Honey in Jewish Law

honeybee on sage blossom

The Jewish calendar traditionally has four different days dedicated to the new year, each with a different purpose. While this may seem strange at first glance, it is not so different when you consider that the modern American calendar may have a traditional New Year (the first of January), a different start to the fiscal or budget year for businesses, yet another new year for the Government’s fiscal year (in October), and another day that marks the start of the public school year (in September). Lets look at two of the “New Years” 

The 15th of Shevat on the Jewish calendar—celebrated this year on Monday, February 10, 2020—is the day that marks the beginning of a “new year” for trees. Commonly known as Tu Bishvat, this day marks the season in which the earliest-blooming trees in the Land of Israel emerge from their winter sleep and begin a new fruit-bearing cycle.

Rosh Hashanah, it is customary to dip an apple into honey.  This wish, that “God grant everyone a good and sweet new year,” combines two concepts: “good” means a level of spirituality, and “sweet” means to merit or deserve the tangible good. However, this is by no means the only reference to honey in Jewish tradition and scriptures.

The land of Israel has been described as “flowing with milk and honey” and containing seven species of fruit and grain, the last of which is honey. However, date “honey” is symbolic of the post messianic enjoyment of spiritual fruits as taken from the date tree.  This ingredient, also called date syrup, should not be confused with bee’s honey.  

It was written that Samson had killed a lion and, returning to that place, he saw a “swarm of bees in its belly, complete with their honey.”  This inspired Samson to pose the following riddle to his friends: “From the devourer came forth food; and from the strong came out sweetness.”  This concept, that negative can produce positive, inspired Rabbis’ preference of bee’s honey over date honey.  In addition, bee’s product is sweet, but they also carry a sting.  This symbolizes that God’s judgment (sting) should be tempered by his mercy (sweetness).  Also, our lives should be a balance between kindness and severity.

At Winter Park Honey, we use only raw honey.  Jewish tradition states a preference for using raw honeycomb.  The Hebrew word for raw is “chai” which is also interpreted as “life.”  (Think Fiddler on The Roof and “L’Chaim” – to life!)  The Rosh Hashanah wish is to be inscribed into the Book of Life.

Kosher laws state that something derived from an impure animal is impure.  The question arises: How can kosher honey be produced by a non-kosher bee?  The answer is simple: A bee’s body does not actually produce honey.  Nectar is passed through their mouths as temporary storage, before it is stored in the honeycomb.  

Bees can personify a person of selfless actions.  They can’t consume all their honey, but rather produce some for the owner of the hive.  Thus, Jewish people keep commandments for heaven’s sake, as well as for the good life without personal motives.  

Finally, a quote from scripture states “Sweet to my palate is Your Word, more than honey.”  The interpretation is that the Torah is always satisfying, beware of an overindulgence in too much honey.  With respect to the sacred scriptures, we at Winter Park Honey won’t tell if you have a little more honey over the holidays.  Have a good sweet new year!

honeybee on sage blossom

Sage honey has a unique taste, smell and color. The floral source of this honey is Salvia Officinalis, from the Latin word salvere which means “to save”. It is a well-loved and well-used herb.  It is a  culinary favorite and one of the herbs to which people have easy access, no matter where they are.

Originally from the Mediterranean region, it grows wild almost everywhere, often in rocky places, but it’s also grown in gardens. It’s cultivated more in California. In the Sierra Nevada mountains and California coasts, the swarms of bees are attracted by the white flowers of the Black Button sage. In fact, Southern California cultivates bushes of white sage for most of the year. 

Sage thrives well in dryer climates and is a perfect addition to a permaculture-like garden that can be planted once and left to thrive through the years. Planted in vegetable gardens, it can help repel certain insects, but the bees love the flowers. 

The bees collect the nectar from the flowers, during their peak blooming season, early spring to late summer.  It has a sweet and balanced taste, similar to tupelo honey, with a  sweet, clover-like and floral aftertaste. Sage has a mix of fruity and spicy notes, and a light greenish-yellow color. 

Let us introduce you to one of our favorite remedies for scratchy throat caused by sinus discharge and excessive coughing.  A tablespoon of this delicious honey works like magic on scratchy, raw throats. In warm tea it helps to stimulate sweating and salivation, and thins mucous allowing it to exit the body.  If taken mixed in a lukewarm tea, its antibiotic and astringent nature help with sore throats

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