Why does the Torah describe the “promised land” as flowing with “milk and honey” specifically?
Milk and honey connote pleasant images and memories. I mean few can relate a negative story in their lives for which they hold either milk, honey or both responsible for their suffering. Ask any kid about milk and he’ll tell you “cookies”. And in most kids’ minds, the dispensing of cookies is from the hands of “Mom”, who better?
Conduct an informal word association survey in your neighborhood and see what you come up with.
Author’s Note: I describe moments which we’ve all experienced but about which few have put pencil to paper. Although I much prefer old-fashioned expressions. “Pencil to paper”, for example, rather than “Hot off the keyboard” I do use the latter now and then.
Okay, back to the milk thing. What is your immediate reaction if I say milk? Come on. No, it’s not too sentimental. Come on …
Now there. That wasn’t so hard. Yes, I am aware not everyone will say “mother”. Frankly though, I worry about them.
Mother, your mother in whose arms you were placed first upon leaving the nursery. Right? Who fed you from herself? If it didn’t go as smoothly as she had hoped it might which sometimes happens, who cried other than you?
From mother comes milk, and mother’s milk is the elixir of newborn life.
I haven’t checked this but I’ll wager a direct causal relationship between the successful manufacture of baby formula and a consequent decline in breast feeding.
“Thou shalt not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.”
The entire body of kosher dietary law is built upon this notion which, I hasten to add, is not meant to be the biblical underpinning for vegetarianism.
There is nothing in the written Torah which does not have its own self-evident meaning or about which there is no explanation in the Gemara or other rabbinic commentaries whose authors are known collectively as CHaZal (chochamim zicron l”vrocha/may the memories of our sages be a blessing).
Furthermore, to slaughter both mother and offspring on the same day is considered as if you were intent upon specie’s extinction.
If a man’s work is brutal, he cannot help but become a brute. If a man behaves cruelly towards a beast, he will, in all likelihood, be able to behave similarly toward his fellow. It is this detached, un-empathic personality that the Torah seeks to avoid while inculcating values that foster moderation of temperament and kindness.
Metaphorically speaking, a land flowing with milk and honey conjures up an image of a land so blessed it will support abundant, healthy milk producing livestock and fruits so rich and sweet, they will taste like honey.
Although Deuteronomy 8:8 says Israel was “a land of wheat, barley, grapevines, figs, and pomegranates; a land of oil olives and date honey“, there are several other instances when “honey” refers to bee’s honey or to any honey-like substance that easily exudes from fruit.
Riesh Lakish, a Torah scholar during the Talmudic period, says that he saw a lamb grazing under a fig tree dripping with honey. The lamb itself was dripping its milk onto the honey. He said that this represented the land flowing with milk and honey. (Ketubot 111b) Our Sages of Blessed Memory have additionally said that the fruit of Israel are fatty like milk and sweet like honey. (Ketubot 112a)
Like it or not, humans are and have nearly always been carnivores.
Do you really believe archaeological findings of ancient rock spear tips, clearly the handiwork of human hands, when secured to a wooden shaft, were used to dig up truffles?
No, they were used to kill those dangerous creatures that did not care much for cohabiting with man. By the way, seen any mastodons or saber-tooth tigers lately?
No, me neither.
And do you know why? Because the “Bo-ray Hakol”-the Creator of everything-endowed man and yes early man too with superior intelligence, capable of speech and tool-making, thereby facilitating cooperation in terms of the hunt, defense and formation of a pre-sedentary band of hunters and gatherers.
As we approach The Days of Awe, may we struggle to better ourselves as moral beings, to become better human beings, better Jews. Deflate your personal arrogance, to, in effect, become smaller so that we understand our place in G-d’s world. It is at this moment paradoxically when we’ll have come closer to Him who is The One Above whose name is “Echad (One).
A Happy and Healthy 5774 to one and all. This coming Wednesday night through Saturday night, I will be off line due to three days of Yom Tov and Shabbat.