Ever wonder why...we dip the apple in the honey?
Why we dip the apple in honey?
Ask any elementary
day school kid to list things that they know about Rosh Hashanah, and
in the top five will be “dip the apple in the honey.” What are the
origins of this custom?
The book of Melachim, Kings, opens with Dovid
Hamelech very old and confirmed to bed. His son Adoniya, tried to usurp
the throne and be the next king. Batsheva, the mother of Shlomo, came
to Dovid and informed him of Adoniya’s actions. She reminded her
husband of the prophesy that Shlomo should be Dovid’s successor and
Dovid’s oath to fulfill that prophesy. Dovid then commanded the prophet
Natan and the kohen Tzadok to take Shlomo to the spring of Gichon and
anoint him King of Israel there.
The Mishnah in Horayot learns from Dovid’s command
that kings should only be anointed by a spring. This symbolic act
signifies that the king’s reign should be long and flowing like a
stream. Abaye in the Gemora, learns from here that symbolic omens are
not sorcery and they are meaningful. He suggests that every person make
a habit of eating gourds, fenugreek, leeks, dates and beets at the
beginning of every year. Rashi explains the symbolism of these five
species in two ways. Some are sweet and signify a sweet new year, and
some grow and ripen quickly and therefore symbolize increased merits.
It is very interesting to note that the most popular
custom of today; apples and honey, is not mentioned at all. It seems to
have been a wide spread custom already in the 1200’s as the Tur writes
that they were accustomed to dip the apple in his time. Rav Moshe
Issereles explains that the apples are based on the statement that
Yitzchak said when he was trying to identify Yaakov at the time of the
blessings. He told his son that he smelled like the fragrance of
fields. Our rabbis tell us that Yitzchak was specifically referring to
smell of Gan Eden which smells like apple orchards. Thus the symbolism
of apples refers to the Children of Israel and the dipping in honey
seems to represent that all of Bnei Yisrael should have a sweet year.
May Hashem answer the symbolism of the foods we eat
on Rosh Hashanah night and the tefillot that accompany them for a sweet
healthy new year for you and all of Israel.
Rabbi Eliezer Kessler