Honey: It Isn’t Just for Rosh Hashanah Anymore


The custom symbolizes the wish for a sweet year, but digging a little deeper, I discovered some interesting honey lore.

The tradition of dipping apples and challah in honey at Rosh Hashanah is ubiquitous. It is observed by Jews the world over, from the strictly secular to the uber-Orthodox.

The custom symbolizes the wish for a sweet year, but digging a little deeper, I discovered some interesting honey lore.

In biblical times, date honey was more plentiful and easily accessed than bee honey. Because it was difficult to acquire and relatively scarce, scholars suspect that bee honey came to be associated with special occasions, like the High Holidays celebration.

The sting associated with bees provides another connection. Some say that the pain of the sting, which is a negative, is softened by the sweetness of the honey. A parallel can be drawn with the judgment of God tempered with his mercy.

Some Jewish tables require a raw honeycomb for the Rosh Hashanah feast. The Hebrew word for “raw” is “chai,” which also means “life.” As the new year begins, the focus on life, renewal and rejuvenation is at the forefront.

There are frequent allusions to honey in the Bible, perhaps the most familiar being the “land of milk and honey,” which likely referred to the aforementioned date honey and goat, not cow milk, as many Americans assume. The heavenly manna, “like pastry fried in honey,” fell from the sky and nourished the tribe during its years in the desert.

Other references include Solomon’s Song of Songs, which contains the line, “honey and milk under your tongue” and Samson’s slain lion, “with a swarm of bees in its belly, complete with their honey.” The latter is yet another illustration of something negative producing a positive, which is a recurring theme in Jewish thought. And this list just scratches the surface.

While the biblical references to honey may nourish our spirits, the health benefits of this liquid gold are rather divine.

Honey is a natural antibacterial and antifungal, and can be applied topically to cuts and wounds for enhanced healing. It acts as a cough suppressant, can allay allergy symptoms and the tryptophan it contains serves as a sleep aid.

Ancient Olympians ate honey and dried figs to improve their performance; modern studies confirm that honey surpasses other sweeteners at regulating glycogen levels and reducing recovery time in athletes.

As for the planet, well, that’s another pot of honey. Fully one-third of the food we eat is a result of the pollination performed by honeybees. They are responsible for pollinating fruits, nuts and vegetable crops, as well as flowering plants (grains are pollinated by the wind).

Farmer Melissa Allen of Beechwood Orchards in Biglerville, Pa., stressed the importance of bees.

“We keep about 300 hives around the perimeter of the farm. Their cross pollination is invaluable; we couldn’t farm without them.”

And let’s hope they never have to. Colony collapse disorder, which began around 2006, is a condition that causes a significant drop in the bee population.

Worker bees disappear, leaving behind the queen, a few nurse bees and plenty of food. Although the colony survives in the short term, it cannot sustain itself without worker bees. Suspected causal factors include industrial agricultural practices, pesticide use, diminished habitats, the varroa mite (a pest that infects honeybees) and global warming.

Measures are being taken by the EPA to study and address the problem. While colony loss remains a concern, the instances of colony collapse disorder have diminished in recent years.

So, as we celebrate the High Holidays this year, let’s remember to thank the bees — for the honey, for the apples and for many of the other foods that grace the table throughout the year.


Farmer Melissa’s Honey Granola 


3 cups rolled oats

1 cup chopped pecans

½ cup honey

¼ cup olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon cinnamon


Heat the oven to 300 degrees. Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl.

Spread the mixture onto a large-rimmed baking sheet.

Bake for 15 minutes, remove from the oven, stir well and return to the oven. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes more, until golden brown.

Remove the granola from the pan and allow it to cool. Scrape the granola off the bottom of the pan with a spatula, and place it in an airtight container. This will keep for up to two weeks.

Makes 4 cups granola 



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here