This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for Him.’ Now John himself had a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. ~ Matthew 3:3-4
I have had John the Immerser on my mind for the past two weeks. His hairy, coarse garment of camel’s hair, and one leather belt. He must have been quite the sight to see. He was probably well known, too, being the son of a High Priest. My husband and I have been pondering a Minimalist Lifestyle, inspired somewhat by the documentary on Netflix, and this, too, had me thinking of John and his diet of locusts and wild honey.1 If I was to limit my wardrobe to just one article, I am not sure that I would choose camel hair, it would probably be my yoga pants and favorite tee. My guess is he chose very carefully what he wished to communicate with his one piece of clothing (the role of a prophet).
Similarly, if I was to limit my diet to two things, I don’t know that I would choose locusts and honey. Maybe pizza and honey to dip the crust in when the pie is almost gone (we call that dipping the “bones” where I come from). Ironically, I even add honey to my pizza dough recipe…the yeast goes crazy and the dough comes out so yummy.
John the Immerser, laid down a life of honor and prestige, and humbled himself to a calling in the wilderness of locusts and wild honey…there is something hidden below the surface here…and it just might be tasty!
So, I started thinking, maybe it isn’t the honey and the locusts as much as their simplicity that John was attracted to. Bees, the seemingly insignificant (and tamei טָמֵא) insect that, if went extinct, would totally wipe out our food sources in one year.2 My husband and I have learned so much from our apiary about the nature of a community. I am so grateful that even though the insect is tamei, the honey is tahor. 3 so, I thought it would be lovely to “zoom in” on the colony and see what all the “buzz” is about.
1. Bees always give more than they take.
The Hebrew word for “bee” is davorah 4 in the sense of orderly motion, and comes from the root word davar.5 We usually translate davar as “word” but it can also mean “order” as in the order of the letters makes a word. The spoken and written word creates order. This is interesting, because the Torah (both Oral and Written) also creates order out of chaos. Torah makes up the moral fabric of the believing community.
Bees carry up to half their body weight in pollen in little baskets on their legs. The average worker bee visits 50-100 flowering plants per trip, and leaves the hive up to 100 times per day. Every time they stop by and visit another pollinating plant, their legs drop off some of the pollen and pick up new pollen, thus bringing the male and female components of the flower together. Once pollinated, a fruit tree flower will begin the transformation into fruit. 6
All honey worker bees must be ENTJs because they are always multitasking and are extremely efficient! 7 It is said that they will reroute the whole colony to a closer watering hole, just to shorten the flight path and conserve energy. While they are constantly moving, and thus transporting pollen all over creation, they are simultaneously collecting their body weight in nectar (a mixture of 80% water and 20% complex sugars) to bring back to the hive to produce honey. 8
In summary, one bee pollinates (gives to) 10,000 flowers per day, and only hauls home (takes) 100 loads of nectar. That is a pretty fair ratio we would do well to pattern our giving after!
2. They Are Prepared
The bees in our apiary spend all spring, summer and fall foraging for pollen and nectar to bring back to the hive. They will continue to produce honey until the nectar bearing plants wither and go dormant for the winter. They never really know how long or cold of a winter they will endure, so they just keep making more honey until the hive is full. We add extra layers of storage for them in good years (called “supers”) and they will keep working and working and working and working and working, never once keeping a single cell of honey for themselves.
They spend their entire lives working for the good of the colony. There must be something other than honey we can glean from that! 9
Yeshua, too, has much to say on the value of humility, and selfless giving:
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5
3. “We” Can Do What “I” Cannot.
There isn’t a bee alive that could survive without a hive and a colony. And there isn’t a bee alive without a queen. The queen calls all the shots in the hive (she even raises up her own replacement when her time is over). And how does she do this? With lots of evil shrieking and shouting.
No, I am joking! She does this with pheromones. She hardly makes a sound, much less a move. Her whole life, all her mind, and all her strength is devoted to the perpetuation of the colony by creating the next generation. 10
To me, the “Queen Bee” of our community is the Shekinah, or the tangible presence of G-d. The pheromones would be analogous of the Ruach, and communicating with us, not by sight, but by our sense of what the Shekinah is doing. It is extremely dark inside the hive, and so the Queen must communicate clearly. The entire hive patterns itself at her signal.
It is also interesting to note that when there is a second queen that rises up among the hive, part of the hive will swarm, and the new queen and the old queen will have their own hives (except in the case where the queen raises up another queen intentionally, then the old queen disappears into the darkness of the hive, and dies). This reminds me that when someone or something else is trying to produce an agenda (even if it seems like a “G-d idea” or a good idea) it can work counter to G-d’s plans and create a major split.
4. The Empire Strikes Back
Did you know that a bee is designed to only be capable of striking in violence once per lifetime. You see, when they sting someone or something they die almost immediately afterward. One of the ways I have been practicing this facet of humility is to speak peacefully, and in a quiet voice; paying attention to my chin. Is it jutted up, are my eyes haughty? Or is my posture humble?
My oldest son was stung by a bee last summer while we were camping (I think he actually had something sweet on his clothing) and, trying to console him, I said, “Well at least you know that bee is dead now. They only get to hurt you once, and then, The End.” His sweet response was even louder tears, because he was hurt AND she died, too. To my son, this was a tragedy. To the bee, you have my colony’s food, and I am happy to lay down my life so my colony and my queen can live.
If you and I would die every time we started a fight about something, we would be much more careful to pick our battles, wouldn’t we?
Oh, and get this…bee’s don’t respond well to a new queen. In the spring, when we buy a new package of bees (because they don’t always winter over the best) we have to “install” the queen carefully or the colony will assassinate her and eventually swarm. So, here is what we do: We lock the queen in a cage, and block the door with a piece of candy, or a marshmallow. The bees then rally together to rescue her. After a week or so, they have freed her from prison, and she is given complete authority to run the hive.
Listen, I have had several moments in my walk with Yeshua where he was trying to teach me something, and it was hard to see or understand, and I have had to dig, in the word, pray, wait, fast, dig some more, and finally broke through and uncovered the truth.
We tend to value what we work for, much more than things that come too easily.
5. The Byproduct of their work is sweet.
Our life work may just be hauling loads and loads of pollen from here to there and back again. 11 I know for myself, my life work right now is the slow drip of character training with a house full of toddlers. It doesn’t seem like I am getting anywhere some days, some weeks, even some months. But then one day, like, WOW, suddenly, I see a change in my children. The byproduct of the work…that is what we are measured on. Not the work itself.
Let me put it another way, when I “try” to accomplish something for G-d, I tend to put people off, come on too strong, or offend somehow. When I instead shift my focus to obedience, even in the small things, the byproduct is that G-d has His way through me.
And who doesn’t love a little honey?
Psalm 119:103 How sweet are Thy words unto my palate! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
מַה-נִּמְלְצוּ לְחִכִּי, אִמְרָתֶךָ– מִדְּבַשׁ לְפִי.
6. They Judge by Smell
Ok, back to this Pheromone thing, again. Wow. I think that all animals (including humans) have this “6th sense.” In humans we sometimes call it “intuition,” or the “leading of the spirit.” But did you know that some scientists suggest that your nose and your brain can sense by smell fear in other animals, and other humans? 12 Regardless of where you rest in the great human pheromone debate, one thing we know for sure, the Moshiach will judge without sight or hearing. See for yourself:
And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD; and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither decide after the hearing of his ears;
וַהֲרִיחוֹ, בְּיִרְאַת יְהוָה; וְלֹא-לְמַרְאֵה עֵינָיו יִשְׁפּוֹט, וְלֹא-לְמִשְׁמַע אָזְנָיו יוֹכִיחַ.
But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the land; and he shall smite the land with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.
וְשָׁפַט בְּצֶדֶק דַּלִּים, וְהוֹכִיחַ בְּמִישׁוֹר לְעַנְוֵי-אָרֶץ; וְהִכָּה-אֶרֶץ בְּשֵׁבֶט פִּיו, וּבְרוּחַ שְׂפָתָיו יָמִית רָשָׁע.
And since we are conformed to his image, we, too, would do well to practice discerning with righteousness,13 with equity,14 and with the breath (Ruach). We cannot concern ourselves too much with what the bees next to us are doing or not doing, we all have our job to do, and our Participation in the work is the Key to Harmony.
So there you have it, 6 Big Ideas we can learn about living in community from the littlest among us: The Busy Bee.
Chag Sameach Rosh Chodesh Shevat!
SASHYA CLARK is a Disciple of Yeshua (Jesus) who practices Judaism. She writes, home-schools three beautiful children, and plays music. In her “free time” she also volunteers for Holy Language Institute and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You are also welcome to find her on Facebook, or follow her personal blog at thefringe2016.wordpress.com. This post is dedicated to my 2nd Arrow, the Biggest Wild Kratts fan in the house. Love you, son.
- It is uncertain if John was eating bee honey or date honey, more on that debate here: https://grbs.library.duke.edu/article/viewFile/191/231 Oh, and I stumbled across this quirky “survivalist” web page, and found it really entertaining to image John following a little dancing insect back to her hive for supper :) https://survivalblog.com/bees_like_john_the_baptist_by_mike_the_bee_shepherd/
- http://ohr.edu/ask_db/ask_main.php/234/Q3/ and Typically anything produced by an unclean animal is also considered unclean, but not with the bees. They are a unique kashrut phenomenon. See Brachot ibid. and Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Maachalot Asurot 3:3 why honey is kosher, since the bee is not.
- Just kidding! Other MBTI personalities are efficient, too! Not sure which one you are? Find out for free here: https://www.16personalities.com/free-personality-test
- this is a Hebrew idiom that means looking out for the poor and vulnerable people in our society