Machzor Vitri §323, but he doesn’t say anything about them being sweet.

מיכן נהגו בני צרפת לאכול בראש השנה תפוחים אדומים.

From here the people of France have the custom to eat on Rosh Hashanah red apples.

Conversely, the Rema, OC 583:1 specifies sweet apples, but nothing about them being red.

ויש נוהגין לאכול תפוח מתוק בדבש

Some have the custom to eat a sweet apple in honey.

This Rema seems to be based on the Tur ad. loc.:

כמו באשכנז שרגילין לאכול בתחלת הסעודה תפוח מתוק בדבש

Such as in Ashkenaz, where they would regularly eat at the beginning of the meal a sweet apple in honey.

Notably, all of these sources are Ashkenazi; as far as I can tell, there are no Sefardi poskim who mandate eating apples of any kind on Rosh Hashanah, and my Sefardi friends agree that it’s not their minhag. The Mechaber, being Sefardi, neglects to mention this at all; nowhere does he say anything about sweet apples or red apples, and certainly not in the context of Rosh Hashanah.

(As an aside, I can’t find anyone who questions using red apples at all, but you didn’t ask about that.)

  • I always assumed that תפוח מתוק בדבש means 'an apple sweetened with honey', rather than 'a sweet apple in honey'. – Joel K Sep 22 at 11:31
  • The Machzor Vitri that I have brings in the notes that red apples are mentioned since they are sweet,like the Maharil – sam Sep 29 at 1:08

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