Past Weekly Shabbat Message
Rabbi Dovid Saks
(Torah Portion Eikev) Milk and Honey!
When G-d appeared to Moshe at the Burning Bush, He told him "I will save Jews from the Egyptians and redeem them and bring them to a good and wonderful land that flows milk and honey.” In this week’s portion, more than forty years after that revelation, Moshe once again refers to the land of Israel as a land flowing with milk and honey.
Shemen Hatov questions why Israel is so often referred to as the land that flows with milk and honey, when wine and oil are also plentiful and have an even greater value then milk and honey.
The Torah relates that both the Egyptian and Cananite cultures were the most decadent and immoral societies. The Jews in the desert were in between these two horrendous civilizations.
When the Jews under the leadership of Joshua conquered the land of Canaan, the land became transformed into Eretz Yisroel, a land that G-d personally watches over. It went from the worst to the holiest place.
Logically, one would think that milk should be prohibited because milk is actually blood that has changed into milk. Just as we are prohibited to eat the blood of an animal, so too, its milk should prohibited. The reason milk is Kosher and permitted, is because the Torah permitted it.
Although the Torah prohibits our consumption of the blood of an animal because blood symbolizes bloodshed and death, when the blood is transformed into milk, it represents mercy; just picture a mother feeding and nurturing her child. The same can be said about bees and their honey. Bees are non-kosher and prohibited to be consumed because bees sting and by nature are an annoyance. However, the Torah permits us to eat the sweet honey they produce.
With this preface we can gain understanding as to why the Torah specifically refers to Eretz Yisroel as flowing with milk and honey.
The charge to the Jewish people was to conquer and inhabit the land of Cannan and transform it from a land filled with immorality, idolatry and strife, and elevate it into a place of holiness.
A fitting depiction of the metamorphosis of which the land of Cannan is to undergo is the Torah’s reference to Israel, as flowing with milk and honey. Just as the source of milk and honey is something impure and prohibited, yet through a transformation they became permitted, so too, the Jewish nation’s purpose and objective was to turn the land of Canaan into a place of holiness where G-d watches closely all that occurs and provides all that is needed. This is captured by the land being called, “flowing with milk and honey.”
It is interesting that when the evil spies reported about the land of Cannan, they said it was indeed flowing with milk and honey but used this fact as a scare tactic showing the Jews the enormous fruit it produced to nourish the mighty and fierce giants.
Korach, when he led a rebellion against Moshe, also claimed that the lush land of Egypt had the propensity of flowing with milk and honey.
Both Korach and the spies didn’t get it. They perceived the blessing of flowing with milk and honey in the pure materialistic sense. Their error was that they failed to incorporate the spiritual blessing, purpose and meaning within the metaphor.
Within the holy script that is contained in the Tefillin we don, is a mention of the land flowing with milk and honey.
This is perhaps an imbedded reminder to help us keep focused on what the gift of the land of Israel is all about. Yes, it is materialistically lush, beautiful and filled with material blessings, but it is essential and integral to incorporate the spiritual mandate to uphold the sacred status of the land.
Wishing you a most enjoyable and uplifting Shabbat!
Rabbi Dovid Saks