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The Land of “Milk and Honey”?!

By: Rav Ari Shvat

We find in the parsha, that Eretz Yisrael is nick-named, "ארץ זבת חלב ודבש" - "The Land of Milk and Honey". The idea behind this unusual description will help us understand the essence of the Holy Land, and will hopefully add depth to your time in Israel.

Rav Kook, the first Chief Rabbi of Israel, and spiritual father of Religious-Zionism, points out beautifully that it can’t be a coincidence that chazal tell us in Masechet B’chorot 6b, that these are precisely the same two liquids which theoretically, according to the general rules, should technically be un-kosher! Milk, which, at one point in the body was in the form of blood (as all body liquids), should not be permissible to drink. Similarly honey,[1] as all derivatives from non-kosher animals (like pig’s milk), should be assur as well! Nevertheless, the Torah teaches us that in Israel, what you sometimes would have thought, at first glance, is non-kosher, is actually not only kosher but even holy l’mehadrin!

The Torah is teaching us is that the physical Land of Israel and even her fruit, rocks, army, buildings, hi-tech, economy, etc., which everywhere in the world generally are thought of as secular, mundane, distracting or detracting from spirituality, in the Land of Israel are actually not at all a distraction, but are holy, as well. Just like each word in the Torah we learn is holy, and each and every Jew has essential kedushah, so too every grain of sand in Israel is holy! Israel harmonizes the physical and spiritual, the body and the soul.

We don’t want to come to Eretz Yisrael just because her “figs, grapes and pomegranates” are tasty, but also because there is holiness in each and every raisin!

That’s how the Bach[2] explains why we pray in the “Al HaMichya” bracha after eating cake and the seven species, "והעלנו לתוכה... ונאכל מפריה ונשבע מטובה", that Hashem should bring us up to Eretz Yisrael to, among other things, ”eat her fruit”. Yes, there is actually G-dliness in the holy fruit of our Land (see the Bach inside- it’s awesome)!

Remember and appreciate, that each Jaffa Orange helps replenish your “vitamins of K’dusha”, each 4 steps that you walk on a tiyul, every word you learn in Hebrew [=Lashon HaKodesh], each machine-gun or fighter-plane you see, is kodesh, almost like a Sefer Torah or t'filin! Many Jews kiss mezuzot, but in Israel (albeit Corona!), the Rambam says it's significant to even kiss the ground.[3] The Chatam Sofer[4] says that being in Israel brings kedusha into every single topic of life, living in a "planet of Godliness". 

Enjoy, appreciate and make the most out of the privilege to be here, the Land of Milk & Honey, where we dreamed and prayed to be for the past 2,000 years!

 

Rav Ari Shvat

 

 

[1] The rabbis are obviously also familiar with the explanation that dvash can refer sometimes to date-honey, yet here they explain it literally as bee’s honey.

[2] ב"ח, או"ח רח

[3] רמב"ם, הל' מלכים, פרק ה, י.

[4] שו"ת חתם סופר, חלק ב (יורה דעה) סימן רלד.

 

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