Dip the Apple in the Honey

By RABBI SHAUL DOV FELMAN

One of the well accepted customs kept by klal Yisroel is the dipping of the apple in honey on the eve of Rosh Hashana. The Arizal explains that the numerical value of the word “dvash” is 306 -- the same as the words, ”Av Harachamim,” a connection of great and deliberate significance.

A talmid of the Rashba writes that the reason Klal Yisroel merited the mitzvah of Tekias Shofar is because, at the time of Kabolas HaTorah at Har Sinai, they said Naaseh before Nishma. Since their accepting the Torah in such a fashion was “Lifnim Mishuras Hadin,” they were zocheh to receive the shofar that takes them in “Lifnim Mishuras Hadin.” In other words, Klal Yisroel didn’t need to accept the Torah this way. It would have been sufficient for them to listen first, “Nishma,” and then to agree to keep the mitzvos, “Naaseh.” They did beyond what was expected of them. Therefore when Klal Yisroel stands in pure din, judgment that no one can stand up to, we merited the mitzvah of Tekias Shofar. According to the Zohar Hakadosh, when the shofar is blown, Ha-shem rises from the Kisei of din and sits on the Kisei of Rachamim. That is how Ha-shem treats us -- “Lifnim Mishuras Hadin.”

In Berachos 5a, the Gemmoro describes that upon the entry of Reb Yishmoel ben Elisha -- the Cohein Gadol -- Lifnai V’Lifnim, Hakadosh Boruch Hu requested from him a blessing, to which the Kohein Gadol prayed that Hakadosh Boruch shall always deal with his children “Lifnim Mishuras Hadin.” In Rosh Hashana 26a the Gemmoro says that the Mitzvah of Tekias Shofar is considered as if it gives us entry to the “Kodesh Hakodoshim.”

The Gemmoro in Shabbos 88a relates: ”R’ Chama the son of R’ Chanina said: What is the meaning of that which is written (Shir Hashirim 2:3) ‘Like an apple (tree) among the trees of the forest’? Why are the Jewish people compared to an apple tree? This teaches the following lesson: Just as the apple tree’s fruit precedes its leaves, so too did Israel say ‘we will do’ before ‘we will hear.’” The distinction of Klal Yisroel being compared to an apple lies in the fact that they were “Makdim Naaseh Lenishma.” How fitting is it then that on Rosh Hashana we take specifically the apple which signifies Klal Yisroel’s acceptance of Torah Lifnim Mishuras Hadin which, in turn, brought us the mitzvah of Tekias Shofar -- the essence of this Holy Day. We then dip the apple into the honey with the prayer that Ha-shem our Av Harachamim -- should immerse Klal Yisroel in his mercy and decree upon us a sweet year. The Arizal relates that the Pey and Reish of the word “Kippur” have a numerical value of 280, which represents din. (The Par itself represents din as is evident at the Golden Calf.) What remains in the word “Kippur” is the Chof and the Vov which have the numerical value of 26 -- the “Sheim Havaya,” the name of Ha-shem representing Rachamim that is necessary in neutralizing the din. In the word Shofar, Pey and Reish appear once again, representing din. Only this time their partners are the letters Shin and Vov which have together the numerical value of 306 -- the same value of “Dvash” and “Av Harachamim” that neutralizes the din of Rosh Hashana.

May Ha-shem grant us all a Kesiva Vechasima Tova and may we always find ourselves immersed in the compassion of the Av Harachamim himself.

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