Honey and Milk inside the Tefillin

Inside Tefillin – A Land Flowing With Milk and Honey

The first of the four Perashiot of Tefilin in Perashat Bo says:

And it shall be when the LORD shall bring thee into the land of the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Amorite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite, which He swore unto thy fathers to give thee, a land flowing with milk and honey, that thou shalt keep this service in this month. (Shmot 13-5)

שמות פרק יג
וְהָיָ֣ה כִֽי־יְבִֽיאֲךָ֣ יְקֹוָ֡ק אֶל־אֶ֣רֶץ הַֽ֠כְּנַעֲנִי וְהַחִתִּ֨י וְהָאֱמֹרִ֜י וְהַחִוִּ֣י וְהַיְבוּסִ֗י אֲשֶׁ֨ר נִשְׁבַּ֤ע לַאֲבֹתֶ֙יךָ֙ לָ֣תֶת לָ֔ךְ אֶ֛רֶץ זָבַ֥ת חָלָ֖ב וּדְבָ֑שׁ וְעָבַדְתָּ֛ אֶת־הָעֲבֹדָ֥ה הַזֹּ֖את בַּחֹ֥דֶשׁ הַזֶּֽה:

Land Flowing with Milk and Honey
Land Flowing with Milk and Honey From the Parchments placed into Tefillin

Both words milk and honey instill positive connotations to virtually every human being. Their presence in the land demonstrates a good economy. This goes so far that honey is actually the word used to describe any “sweet” concept. Milk and milk products are universally rich and fatty substances.

In the Torah honey generally refers to date honey. However, several uses of the word honey refer to bee’s honey as well as others that refer to any honey like substance that easily exudes from fruit.

Riesh Lakish was a Emora during the Talmudic period. He 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 Rabbis of Blessed Memory have additionally said that the fruit of Israel are fatty like milk and sweet like honey. (Ketubot 112a)

It seems that the term honey is in reality a difficult word to specifically understand. Above we saw that Reish Lakish leaves the term honey open ended by referring to fig “honey” while discussing the phrase, “A land flowing with milk and honey.” However, what the words milk and honey include seems to be a disagreement of Tanaim of the Mishnaic period.

Silan - Date Honey
Silan – Date Honey

According to Rabi Eliezer milk in “Milk and Honey” means that the milk of the fruits is very rich and that the honey refers only to Date Honey. However, Rabi Akiva disagrees and says that milk refers to real milk and that honey refers to “Yearot Dvash ” “Yearot Honey .“ (Mechilta Derashb”i)

Honey Comb From Israel
Honey Comb From Israel

There is further disagreement between Rashi and his school of thought and Radak as to what “Yearot Dvash” means. According to Rashi it means canes with honey in them that grow in Israel. It seems possible that Rashi refers to cane sugar or perhaps another sweet cane. However, Rada”k questions Rashi’s source material and then says that “Yearot Dvash” refers to ordinary bee’s honey combs. (Shmuel 1 14 25)

In Parashat Ki Tisa The Holy one Blessed be He stated that he would not himself lead the people of Israel into the Holy land instead an Angel will do this. “A land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go in your midst, since you are a stiffnecked people, lest I destroy you on the way.” (Shemot 33 3)

On this Pasuk Seforno points out that the Jewish people need a land that is naturally rich. They are a stiff-necked people. Do to this they will not be successful living in a place like the desert where they need constant miracles to survive.

Wholesome Milk
Wholesome Milk

Dairy products are central to many Jewish customs. On Shavuot we eat dairy. Many say that this is because the Jewish people did not have time to learn the laws of Shchita (ritual slaughtering) and Kashrut laws. Therefore, they ate dairy.

Honey has left a great impact on the Jewish people. Although a tiny portion of the worlds population is Jewish we consume 20% of the world’s honey. This was pointed out to me by a Birttish web site that sells honey. The most famous of these sweet customs is on Rosh Hashana when almost every Jew in the world dips an apple in honey.

So when we put on Tefilin we can meditate on appreciateing that G-d gave us such a blessed land.

ספרי דברים פרשת עקב פיסקא מג
(יז) אם עשיתם כן וחרה אף ה’ בכם, משל למלך ששגר את בנו לבית המשתה והיה יושב ומפקדו ואומר לו בני אל תאכל יותר מצרכך אל תשתה יותר מצרכך כדי שתבוא נקי לביתך לא השגיח הבן ההוא אכל יותר מצרכו ושתה יותר מצרכו והקיא וטנף את בני מסיבה נטלוהו בידיו וברגליו וזרקוהו לאחר פלטורין, כך אמר להם הקדוש ברוך הוא לישראל הכנסתי אתכם אל ארץ טובה ורחבה לארץ זבת חלב ודבש לאכל מפריה ולשבוע מטובה ולברך שמי עליה לא הייתם בטובה היו בפורענות וחרה אף ה’ בכם.

If you behave in this way—

“Then HASHEM’s fierce anger will flare up against you” (Dt.11:17).

There is an analogy—

A king sent his son to represent him at a wedding feast.

Before hand, the king sat and instructed him, saying:

My son!

Don’t eat more than you need to,

and don’t drink more than you need to,

so that you may return home spotless.

That son paid no attention.

He ate more than he needed to,

and drank more than he needed to.

Then he vomited and soiled the party guests.

They took him by his hands and feet

and threw him behind the palace.

Thus said the Blessed Holy One to the children of Israel:

I have brought you into a good and broad Land,

to a Land dripping with milk and honey,

to eat of its fruit, to be satisfied with its bounty,

and to bless My Name over it.

You were oblivious to the bounty,

but may notice the retribution!

“Then HASHEM’s fierce anger will flare up against you” (Dt.11:17).

Pisqa’ 43

ספרי דברים פרשת כי תבוא פיסקא שא
ארץ זבת חלב ודבש, נאמר כאן ארץ זבת חלב ודבש ונאמר להלן +שמות יג ה+ ארץ זבת חלב ודבש מה ארץ זבת חלב ודבש האמורה להלן חמשת עממים אף ארץ זבת חלב ודבש האמור כאן ארץ חמשת עממים. רבי יוסי הגלילי אומר אין מביאים בכורים מעבר לירדן שאינו זבת חלב ודבש. 

This is for:  Perashat Bo, Ki Tisa, Shmot, Tefilin, Rosh Hashana, Passover,  Shavuot and even Hachodesh