Honey Can Buy Me Love
by Rabbi Aron Moss
I always associated going to shul on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur with heaviness, guilt and a somber atmosphere. I guess that's what I grew up with. But last year I came to your services and found them to be happy, light, musical and joyous. I enjoyed that much more than my childhood experience of shul, but was wondering, is it fitting to be so upbeat on days when we are seeking forgiveness for our sins? Sorry for being direct, but is what you are doing authentic or just feel good?
There is a curious discussion in Jewish law about bee's legs.
What happens if a bee's leg falls off and gets stuck in a vat of honey? Bees are not kosher, and dislocated bee's legs can't always be extracted from honey. So is the whole vat rendered unkosher due to the bee legs submerged in it?
One opinion says no. The honey is kosher and you can eat it, bee legs and all. Because one of the fascinating properties of honey is that bits that fall into honey eventually become honey. The bee legs dissolve in the honey and lose their distinct identity, so there is nothing non-kosher left, just honey.
What is unique about honey is that it doesn't overpower with brute force, like a fire that violently consumes whatever it touches. Honey overpowers with sweetness. The sweetness of honey is so intense, everything it touches gets overwhelmed and allows itself to be swallowed up in its sweet embrace.
This represents a deeper approach to the High Holydays. The introspection and return to G-d that these days inspire need not come from a place of guilt. We don't repent for our sins out of fear of fire and brimstone. Rather when we feel the sweetness of divine love, when we feel how close G-d is to us and what a blessing it is to be a Jew, this joy can melt away our evil and purify us from our less than kosher ways.
This is why we start the High Holydays by dipping our challah and apple in honey. Only a Judaism infused with sweetness and joy has the power to dissolve away our negativity, cynicism and indifference, and make us all kosher again. Sadness and heaviness will not cleanse our soul. The sweetness of being Jewish will.
So don't just dip your apple in honey, immerse yourself in joyful Judaism. It's the bee's knees.