In an Age of Nausea, Auguries of Sweetness

A year or so ago the news was full of the globe-wide threat to honey bees

The threat was not confined to the buzzing, stinging insect but to all vegetal life: no bees, no pollination, no animal life

A simple silence, the end, good night, no tomorrow, no new year, no honey

It didn’t transpire – at least it hasn’t yet

We still have bees, pollen, honey

I recall a patient of mine, not Jewish, who always knew, well in advance, of the approach of Rosh Hashanah

He’d wish me the greetings of the season

He knew about our new year through his work: he was an apiarist who would visit all the Jewish schools and kindergartens with honey and stories of honey bees, and bee raising and honey making and honey collecting

He’d bring honey to the children

I write this letter in the same spirit: I wish, I wish us all, a year sweetened, a year of blessing


Whom* By Fire, Whom* by Knife and Fork

The High Holydays are almost upon us. Jewish people are reflecting on their ways, repenting, seeking forgiveness from those whom* we have wronged, resolving to do better in the coming year.

The seasonal liturgy lists an intimidating list of “who’s” – fire, water, hunger, thirst; who in his allotted span and who before his span; who will be at peace, who will wander; who will pass in quietude, who in agony.

It makes you think.

The liturgy does prescribe antidotes – prayer, sincerely remorseful penitence and charity.

On the eve of Rosh Hashanah Jewish families gather to overindulge. We will be fifteen at our table and we’ll consume one bottle of wine and three sheep, numerous hens and sundry kine. We eat too much and drink too little. Next day, following a synagogue service lasting about five hours we go home and gorge ourselves, thereby putting ourselves at risk of “whom by knife and fork.”

We eat apple dipped in honey and we take honey on our round loaves of challah (read brioche, the “ch” in challah being like the final throat-clearing sound in Bach; the ch in brioche the same as in douche). The honey suggests the wish for a year of blessing. In our case that sweetness resides in the grandchildren who will throng and riot around our table, ensuring our New Year commences not in quietude but in full throated life.

My wish for my reader/s is that you might find this blog rewarding in the year to come, that you might buy the books that I’ll flog to you (a novel – Carrots and Jaffas – in early 2014; and A Threefold Cord – a novel in 67 chapters for 8-10 year olds, also in 2014, if not before.)

More disinterestedly, I wish for peace in the Middle East, a Collingwood premiership – at the moment both appear equally likely – and a year of euglycaemic health for us all.

Expressed as Shana Tova u’metukah


Howard Goldenberg

*I realize that Leonard Cohen sings “Who by fire”. Likewise “Who” appears in the English translation of the Hebrew prayerbooks. However, I am persuaded on grammatical grounds that it is not what you know in this life that matters but whom you know.