Why are little Jewish children all over the world singing, “Dip the apple in the honey…”? “If they are not prophets, then they are the children of prophets.” (Pesachim 66A) So what are these little Neviim telling us and why do we dip the apple in the honey?
I just started using a special Siddur called “Matuk M’Dvash”, literally “Sweeter than Honey”. What’s so good about this siddur? All of the words are in the Holy font of Ksav Ashuris like the Hebrew writing in a Sefer Torah, and the Name of HASHEM is dressed up and beautified with a rich combination of pronunciations and deeper Kavanas.
These all help call attention to HASHEM’s NAME so we shouldn’t just casually glide by like it’s just another word and HASHEM is two dimensional and stuck on a page.
So too, the flower calls out to the bee and he dances in the heart of the flower, pollinating it and bringing about the promise of more flowers before flying away with the stuff that honey is made of. Nothing is sweeter than honey. Shimshon said it in a riddle and our tongue tells us so. Now we understand there is something even sweeter than honey.
King David asks rhetorically in Tehillim 94, “HaNota Ozen HaLo YiShma” – The One Who plants the ear, does He not hear!?” Maybe by extension we can say that the One Who created honey must be sweeter than honey. The Ramchal writes explicitly in the beginning of the Mesilas Yesharim that, “Man was only created to delight in the pleasure of HASHEM!”
When we were kids, we used to play a game called “Hot and Cold”. I played with my own kids many times. Somebody hides an object and the people who are invited to search for it are given verbal clues that they are getting closer or farther away. The further away you go, “you’re getting cooler”. The closer you get, “you’re getting warmer”. When you are so close and maybe even touching it then, “YOU ARE ON FIRE!” You can’t get closer than that! It seems you can be that close and not even realize it.
Moshe Rabeinu tells us, “It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us and fetch it for us, to tell to us, so that we can fulfill it?”
Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us and fetch it for us, to tell to us, so that we can fulfill it?” Rather, [this] thing is very close to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can fulfill it. (Devarim 30:12-14)
Whatever we are busy searching for is not in the heavens. It’s not far off or transcendent. It’s not someplace else. Rather it is very close, not just close, but very close. Moshe is telling us, “You’re on fire!” It’s in your mouth and already actionable.
Why does it say, in the mouth first? Then the verse reverts to the heart, which is thought, and then action. The usual order would be thought then speech and then action. It seems speech is the first key. Let’s see how it works.
The Ramban writes in a famous letter to his son, with regard to prayer, “Think about the words before they exit your mouth.” How and why is that helpful?
A newly wed was having trouble putting a smile on his wife’s face. He went to his Rabbi and the Rabbi asked him if he ever got her Shabbos flowers. He did not, so the Rabbi advised him to do so. The fellow asked, “That’s it?” The Rabbi told him that he should write a note or recite a personal message. That is the Neshama of the gift.
“What should I say?” he asked the Rabbi. The Rabbi said, “How about, ‘You are my sunshine my only sunshine’!?” He wrote it down word for word. When he came home with a giant bouquet a huge smile swept across his bride’s face. The sun was shining.
Then he took out the piece of paper and said, “And the Rabbi said I should say, ‘You are my sunshine…” The flowers came crashing down on his head. Ouch!
When translating, as we pray, seeing the words in the rearview mirror, it may be like saying, “the Men of the Great Assembly said I should, say…”. When we pause before each word and think, especially by “ATA” – “YOU” and the Holy Name of HASHEM, then Davening truly becomes a “work of the heart” and it is electrified. We realize that we are on fire and it’s possible to taste the taste of “something” even sweeter than honey.