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Wind in your Sails












By Rabbi Daniel Lapin
September 2, 2012

Each week I write ThoughtTools® very carefully and review them diligently. This is why I was shocked to discover what a bad mistake I made last week. I am grateful to those alert readers who wrote in to correct me and I feel undeserving of the kind tone they employed.

I am blushing at recalling it, but yes, I wrote that bees make honey out of pollen. No, they don’t. They make it by regurgitating and processing the nectar they gather from flowers. While collecting the nectar, bees perform a useful function having to do with pollen, but that is unrelated to the honey.

The word honey has even been used as a term of endearment in English for many hundreds of years, including the romantic sounding honeymoon.

On the first night of Rosh haShanah, the Jewish New Year, this year Sunday night September 16, Jews eat apple dipped into honey. Even more than chocolate, a notoriously effective mood-raiser, eating honey makes us feel good. Small jars of honey are popular gifts during the weeks leading up to Rosh HaShanah, expressing the wish that the recipient should enjoy a sweet year.

One general rule from ancient Jewish wisdom is that we can glean valuable information about a word by examining its first usage in Scripture. Honey appears for the first time when Jacob reluctantly allows his son, Benjamin, to accompany the brothers to Egypt. In order to placate Egypt’s ruler, Jacob sends a gift containing honey.

Israel their father said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: Take of the land’s glory in your luggage and bring it down to the man as a gift (MiNCHaH), some balsam, some honey…” -(Genesis 43:11)

The first Biblical appearance of honey thus links it to the idea of a gift because both words appear in the same verse. Evidently, it is well to wish people sweetness by means of a gift (MiNCHaH) containing honey.

The two words together occur in only one other verse, Leviticus 2:11. This verse discusses a specific type of sacrifice known as a MiNChaH. While it is well to give honey as a gift to another person, in offering a gift (MiNCHaH) to God, honey is expressly forbidden.

What can we learn?

When we give a gift to a human, we derive palpable gratification. We see the person’s joy upon opening our gift, we savor the recipient’s gratitude, and we know that in all likelihood, we’ll receive a gift in return.

When we give a gift to God, the palpable manifestations are not there. We may believe that God appreciates our gift and we may be confident that He will more than reciprocate, but we see no visible reaction. Nevertheless, we must train ourselves to experience similar gratification when offering a gift to God.

How do we give gifts to God today? One way is by giving a piece of ourselves, perhaps controlling our temper more or putting a smile on our face despite our stress. Nobody but God need know of our inner struggle, and He smiles.

Another way, however, is to give charity, particularly anonymously. While a person may be the beneficiary, we are actually giving a gift to God as much as to a person - especially if we do not know whom our gift is aiding and the recipient does not know that we are the donor.

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One of the ‘commandments’ I address in my best-selling book Thou Shall Prosper: the Ten Commandments for Making Money, (available by itself or as part of the Income Abundance Set, at a deeply reduced price this week) is to become a charitable person. I offer several reasons why this is effective, aside from it being something God instructs us.

One of the most important benefits is that giving enlarges us. We become bigger people after giving of our time, money or resources than we were. Scientists note that our hormones react to our own generosity, but this is simply another way of saying that a gracious God rewards us when we do the right thing. We don’t need to give honey to God, because the act of giving in itself is as sweet as can be.

2012 Rabbi Daniel Lapin - All Rights Reserved

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Rabbi Daniel Lapin, known world-wide as America's Rabbi, is a noted rabbinic scholar, best-selling author and host of the Rabbi Daniel Lapin Show on San Francisco’s KSFO. He is one of America’s most eloquent speakers and his ability to extract life principles from the Bible and transmit them in an entertaining manner has brought countless numbers of Jews and Christians closer to their respective faiths. In 2007 Newsweek magazine included him in its list of America’s fifty most influential rabbis.

You can contact Rabbi Daniel Lapin through his website.

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The word honey has even been used as a term of endearment in English for many hundreds of years, including the romantic sounding honeymoon.

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