Rabbi Yehuda (Leonard) Blank MS, BCC
Vice President of Professional Development and External Affairs
Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim
=====Thursday October 20 ,2022, 25 Tishrei 5783=====
As the saying goes, “It seems as if it was only yesterday.”
It has been a long meaningful spiritual stretch from the beginning of Elul through the Yomim Noraim, concluding with Succos and Simchas Torah. Now the long stretch of fall and winter which many compare to our days and nights of darkness in golus. That is until the next chag of Chanukah lighting up the world with the lights of the Menorah.
In communities throughout the world, Jewish men and women, one can find different minhagim, pronunciations of the tefilos, and so much more, Yet the sweetness, the love of H can be found in all. The achdus of all Jews singing and dancing together in their individual shuls, yeshivos and in some locations (when not raining) dancing and singing in the streets is truly special. In my community, the night of Simchas Torah, multitudes of Lubavichers of different ages walked from Crown Heights and joined in dancing and singing together with other Chasidim, Litvish Yeshivish, Balei Batim of many backgrounds in the various shuls giving honor to H and the Torah the night of Simchas Torah. As in previous years, after having concluding the Mariv in their own shuls, many then go to the Yeshiva MTJ to join in the on going Hakafos with the Rosh HaYeshiva Rav Berel Feinstein. A tradition that continues from the years with Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l and Rav Dovid Feinstein zt”l.
Now that the Yomim Tovim are over, we try to keep those memories of the days from Elul through Tishrei alive, strong and steadfast. We aim to keep them through our daily actions and our daily lives. We are mispallel via our tefilos and our bakashos to keep on going strong. But, who said it is easy? It takes perseverance, and a strong desire to want that kesher with the Ribono shel Olam with sweetness and love.
What is the difference between honey from bees and honey that comes from dates? I would like to share with you one of the featured articles in the Torah Times magazine September 21, 2022 issue from Torah Anytime (pages 116-117} “Be inspired” “The Bee’s Honey” by Rabbi Yisrael Reisman.
“ Yehi Ratzon Milfanecha Shetechadeish Aleinu Shana Tova Umesuka.”
May it be Your will… that You renew for us a good and sweet year. May it be Your will …that you renew for us a good and a sweet year. One of the most widespread customs associated with the night of Rosh Hashanah is that of consuming various food items- e.g. carrots, leeks, beets, dates, pomegranates, head of a fish- for a good omen, Intending to serve as a source of merit for our upcoming year, we hope that we will be blessed with a new year filled with prosperity, success and productivity.
Of the many foods eaten, arguably so, the apple and honey serve as one of the main highlights, Taking and apple and dipping it into honey, we wish that the year we are about to embark upon be full of sweetness.
Yet, this is not the only instance in which honey plays a significant role in Judaism. In praise of the Land of Israel, the Torah tells us that it is “Land flowing with milk and honey”(Shemot 13:5). Nevertheless, there is a clear distinction between the nature of honey mentioned in this verse and that which we use on the night of Rosh Hashanah. As explained by Chazal (Ketubot 111b), the honey referred to in this Pasuk is that of date’s honey. And as common custom has it , the honey used to dip our apple in on the night of Rosh Hashanah is that of a bee. Yet, why is that so? Why in fact do we not use date’s honey and instead resort to bee’s honey?
As any keen observer would quite quickly notice, the manner in which honey is obtained from a date and a bee are strikingly different. When a date is crushed, its honey easily and smoothly flows straight out. Little more is necessary to attain the desired honey form within the date. It is in this respect that Eretz Yisrael is praised as a land flowing with honey. When the Jewish people abide by the Torah, the Land produces an overabundance of blessings, including sweet honey, which is easily obtainable and accessible by all.
But such is not the case with bee’s honey. Aside from the arduous process which the bee undergoes in producing the honey, the concerted effort needed to procure the honey subsequently is not so simple and easy a task. Needing to contend with the bees and circumvent their stinging efforts used to protect themselves and their honey, only after much labor can one anticipate returning with anything.
Yet that is the very point. Our definition of a sweet new year is a year of effort and accomplishment, of labor and fulfillment. We are not simply looking to enjoy an easy year where we do not work and feel any sense of achievement. Quite to the contrary, we recognize that by exerting ourselves to confront and overcome them, we will attain the sweetest life possible.
Such is the message of the bee’s honey. A sweet year is a year of fulfillment, of attainment and of satisfaction. Yet we understand that such sweet feelings are only a byproduct of hard work and much effort. And that is best represented by the bee’s honey. If we wish to enjoy such sweetness, there is no better place to look for it than the beehive.” Based upon a lecture by Rabbi Yisrael Reisman. Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik Editorial Director of TorahAntime.com”
Another concept of bee’s honey, we don’t drink the milk of any non kosher animal. Yet we eat honey from a bee because a bee pollinates flowers and helps them grow. Also, a bee in Hebrew is called a Devorah which is similar to the word devarim, speech. A bee can produce honey but it can also sting, so can words.
Throughout the Yom Tov of Succos we also dipped the Challah in the honey.
We can apply the words of Rabbi Reisman throughout the year. Our tefilos are never ending. So too our bakashos to the Ribono shel Olam. We are mispallel all that we prayed for, all the sweetness, the kindness, the goodness and our efforts will remain strong throughout the year. Of course, we must be careful to speak kindly without the temptation of speaking loshon hora which could be like the sting of a bee, but rather sweetness whenever possible. Just as the bee pollinates the flowers helping them to grow, we too can pollinate the world with achdus and be mekadeish H. We all need each other and we all need Hakodosh Baruch Hu. Just as there are many types of Esrogim, different shapes, sizes blends of yellow, with a pitum without a pitum, originating from different countries, so too is Klal Yisrael all over our planet Earth. Different customs. Different languages spoken. Different dialects, Different shades of skin colors. Different types of head coverings. Different ways of observing our Judaism. Different levels and types of education, but all davening in Loshon Hakodesh, Hebrew.
In the Kol Dodi on the Torah by Rav David Feinstein zt”l Artscroll Judaica Classics Mesorah Publications Ltd Page 294 from Devarim/Vezos HaBerachah “ Lieinei Kal Yisrael- Before the eyes of all of Israel (34:12) Every Jew has a different conception of H, a different way of seeing and understanding Him, based on his education and experiences. Yet all of these varying perspectives trace back to a single source the Torah that Moshe passed on to his people, which gives each individual the power to see and recognize in his own way H’s greatness and Hi rulership of the world.”
“Pesach libi besorasecha uvemitzvosecha tirdof nafshi. Open my heart to Your Torah so that Your commandments shall my soul pursue.”( Shemoneh Esrei).”
“Yiheyu leratzon imrei fi vehegyon libi lefanecha H tzuri vegoali- May they find favor the expressions of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart before You H, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Shemoneh Esre).
May this year bring good health, refuos, happiness, kindness, goodness, simchas hachaim, all kinds of simchas, prosperity, joy and the strength to persevere on behalf of our Holy Father, the Ribono shel Olam. Let us be wonderful ambassadors of H and of Klal Yisrael. Let no harm befall Klal Yisrael.
May every Rabbi, Rebbetzin and Chaplain continue to be mezake Klal Yisrael in all the wonderful avodas H you do. May you continue to convey from your hearts to their hearts to be mispallel for those in need to enhance their quality of life. May we find goodness in all Jewish men and women, regardless of their backgrounds and find opportunities to enhance their qualities of life. We cannot change the world, nor anyone’s perception of who and what we are, but through our positive actions and what we say, showing sincere kindness in so many ways, we surely can be Mekadeish H. May we be zoche the coming of Moshiach tzedkeinu veyameinu Amein.
Thank you. Sincerely. Rabbi Yehuda Blank.