In honor of the Jewish New Year, the Rosh Hashanah holiday, Israel’s Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Yona Metzger, sent the traditional greeting of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel to Jews living in the Diaspora.
“In our tradition, we always take an apple, dip it in honey, and we say that we shall have a good year and a sweet year,” Rabbi Metzger said.
“The question is why do we take the apple, that is sweet in and of itself, and dip it in another sweet thing – the honey? Wouldn’t it be better to take the maror (bitterherb) from Pesach or an onion and dip that in the honey?" Then the bitter or sharp taste would become sweeter.
The answer to this question, explained Rabbi Metzger - in true Talmudic form, where one question always leads to another - is actually found in the answer to another question.
“Why do we say that we shall have a good year and a sweet year?” he said. “If you say ‘good year,’ it’s the same as saying ‘Mazal Tov’ (good luck) at a Bar Mitzvah or a wedding. We don’t wish people both good luck and sweet luck. So why is it necessary to add ‘sweet" to the wish for a good year?”
The rabbi explained that the answer is that not everything that is good is also sweet, and vice versa. If one is told to have surgery, it may be a good thing to do, but it is not a sweet one. If one enjoys overeating or smoking, for example, that may seem sweet, but it is certainly not good.
“Therefore, the apple symbolizes the good year and the honey symbolizes the sweet year,” he said. “So I want to bless you with both - that G-d sends you and gives you a good as well as a sweet year.”
“The people of Israel and the land of Israel are now surrounded by problems. We don’t know what G-d's intentions are and what will happen in all those [Arab] countries that had demonstrations, some of which succeeded, and what our relationship with them will be. We have to pray that everything that happens around us will be good for the people of Israel and the land of Israel.”
“If we are strong here, and if G-d keeps us and protects us, you will be safe as well. Shana Tova U’Metuka - a sweet and good year - to all of you.”