By Rabbi Zolly Claman
(September 2018) – It has been quite the experience adjusting from the warm Jerusalem sun to the crisp Alberta air that hints to the autumn on the horizon. For our family, to start a whole new chapter of life could be looked at as a heavy task with many errands and logistics to take care of. But having the opportunity to do so during the time of year which represents renewal somehow makes everything seem right – after all, aren’t we all embarking on a new mission come this Rosh Hashana? We are thrilled and honoured to be joining the Edmonton Jewish community.
At the start of the Jewish New Year we find ourselves asking for the full care-package: health, happiness, success in our financial endeavors and peace of mind. A closer look at one of the most widespread customs of Rosh Hashana transforms all these requests from an act of taking to an act of giving.
The custom on Rosh Hashana is to dip an apple in honey and recite a short prayer for a “good and sweet year.” This is a very interesting custom. Of all the sweetening agents to choose from – why was it honey that stands behind our prayer for a sweet year?
Here is a thought that occurred to me which I think infuses this custom with meaning. For a bee to make honey, it goes ‘flower-hopping.’ Although the bee’s intention is to search out that sugary nectar, something else happens during that process. Little pieces of pollen get stuck on the furry body of the bee and are moved from one flower to the next allowing for the necessary cross-pollination to take place. Without this magical cross-pollination, the flowers would not survive.
So while the bees ‘take’ from the flowers, they are in actuality doing an act of giving. A perfect ‘win-win’ situation.
On Rosh Hashana we pray for a sweet year full for happiness health and serenity. While we ‘take’ all these blessings, we want to simultaneously commit ourselves to G-d by using the blessings to give back to Him and to the community around us. A perfect ‘win-win situation.’
I would like to personally wish you a year of health, happiness and appreciation for everything and everyone that surrounds you. It should be a year filled with a lot of smiles, laughter and joy.
Have a sweet year!
Rabbi Zolly Claman is the Rabbi at the Edmonton Beth Israel Synagogue.