One of our Guzik-Sherman family traditions is displaying our apple and honey dishes. Over the years, we have collected a beautiful assortment—some of which are precious gifts, others our children have created over the years. We take about 20 minutes to determine which dish should go where and marvel over what our now big kids brought home during the preschool years. But always, we ask the question, why do we eat apples dipped in honey?
Rabbi Moses Isserless explains the most well-known answer. He teaches that we dip apples in honey to renew for ourselves a sweet year. And while this is certainly true, why don’t we just eat a sugary dessert to help us bring in the sweetness of the year? There must be something more about the nature of an apple and the specificity of the honey.
I am drawn to the lyrics of Naomi Shemer:
For the sake of all these things, Lord,
Let your mercy be complete
Bless the sting and bless the honey
Bless the bitter and the sweet.
For those that have bitten into a bright green apple, sweetness isn’t guaranteed. Often, the taste is tart, causing a bit of a cringe before the other flavors of apple consume the palate. What we assume might be saccharine, often first presents as sour, reminding us that beginnings do not always start as easily as we might hope. Just like the apple, bitter beginnings hold the potential to transform into something that one day, might even be described as sweet.
And as Shemer indicates, the same bee that we fear will sting is the same bee that brings us the honey that we covet and desire. As we travel through moments that feel impossible, unable to escape pain that clouds our vision, tastes of honey remind us that sweetness may also be attainable. Chapters of our lives containing the sting of the bee do not prevent honey from also dripping on our plates.
Apples dipped in honey, for Rosh Hashana. May we renew for ourselves a sweet year. Amidst trouble and anguish, may the sweetness prevail.
In partnership with The Jewish Journal, you can also find Rabbi Guzik’s blog post HERE.