“And He said unto me: 'Son of man, cause thy belly to eat, and fill thy bowels with this roll that I give thee.' Then did I eat it; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness.” (Ezekiel, 3, 3)
Ever since the Middle Ages, Jews have sweetened children’s first day of learning the torah and going to school (sometimes at the early age of three) with honey.
A custom in both Ashkenazi and Sephardi traditions was to spread honey over a board or a paper with the Hebrew alphabet (alef-bet) written on it, and let the young scholar lick the letters, demonstrating the sweetness of learning.
“Back in the village of Todra, they take you in the synagogue
and write on a wooden board with honey from alef to tav
all the letters in honey and say: darling, lick!
And the torah in the mouth was sweet like honey,
In the village of Todra in the heart of the Atlas Mountains.”
(A song by Yehoshua Sobol and Shlomo Bar)
This custom is still practiced today in some Orthodox communities in Israel. This connection between sweetness and the Torah is also marked in the holidays of Simhat Torah and Shavuot.
As I remembered fondly the bags of candy our synagogue at the corner of the street used to hand out every Simhat Torah (it was definitely the most popular day in shul for us kids), I thought my kids would appreciate the same Torah-candy link, so I baked a variety of alef-bet honey cookies. The buttery recipe is simple and would work well in any shape for the rest of the year, with jam or without.