MAKE THE APPLE LAST!
by Rabbi Michoel Gourarie
Apple dipped in honey is probably one of the most famous Rosh Hashanah customs. There is so much behind this practice. Here is another thought.
Apple and honey are complete opposites. An apple is a fruit that goes off and rots very quickly. Honey on the other hand, has a shelf life for decades.
In our lives there are two forces that drive ethical behaviour, moral conduct, spiritual growth and the performance of good deeds.
The first is strong commitment and conviction. With strong resolve we behave appropriately and continue to grow with determination and perseverance even in the face of challenge and difficultly.
The second is knowledge and understanding. Exploring and studying the depth of our values and understanding their significance motivates us to live by them.
Each of them has an advantage. Commitment is stronger but understanding is more sustainable. Conviction helps us overcome challenge and engage in good conduct even when at times it seems pointless. But commitment alone won't last over a long period of time. Learning gives us a richer perspective allowing us to connect to what we do with a sense of satisfaction and enjoyment. The result is more sustainable.
The Talmud says that the apple is a symbol of action and commitment (See - Shabbat 88a). Jewish learning is compared to honey (Song of Songs 4:10). The sweetness represents the richness and depth experienced through in-depth understanding.
Commitment is tremendous and indeed is the foundation of our Jewish identity. But commitment alone is not sustainable unless it is followed by learning. It is only through understanding to the best of our ability that our commitment will last.
Rosh Hashanah is an "apple" experience - a day of commitment. On this day we pledge to improve and we try and take the next step towards better conduct, relationships and observance of Mitzvot.
But we also know that commitments and New Year resolutions often don't last. So we dip the apple in the honey. We promise to add sweetness to our commitment through learning and understanding making it a lasting and sustainable commitment.