Why Wish For A Sweet New Year?

apples and honey for a sweet new yearOn Wednesday night, we’ll be dipping apples in honey as a siman, or symbol, of a desire to have a sweet new year.  But of all the things that the Jewish people could yearn for, why is sweetness the quality we wish for our lives?  What does it mean for the new year to be “sweet”?

In order to try to answer the question, let’s broaden the theme.  It’s not just the new year that we sweeten with honey.  It has been a common practice to form the letters of the Aleph Bet in honey as young children are first learning them, so as to make the study of Torah a sweet activity.  Additionally, in the first year of marriage, many new couples have the custom of drizzling honey on challah, as opposed to dipping it in salt, a tradition other homes commonly follow.

The Land of Israel is described multiple times in the Torah as the land “flowing with milk and honey”.  Milk and honey are also among two of the substances that the Torah is compared to in Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs), “milk and honey are under your tongue” (4:11).

The thing about sweetness is that it is a taste that wears off quickly.  But it also leaves you wanting more.  Today, when I meet new olim or baalei teshuva, I see how the new start gives them a “sugar high”, and I recall my initial enthusiasm.  I say “recall” because I am no longer connect to the experiences in the same way I did when they were fresh.  How can I make them new to me again? How can I prevent a “sugar crash” and find the energy to keep things going when it’s no longer so novel, so exciting?

The thing about honey is that it is not only sweet; it is also sticky.  Perhaps the idea is to be “stuck” to the sweetness, stuck to the desire for more.  The “sweetness” that attracts a person to Torah, to Israel, and to a spouse initially can eventually wear off.

May we find this year not only the sweetness of the new, but also the “deveykut”, of clinging on, when things return to the seemingly ordinary, and find the more subtle tastes palatable too.


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Ilene Rosenblum is a writer and marketing professional living in Jerusalem.

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