It is fall time! I adore the fall scenery of mustard-colored leaves, rustic browns and oranges, and harvest time. Not only is autumn my favorite season but it is also the time where I observe three Holy Days as described in the Hebrew Bible. Many people and cultures all over the world give thanks, express joy, celebrate together, and feast during this time.
Thousands of years ago, a tribal group prepared to enter a land they were promised. It is famously known as the Land of Milk & Honey. Before they sojourned in the wilderness, many remembered the time they spent serving Egypt (thought they likely called this land Mitzraim). They were familiar with a specific irrigation system for growing vegetables in Mitzraim but in this new land they were promised fruit. Deuteronomy 8:8 lists seven foods these ancients could expect: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and honey. These were and are associated with the Seven Biblical Feasts; though in the interest of autumn, I want to focus on honey. Today we think of bees when we mention honey, but honey can also be extracted from ripe fruit and trees; and it is popular during the fall.
I like to describe the duality of natural things (and beings) as a blessing and a burden. With honey, the blessing is its sweetness; but the burden is its messiness. A sweet mess and a messy sweet.
The Holy Days carry the idea of spiritual transition or even a spiritual renewing. We start with a celebration to usher in the season with Yom Teruah. Then, we reflect in an effort to teshuvah (return) to the Most High and to each other. We pray. We fast. We repent. We confess our s’lach lanu. We begin anew. Last, we close the season with a week-long festival to express gratitude and joy for our bounty (among other things).
It is likely (particularly if you’re in Israel or in a traditional service) for someone to bid you shnat d’vash (a year of honey) during this time. It is a perfectly fitting greeting. The season is certainly fond of honey, the Land is known as “Milk & Honey”, and honey is used as metaphor to communicate goodness and sweetness. The duality of honey is more realized for me this year than my years before. Over a year, from last Yom Kippur to this one, it has definitely been both sweet and messy, and I do not think I am alone. Twenty-twenty has been quite a year all on its own for most of us.
On this Yom Kippur, I encourage you to reflect over your year. What was sweet? What was messy? What can you give thanks for? What brought you joy? What remains undone? What can you make whole, make right? What can you confess? What can you let go? How can you return to the Creator? How can you return to another? Anything you need to restore or redeem? Going forward, beyond Kippur, what can you expect? What plans can you make?
In this Holy Season 2020, I wish you a Year of Honey. May it be sweet even when it is messy. Like honey, I pray we learn to stick together. Selah.
Love, Light, & Honey