Why I Am Going To Drown My Apple In Honey This Year
The apple and honey we ceremoniously eat on Rosh HaShana can have many meanings. The one that spoke to me most was written up by Australian Rabbi Aron Moss. He said the apple, a quickly perishable product, represents all about our lives that are temporary and quickly passing; the honey, which can last for decades (and perhaps centuries) without going bad, represents more enduring qualities of our beingness.
Apples represent the modern world, the here and now, that fleeting moment in time we call the present. It is fresh today, stale tomorrow. Honey, on the other hand, represents tradition, a force that is unchanging and constant, timeless and stable.
Jewish spirituality is a delicate marriage of these two forces. For our spiritual life to be dynamic and alive, it must change and keep up with the times. But to have substance and meaning, it has to present a truth that is above change, that is timeless.
That is one way to regard this metaphor. I would like to look at it from the perspective of our concrete national experience.
The modern State of Israel can, perhaps, be seen as the apple. We hope that we are now building a strong enduring nation-state for the Jewish people. However, history has shown that our sovereignty over the land has not had a particularly long shelf-life in the past. Why do we think that this time it will be different? Perhaps for this, we need the honey.
The honey is everything about us that has made us survive and often thrive in the world. However, we have not, now or in the past, been very good at merging the apple and the honey:
- Too many secular Jews do not have respect for our traditions while it is because of religious Jews, those who have preserved our traditions throughout the centuries, that we continue to survive as a people even while dispersed around the globe. The religious kept up the study of our holy texts, familiarity with prayers and holidays, and by doing this, they also preserved the Hebrew language so that it was able to make a revival as a living language in the Land of Israel.
- Too many of the Ultra-Orthodox do not respect secular Jews as valuable members of the Jewish world. Yet the secular provide a life-force that this country cannot do without.
In the past, this mutual lack of respect has led to civil strife that has weakened us and made us vulnerable to attack from outside. One dramatic example can be found in the times that led to the need to fight off the Greeks – the Maccabean Revolt.
We need both those who thrust forward into modernity, including interactions with other peoples, and those who hold fast to our traditions, culture, language, sacred texts and faith in God. One without the other diminishes us as Jews, as a people, and it can threaten our hold on our sovereignty. We cannot risk civil war between secular and Ultra-Orthodox, and even our state of ongoing strife between us can prove dangerous over time. We need to find a way to come together in spite of our totally different ways of viewing the world and our purpose in the world.
Therefore, this year I will probably “drown” the apple in the honey, representing my hope that our rich and sweet ancient traditions will provide a protective coat around the apparently more fragile modern society we are building and that we hope to sustain for a long long time.
Wishing all my readers and Jews everywhere a healthy and prosperous New Year in whichever way each one defines being prosperous.