June 18, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
June 18, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Nectarines and Nutella? No. Cantaloupe and caramel? No. Berries and butterscotch? No, no, no.. On Rosh Hashanah, we eat apples and honey.

Every year, when Rosh Hashanah comes, we are reminded how perfectly apples and honey go together. Of course, nothing prohibits Jews from eating apples and honey throughout the year. As with hamantaschen and latkes, there are no rules governing apples and honey consumption. Yet, for unexplained reasons, most Jews abstain from dipping apples in honey unless it is on Rosh Hashanah. During the rest of the year, you can find plenty of Jews eating apples and just as many eating honey, but you would be hard-pressed to find anyone dipping the former into the latter. In fact, you would be more likely to find Jews dipping challah into chrain, kugel into kishke, or bagels into borscht.

Much has been said about the attributes of honey. For example, Proverbs states: “My son, eat honey, for it is good; Let its sweet drops be on your palate.” (Proverbs 24:13). However, Proverbs also contains the following warning: “If you find honey, eat only what you need, Lest, surfeiting yourself, you throw it up.” (Proverbs 25:16). One could argue that this warning against overeating applies more broadly as a general regurgitation regulation and puke prohibition. In other words, do not let yourself go from noshing to nausea or else you will be labeled the Spew Jew.

The Torah also mentions honey. For instance, it states: “The house of Israel named it manna; it was like coriander seed, white, and it tasted like wafers in honey.” (Shemot 16:31). The Torah also notes in pertinent part: “When I bring them into the land flowing with milk and honey that I promised on oath to their ancestors, and they eat their fill and grow fat…. “ (Devarim 31:20). The rest of the pasuk goes in a different direction but the reference to a “land flowing with milk and honey” is a classic biblical description of the Land of Israel. For the record, there are far less appetizing ways to express the “milk and honey” imagery, such as a land flowing with “cow and bee byproducts.”

The Talmud has more to say about milk and honey: “[O]ne can suggest the following comparison: Just as this deer is swift and its meat is not fatty, so too, Eretz Yisrael is swift to ripen its fruit but its fruit is not fat and juicy… For this reason the verse states: “Flowing with milk and honey”…, to say that its fruit is fat and juicier than milk and sweeter than honey.”(Ketubot 112a) Some fruit clearly can be as juicy as milk including pineapple, but pineapple trees are not endemic to Israel just like pomegranate shrubs are not endemic to Iceland. Other fruit clearly can be as sweet as honey, especially honeydew. Of course, honeydew does not actually contain honey just like strawberries do not contain straw, grapefruits do not contain grapes, gooseberries do not contain geese, elderberries do not contain elders and dragon fruits do not contain dragons. However, watermelon does contain water and passion fruit can be grown and consumed passionately.

The Talmud mentions honey in the context of discussing liability for physical injuries: “In the case of one who violated his doctor’s instructions and ate honey or any type of sweet food, which the doctor had instructed him not to eat because of the fact that honey or any type of sweet foods are detrimental to the recovery from the injury; and his injury developed garguteni (necrosis); one might have thought that the one who caused the injury should be liable to heal him by covering his medical costs. Therefore, the [prior] verse states: “Only,” to teach that he is exempt in this case.” (Bava Kamma 85a) It is fair to wonder how honey consumption could be detrimental to recovery from injury. Perhaps if your legs are broken and you are openly eating honey in the middle of a bear-infested forest, then such honey consumption will be counter-productive to recovery and likely life-threatening. This is so because bears enjoy honey even more than Sephardic Jews enjoy baklava, more than Ashkenazic Jews enjoy babka and more than Bukharian Jews enjoy yakhni.

According to Psalms: “[The Torah is] more desirable than gold, than much fine gold; sweeter than honey.” (Psalms 19:11) Other things in life also might be sweeter than honey including chocolate-covered chocolate, glazed glazing and powdered-sugar sugar.

Final thought: Bees make honey, bubbies make brisket and Maccabees make rebellions.

By Jon Kranz

 

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles