Why do we dip the apple in honey?

Some attribute the using of an apple to the translation of the story of Adam and Eve and the forbidden fruit that caused the expulsion from paradise.

By JTA
September 20, 2011 18:31
3 minute read.
apples

Apples! Autumn! _311. (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)

Among the familiar customs of Rosh Hashana is the dipping of apple pieces in honey -- but what is its origin?

King David had a "cake made in a pan and a sweet cake" (II Samuel 6: 15, 19) given to everyone. Hosea 3:1 identifies the "sweet cake" as a raisin cake.

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Honey also may have been used in the cake, but the honey of ancient Israel was made from dates or grapes or figs or raisins because the land at the time had no domestic bees, only Syrian bees. To extract honey from their combs, it had to be smoked. Still, honey was of importance in the biblical times because there was no sugar.

During the Roman period, Italian bees were introduced to the Middle East, and bee honey was more common.

The Torah also describes Israel as "eretz zvat chalav u'dvash," the land flowing with milk and honey, although the honey was more than likely date honey, a custom retained by many Sephardic Jews to this day.

Today, Israel has some 500 beekeepers who have some 90,000 beehives that produce more than 3,500 tons of honey annually. Kibbutz Yad Mordechai is the largest producer of honey -- 10,000 bottles a day.

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Among Ashkenazim, halla is dipped in honey instead of having salt sprinkled on it for the blessing, then the blessing is given over the apple, "May it be Your will to renew for us a good and sweet year," which is dipped in honey.

Dipping the apple in honey on Rosh Hashana is said to symbolize the desire for a sweet new year. Why an apple? In Bereshit, the book of Genesis, Israel compares the fragrance of his son, Jacob, to "sadeh shel tappuchim," a field of apple trees.

Scholars tell us that mystical powers were ascribed to the apple, and people believed it provided good health and personal well-being.

Some attribute the using of an apple to the translation of the story of Adam and Eve and the forbidden fruit that caused the expulsion from paradise.

The word honey, or "dvash" in Hebrew, has the same numerical value as the words "Av Harachamim," Father of Mercy. Jews hope that God will be merciful on Rosh Hashana as He judges us for our year's deeds.

Moroccans dip apples in honey and serve cooked quince, which is an apple-like fruit, symbolizing a sweet future. Other Moroccans dip dates in sesame and anise seeds and powdered sugar in addition to dipping apples in honey.

Among some Jews from Egypt, a sweet jelly made of gourds or coconut is used to ensure a sweet year and apples are dipped in sugar water instead of in honey.

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The High Holidays are fast approaching, and as well as spending time with family and eating delicious food, the period is a time to reflect on the year that has passed and look forward to the year ahead. It’s a time to think about fresh starts and new experiences that have influenced our lives over the past year.

Please send us a short description of a fresh new start that has been significant to you over the past year. We also want to see your pictures from the event so please send them in too.

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