Sweetness On a Bitter Tongue

Yoni A. Dahlen
August 1, 2014
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apple honey

As I approach Rosh Hashanah this year, I am wondering about the sweetness of new beginnings in a time of bitterness. Throughout the world, Jews of every color and tradition will be celebrating the new year by replacing the symbolic salt on their challah with honey. It is tradition to greet one another with the words, “l’shanah tovah u’metuka,” “to a good and sweet year.”

But how do we find sweetness in a time of war and violence? Where does the love of tradition and the profundity of introspection melt into the tears of fear and uncertainty? How can we sing the Lord’s song in this strange land of hatred and sadness?

As the Days of Awe approach, I pray that we may look to one another, not in hopes of forgetting our mourning and our pain, but rather to embrace those very real emotions with the hope and love that comes with community and ritual. This year, our apples may tremble in our hands, but in coming together, we may steady, if just for a moment, the quaking of our trodden spirits, and with understanding and compassion, our mouths will rejoice in the sweet honey of what can be, of what should be.

This Rosh Hashanah, by the Rivers of Manhattan, I will not lay down my harp. I will sing to the Lord as my cheeks run with tears. And with the pleas and dreams of those around me, I will cry out in praise and thanksgiving, for this is the birthday of the world, and this is the birthday of hope.

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Yoni A. Dahlen is a rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York City. He attended Brandeis University where he received a Masters of Arts in Jewish Philosophy. Pursuing a career in academia, his topics of interest include Jewish mysticism, political theology, and the religiosity of Labor Zionism. He currently lives in Jerusalem.

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