Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Apples and "Honey"

(Note: the infamous Blogging Bear invited me to write a guest post, and then neglected to post it. So here it is, for your New Year's reading pleasure. L'Shana Tovah, all!)

There is a long-standing dispute about the meaning of דְבָשׁ (devash), the word used in the Tanakh for honey. Is it, as in Judges (14:8), the "honey" we know today, explicitly connected to bees? Or is it, as some assert, usually a reference to date syrup? As Gil Marks points out, the former is a wild product of the land, just like the other elements that comprised Yaakov's gift to Joseph when seeking a second portion of comestibles during the famine of Parshat Miketz. The latter, in contrast, is a highly domesticated, processed substance, which requires intense and long-term human labor. Date trees, after all, are planted by generations that never see the first fruit.

If we must dip in "devash," is it better to use the honey which makes us rely on Divine providence, or the honey which asks us to rely on our own hard work and that of the previous generations?

(Granted that most of us get our honey these days from the supermarket, not the intestines of a lion...)


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