If you’ve gotten to know me at all, you know I appreciate a good play on words! So, here are a few gems for your consideration. At Bornblum we have no bad apples. No one upsets the apple cart. We stay true to our core beliefs. And no matter how you slice it, we try to make things easy as pie, as we plant seeds in the minds of our students.
Word play aside, the essence of integrated learning has been on display at Bornblum over the last few weeks. Our students have learned about Rosh Hashanah in so many ways, even using Rosh Hashanah symbols to learn science, language arts, math and lessons in social emotional learning. For example:
Seventh Grade students learned about the blowing of the shofar by studying the Oral Tradition found in the Mishna.
Fifth Grade learned about the process of Teshuva, repenting and connected the idea of treating others with kindness through the reading of Wonder by RJ Palacio.
Third Grade students created contraptions that could extricate a floating apple from a tub of water. Students weren’t allowed to get their hands wet and could not push the apple from the water. The goal was to find the best design to lift the apple from the water, using only popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners and paperclips.
First Grade students learned about Johnny Appleseed and discussed their favorite color apples in order to make a graph for math. They also learned about the viscosity of honey.
Kindergarten students used honey to write Hebrew letters on apples, they used apples to make volcanos, they made ooblek using apple sauce, they made green apple Play Doh using apple shampoo and then role played making themselves into slices of apple dipped into honey.
While many of these lessons emphasize the central role that apples dipped in honey play on Rosh Hashanah to signify a sweet new year, the focus is usually on the honey. Honey can either come from dates or from bees, but the honey on Rosh Hashanah should signify the effort that is put into extraction. According to the Avnei Nazer (Avrohom Bornzstain), collecting dates to make honey is easy but reaching into a beehive to extract honey is difficult and can result in injury. When we work hard, the reward is sweeter.
But what significance does an apple play? Here are a few possibilities:
The 16th century scholar known as the Maharal suggests that the apple is connected to the story of Jacob when he went to receive a blessing from his father, Isaac. Jacob smelled of an apple orchard. The Maharal suggests that this episode happened on Rosh Hashanah.
The 19th century Kabbalist Ben Ish Chai teaches that an apple has three benefits; taste, sight and smell. This is symbolic of our requests for sustenance, for our children, health and livelihood.
In the mystical treatise, the Zohar, it says that after someone drinks wine, they should eat an apple so that the wine does not harm them. Wine represents severity and the apple calms the severity. We eat apples in the hope that it will pacify God’s harsh judgments.
The Gematria (numerology) of apple, Tapuach is 494, the same as the ram of the binding (of Isaac) Seeh Akeidah. We refer to the binding of Isaac often on Rosh Hashana and use the ram’s horn, the Shofar as a central symbol on Rosh Hashanah. The primary mitzvah on Rosh Hashanah is to hear the Shofar. Apples are tied directly to the main mitzvah of the day.
Finally, the great 12th century master, Maimonides teaches that the Mitzvah of Shofar is to hear the sounds of the Shofar, rather than to blow the shofar yourself. The blessing that our students have learned says lishmoah kol shofar, to hear the sound of the Shofar. This teaches us that there is a greater value placed on listening than playing. Perhaps this means that listening is more difficult than speaking. Much like our desire for honey coming from the hive of a bee, whose extraction poses risk, but whose reward is sweet, so too are the efforts of our listening. The harder we work to listen, the sweeter our reward will be in the coming year.
May this year be full of listening, hard work, sweet sounds and
happiness. I hope you enjoy this very special Rosh Hashanah video.
Shana Tova U’Metukah,