web analytics
May 27, 2015 / 9 Sivan, 5775
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post


Honey

One of the favorite food staples in the Jewish home during the High Holy Day season is honey. Traditionally, from Rosh Hashana until after Succot, honey is served with every major meal. It is smeared on the bread over which we recite the Hamotzi blessing, the sweet apple is dipped into honey on the night of Rosh Hashana, sweet baked goods are baked with honey, and honey is used in the preparation of foods such as glazed carrots and sweet desserts. Aside from the caloric disaster that this custom entails, one is really hard pressed to find a negative thing to say about honey. The custom of honey on the Jewish table during the period of the Tishrei holidays which will begin in three weeks is an ancient and universal Jewish custom. It is already recorded in the works of the Babylonian Geonim in the seventh century and probably dates back to even much earlier times. It is no exaggeration to say that Jews always seemed to possess a sweet tooth.

The obvious reason for the use of honey on our table at this time of the year is the symbolism of our desire for a sweet new year. Sweet means dear, precious, enjoyable, satisfying, serene, secure and something most pleasing. Well, that about sums up our hopes and prayers for the new year and therefore honey serves as our representative in expressing these fervent hopes and prayers. However, honey represents more than sweetness per se. It is one of the attributes of the Land of Israel which is described in the Bible as being a land that “flows with milk and honey.” Thus honey on the table always reminded the Jew wherever he or she resided, of their ancient homeland of Israel and of the Jewish attachment to its history and holy soil. The honey referred to in the land flowing “with milk and honey” is not the common bee honey that we use today, but describes rather the honey of Biblical times that was primarily produced from overripe dates. Even today, here in Israel, date honey is produced and sold, though again the overwhelming majority of honey on the market here comes from bees.

The use of bee honey as a permissible kosher food raises an interesting halachic question. The general rule is that food products that are derived from non-kosher creatures are never considered to be kosher for Jewish use as a food. Bees are a non-kosher species of insect life and therefore one would think that the honey that they produce within the sacs of their bodies would also not be kosher. Yet, we find in the Bible that bee honey was eaten without compunction, the story in the book of Shoftim (Judges), of Samson and the bees producing honey on the lion's carcass being only one such Biblical example of honey being used as a legitimate Jewish food. Why is this different from, let us say, milk from a camel that remains non-kosher, since the camel itself which gave the milk is a non-kosher animal? The rabbis of the Talmud studied the problem and decided that the sac in the bee that contains the honey is halachically considered to be only a storage place of the honey and neither it or the honey produced are an integral part of the bee's body, whereas the milk-producing organs and the lactating process of the camel are an integral part of the camel's circulatory and digestive system and thus the camel and its milk product both have the same halachic status of being non-kosher. The same logic applies to permitting the use of resinous glaze in kosher products today even though the product originally comes from the body of the insect lac which is found on the trees of rain forests. There too the sac that contains the glaze and the glaze itself are not considered to be an integral part of the body of the lac insect itself.

Its symbolism of sweetness in life, its connection to the Land of Israel, its role in halachic discussion, decision and precedent concerning its kashrut, all have combined to make honey a “Jewish” food. The use of honey as a food is certainly one of the more enjoyable customs of Jewish tradition. May its symbolism of sweetness truly be a harbinger of delight for the good year that is about to begin for all of us.

About the Author: Rabbi Berel Wein is an internationally acclaimed scholar, lecturer and writer whose audiotapes on Torah and other Jewish subjects have garnered a wide following, as have his books, which include a four-volume series on Jewish history. Formerly an executive vice president of the Orthodox Union and rabbinic administrator of the OU’s kashrus division, he founded Yeshiva Shaarei Torah of Rockland in 1977 and moved to Israel in 1997.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Honey”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat being carried in a rally last winter.
PLO Blows Up Netanyahu’s ‘Peace Process’ Renewal
Latest Sections Stories
Road sign in Russian and Yiddish greeting visitors on the road just outside Birobidzhan. (photo by Ben G. Frank)

Birobidzhan railway station sign is the world’s only one spelling the town’s name in Yiddish letters

Ayelet Shaked

She’s seen as a poster child for The Jewish Home’s efforts to reach beyond its Orthodox base.

Teens-Twenties-logo

Girls don’t usually learn Gemara. Everyone knows that.

Lewis-052215-Jewish-Soldiers-logo

Mordechai and his men shared a strong mutual loyalty.

“Can I wear tefillin in the bathroom?” That was the question US Private Nuchim Lebensohn wrote to Mike Tress, president of the Agudath Israel Youth Council, in a letter dated November 18, 1942. Lebensohn was not your typical young American GI. Polish by birth, he was forty-three years old and married when he was drafted […]

To what extent is your child displaying defiance?

This therapist kept focusing on how “I could do better,” never on how we could make the marriage work.

Mistrust that has lingered after the fiasco in Ferguson, Missouri, has edged the issue forward.

“The observance of a kosher diet is a key tenet of Judaism, and one which no state has the right to deny,” said Nathan Diament, executive director for public policy of the Orthodox Union.

Two weeks of intense learning in the classroom about Israel culminated with Yom Ha’Atzmaut. Students attended sessions with their teachers and learned about history, culture, military power, advocacy, slang, cooking, and more.

The nations of the world left the vessel to sit rotting in the water during one of the coldest winters in decades and with its starving and freezing passengers abandoned.

Rabbi Yisroel Edelman, the synagogue’s spiritual leader, declared, “The Young Israel of Deerfield Beach is looking forward to our partnership with the OU. The impact the OU has brought to Jewish communities throughout the country through its outreach and educational resources is enormous and we anticipate the same for our community in Deerfield Beach as well.”

Our goal here is to offer you recipes that you can make on Yom Tov with ingredients you might just have in the house. Enjoy and chag sameach!

More Articles from Rabbi Berel Wein
Rabbi Berel Wein

“We Jews are the only people who when we drop a book on the floor pick it up and kiss it.”

Wein-010215

Perfidious and hypocritical as it is, Europe claims the high moral ground for itself

10th of Tevet marks the onset of the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylonia

This book is more than just a biography of one of the leading figures in the Jewish world of the past century.

My primary interest was in providing for my community, both spiritually and physically.

“When we landed in Beijing, a Chinese army captain and soldier, weapons drawn, boarded the plane and swiftly collected all passports. Since we had no entry visas to China, we were summarily hauled off the plane and marched to the terminal…”

The Holocaust and the rise of Israel occupy no space or time in many Orthodox schools.

There is an old rabbinic anecdote about a rabbi who was called on to deliver a eulogy for someone who had no redeeming social value whatsoever. The rabbi was hard pressed to think of anything positive to say about this person. So when he spoke he solemnly pronounced: “No matter how evil the deceased truly was, he was still a far better person than was his brother!”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/food/jewish-fress/honey/2001/09/28/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: