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Sweet Land of Lactose Bee

The Color of HeavenArtscroll
Topic: Land of Milk and Honey; Meaning; Which Milk & Which Honey

Miriam from Montreal, Canada wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

I have known for some time that in the phrase "eretz zavat chalav u'dvash - a land flowing with milk and honey" the "dvash" refers to date honey (not bee honey). What is the chalav? Certainly it was not cow's milk. Was it goat's milk or could it be some other type of milk? Does this have some inference that honey and milk should be our main food sources?


Dear Miriam,

The milk referred to is cow's or goat's milk. The honey is fruit honey, such as from figs or dates.

This doesn't mean that milk and honey should be our main food sources, but rather that the Land of Israel is overflowing with everything good.

The Talmud relates that our Sages saw goats eating from fig trees. The figs were so luscious that they were dripping with juice; the goats udders were so full that milk flowed out. These two liquids mingled into a sweet stream, and the land was literally "flowing with milk and honey."

Ramban notes that regions with good air, good pasture and good water, such as mountainous regions, produce the healthiest animals which give the best milk (witness Swiss cheese and Swiss chocolate). But these types of climates don't usually produce top quality fruits (ever heard of Swiss plums?). The Torah stresses that the Land of Israel has both.

"Milk and honey" also allude to mother's milk and bee honey. These are the only two kosher substances which are derived from a non-kosher source (bees and people are not kosher). The implication is that the Land of Israel has the spiritual energy to purify even the impure.

Sources

  • Ketubot 111b, Megilla 6a
  • Ramban, Shmot 3:8


 
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