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Dip the Apple in the Honey: A Habit that Could Change Your Life

There is a famous custom in our tradition to dip an apple in some honey on the first night of Rosh Hashanah as we recite the blessing that the coming year should be good and one filled with sweetness.  This custom has been incorporated in a song taught to many Hebrew school children for generations sang to the tune of Oh My Darling: "Dip the apple in the honey, make a blessing loud and clear, Shana Tova U’Metuka, have a happy sweet new year".

On a most basic level, this custom demonstrates our hope to have sweetness in our lives and that our prayers for a blessed year for us and our family should come true.  On further reflection, I see a broader message which speaks to a call to action and a general way of conduct in our everyday interactions and relationships with others.

On a recent visit to a Barnes and Noble bookstore, I came across a bestseller entitled How Full is Your Bucket.  The author, Don Clifton, who had the misfortune of writing this book as he was suffering from a terminal cancer, espouses a metaphor to live by.  He tells us to view every person to have an invisible bucket and that we should strive to use an imaginary dipper to always look to fill each other's bucket with positive emotions and support which in turn will make the other feel better and simultaneously benefit ourselves as well.   At the same time we should strive to avoid poisoning other people's buckets with negative feelings which not only makes them feel worse but also depletes our own self worth.

This simple habit could have profound effects.  Indeed, I know that I feel a lot better after I have comforted another or performed an act of kindness or charity.  I also know that I feel a lot worse after I have perhaps engaged in some idle gossip about another's flaws or weaknesses or, G-d forbid, said something directly to another person that caused them to feel bad about him or herself or their circumstances.  

The custom to dip the apple in the honey will remind me that I need to constantly focus on filling the "buckets" of my family, friends and co-workers with "honey", or what I interpret as good feelings and words of encouragement and support. There are always opportunities to focus on some positive aspect of a person, to pay them a compliment or offer words or actions to improve their mood and self esteem. We could also be vigilant to avoid either purposely or inadvertently from speaking or acting in a way that will sadden or undermine others. I am sure that if we make this practice a habit, that we will all feel better about ourselves and the progress of our lives.  In turn, we will be deserving of the ultimate blessing of enjoying a Shana Tova U’Metuka, a happy and healthy new year for our families, friends and community.

Looking forward to seeing all of you at our synagogue for a meaningful and enjoyable holiday!


Rabbi Maza