Each week I write ThoughtTools® very carefully and review them diligently. This is why I was shocked to discover what a bad mistake I made last week. I am grateful to those alert readers who wrote in to correct me and I feel undeserving of the kind tone they employed.
I am blushing at recalling it, but yes, I wrote that bees make honey out of pollen. No, they don’t. They make it by regurgitating and processing the nectar they gather from flowers. While collecting the nectar, bees perform a useful function having to do with pollen, but that is unrelated to the honey.
The word honey has even been used as a term of endearment in English for many hundreds of years, including the romantic sounding honeymoon.
On the first night of Rosh haShanah, the Jewish New Year, this year Sunday night September 16, Jews eat apple dipped into honey. Even more than chocolate, a notoriously effective mood-raiser, eating honey makes us feel good. Small jars of honey are popular gifts during the weeks leading up to Rosh HaShanah, expressing the wish that the recipient should enjoy a sweet year.
One general rule from ancient Jewish wisdom is that we can glean valuable information about a word by examining its first usage in Scripture. Honey appears for the first time when Jacob reluctantly allows his son, Benjamin, to accompany the brothers to Egypt. In order to placate Egypt’s ruler, Jacob sends a gift containing honey.
Israel their father said to them, “If it must be so, then do this:
Take of the land’s glory in your luggage and bring it down to the man
as a gift (MiNCHaH), some balsam, some honey…”
The first Biblical appearance of honey thus links it to the idea of a gift because both words appear in the same verse. Evidently, it is well to wish people sweetness by means of a gift (MiNCHaH) containing honey.
The two words together occur in only one other verse, Leviticus 2:11. This verse discusses a specific type of sacrifice known as a MiNChaH. While it is well to give honey as a gift to another person, in offering a gift (MiNCHaH) to God, honey is expressly forbidden.
What can we learn?
When we give a gift to a human, we derive palpable gratification. We see the person’s joy upon opening our gift, we savor the recipient’s gratitude, and we know that in all likelihood, we’ll receive a gift in return.
When we give a gift to God, the palpable manifestations are not there. We may believe that God appreciates our gift and we may be confident that He will more than reciprocate, but we see no visible reaction. Nevertheless, we must train ourselves to experience similar gratification when offering a gift to God.
How do we give gifts to God today? One way is by giving a piece of ourselves, perhaps controlling our temper more or putting a smile on our face despite our stress. Nobody but God need know of our inner struggle, and He smiles.
Another way, however, is to give charity, particularly anonymously. While a person may be the beneficiary, we are actually giving a gift to God as much as to a person – especially if we do not know whom our gift is aiding and the recipient does not know that we are the donor.
One of the ‘commandments’ I address in my best-selling book Thou Shall Prosper: the Ten Commandments for Making Money, (available by itself or as part of the Income Abundance Set at a deeply reduced price this week) is to become a charitable person. I offer several reasons why this is effective, aside from it being something God instructs us. One of the most important benefits is that giving enlarges us. We become bigger people after giving of our time, money or resources than we were. Scientists note that our hormones react to our own generosity, but this is simply another way of saying that a gracious God rewards us when we do the right thing. We don’t need to give honey to God, because the act of giving in itself is as sweet as can be.
This week’s Susan’s Musings: A Theft is a Theft is a Theft?
Is it worse to steal money from a child than from a local business? This isn’t a random, ‘it’s 2 a.m. and I can’t sleep’ type of question. Instead, my thinking was precipitated by a video that just came to my attention, though it first circulated four years ago. At that time, two teenagers in an upscale Florida neighborhood snatched an envelope with $164 in it from a nine-year-old cookie-selling Girl Scout and jumped into their car. As shocking as the crime was…READ MORE
Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here.
Is there a reason males were required to be circumcised and women had no such requirement?
Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s Answer