No Matter What Our Situation Might Be
With HaShem There Is Hope And Recovery
By Rabbi Aaron Moss
Honey is a miraculous substance. It can do the impossible. Just try this experiment with your family at the Rosh Hashana table:
Dunk a slice of apple into a bowl of honey.
Lift the apple out of the honey.
Hold the apple over the bowl and allow a shaft of honey to drip back down into the bowl.
While it is oozing downwards, quickly lift the apple until the shaft breaks.
Watch carefully. The honey on the apple starts to fall a little, and then climbs back upwards towards the apple, defying the laws of gravity.
The upward climbing honey gives us a moving message for the new year. Even if you have fallen, you can always climb back up. Even if you have become disconnected, you can reconnect. You may have become estranged from your people and from your G-d. You may have lost your way in life and fallen to a very low place. But you can always pick yourself back up. No force in the world can stop a Jew coming home.
The honey may fall downwards, but at a certain point it turns around. In fact, it is the falling down that causes the bouncing up. The further you have strayed from Judaism and HaShem the more rebound energy you have built up for your return.
A Jewish soul wants to be Jewish. Materialistic distractions can only hold us back for so long. Our inner pull towards G-d is stronger than the pull of gravity towards the earth. Honey always bounces back. So can we.
And since we are taking about honey and apples, let us continue at it for a moment with:
The Healing Powers of Apples and Honey
It is customary to eat an apple dipped in honey on the night of Rosh Hashanah and ask G-d to grant us a good sweet year. Ideally, the apple should be red and white, as an allusion to the verse,
Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 1:18
Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow.
Apples help cleanse and purify the blood, are beneficial in the treatment of diabetes, respiratory tract infections, skin problems, the liver and the kidneys. They strengthen the body, are soothing to the nervous system, help prevent hardening of the arteries and are recommended for disorders of the kidneys and digestive system. There is a great deal of truth in the saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”.
According to Kabbalah, the apple is an allusion to the mystical level of the Holy Apple Field. Also, when you cut an apple in half horizontally you will see ten little holes and a five pointed star. Ten is the numerical value of the Hebrew letter “yud”, and five is the numerical value of the Hebrew letter “hey”. The stalk of the apple represents the “vav” – together these letters spell out G-d’s Name.
The Zohar tells us that the apple has healing qualities: just as the apple heals all, so the Holy One, blessed be He, heals all. Just as the apple has various colours (white, red, green), so the Holy One, blessed be He, has various supernal colours (white, red, green – corresponding to the attributes of chesed (loving kindness), gevurah (might) and tiferet (beauty). The symbol of the green apple reveals some of the hidden meaning behind this teaching of the Zohar. Tiferet, the kabbalistic attribute of harmony and beauty, is associated with green, the colour of healing.
The Ben Ish Chai writes that the apple tree is the only fruit tree that has its spiritual source in the attribute of tiferet. This is yet another indication of the special connection of the apple with healing.
Honey was called “one sixtieth of manna” by the Sages because it shares many of the curative qualities of the manna from Heaven.
Nowadays the term honey means bee’s honey, but the famous Biblical verse “A land flowing with milk and honey” refers to date honey. Dates are one of the seven species characteristic of the Land of Israel. Honey is fuel for such organs as the heart, brain and liver. Predigested in the bee’s crop it is readily absorbed into the bloodstream where it stimulates circulation and raises the red blood count. It is invaluable for those with heart conditions or weak hearts. Honey strengthens, invigorates and refreshes.
It is helpful in the treatment of stomach ulcers, and is a useful sweetening agent for diabetics since it helps reduce sugar levels while it boosts vitality and physical stamina. Because of its positive effects on the blood count, honey is highly recommended for sufferers of anaemia.
Honey is unique because of where it comes from. It is the only food taken from a non-kosher animal that we are permitted to eat. Furthermore the bee is an insect that stings and causes pain and bodily damage. Yet at the same time it is able to produce a sweet food that can add a delicious flavor to other things.
This is specifically why we use honey – because it represents the power of Rosh Hashanah. When we begin a fresh new year, the past is not always so sweet. Not everything in the last year might have been completely “Kosher”. Sometimes we may have stung and hurt those close to us. But on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we can turn it all around. We can learn from last year’s experiences and make the future more positive and filled with blessing. Like the bee, we can produce sweet honey.
When we eat the honey on Rosh Hashanah we are making a statement: We are not perfect, but with a little effort we can achieve sweetness. G-d accepts our commitment, and blesses us all with a happy, healthy, prosperous and sweet new year.
Shabbat Shalom, v’Shanah Tovah l’kulam!