I’ve recently started learning about beekeeping, and I found out that in Mexico beekeepers use plants hung above the hives to protect the bees from negative energies. In theory, could Jewish beekeepers hang a tiny mezuzah on the entrance of the hives for the same effect?
Doorposts of your hive
Every once in a while I come across a post on my Facebook feed that is so unexpected, so wonderfully wacky, so very different from, “What should I do about this baby shower?” that I have to ask if I can use it for a column. This is just such a question, and it has everything: halacha (Jewish law) that I’m not qualified to answer, obscure agricultural philosophy that I know nothing about and spiritual implications I don’t buy into. Thank you, thank you, for the gift of this question.
First off, beekeeping is hip right now, and I know this because my rabbi recommended a New Yorker article to me about pink honey from a maraschino cherry factory that turned out to be a cover for drug deals (seriously). Second of all, a children’s book about a queen bee explaining a mezuzah to her worker bees could really give Sammy Spider’s mom a run for her money.
The tradition of hanging a mezuzah on doorways comes from the line in the Torah that says, “You should write these words on the doorposts of your home and upon your gates” (Deut. 6:9). A mezuzah exists because this line in the Torah exists. The commandment to write the words is enacted by putting a scroll with these words on your doorposts, usually inside a beautiful and sturdy cover.
Nowhere in Deuteronomy (or elsewhere, as far as I know) does the text say that doing so will give you special protections. If people feel that it does protect them, likely, it is because they themselves benefit from having a visible spiritual reminder in their homes (or cars — there are actual car mezuzot on the market — the only non-home use I’ve ever seen). For bees, the words, the presence of the scroll, the symbolism, would mean nothing. No assigned meaning, no protection.
If, perhaps, this plant in Mexico has some actual benefit, like keeping away predators or increasing honey production, even if there is a spiritual component for the beekeepers, it doesn’t matter if the bees agree. For Jewish beekeepers there are a variety of reasons why hanging a mezuzah with a real scroll in it is not advisable. My main objection, though, is that the scroll itself is considered holy and shouldn’t be left outside in the elements.
However, I am a huge proponent of creating meaningful Jewish rituals, so if you, or a beekeeper, or any Jewish person looking for a way to honor bees or nature or Mexican beekeeping plants wants to come up with something that’s not a mezuzah but has inspiration in Jewish texts and traditions, go for it. I can’t guarantee any beekeeping successes or spiritual awakening for the bees, but if it’s a positive experience for the people involved, well, that’s ritual at its best.
Thanks for the question, and the opportunity to sign off like this: