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    Milk & honey – Ki Tissa

    The Israelites were promised that they would inherit a land flowing with milk and honey (Ex. 33:3: the first use of this now proverbial phrase is in Ex. 3:8).

    What a contrast – the desert was barren and bare, whilst the Land of Israel was fertile.

    In the desert God had to send down the miraculous food called manna. This name means “what is it?” since no-one had experienced it before and they were all puzzled about what it was. Only when they reached the Land of Israel would they discover food that the land produced naturally without miracles.

    Why milk? Why honey?

    The milk was because they needed the most basic nourishment which was milk. The milk however might soon become boring so it needed added flavour and taste, and these were provided by the honey.

    What milk was it? Presumably from sheep and goats. What honey? Probably from dates, not bees (Ibn Ezra).

    Some scholars think that this grandiose description of the virtues of Eretz Yisra’el was needed to counter the grumbles of those who began to hanker after Egypt despite its privations and persecution.

    From a poetical point of view one could say that becoming a new people with a new destiny was only made possible because they now had the blessing of Torah (likened in this phrase to milk) and the sweetness of Divine teaching (symbolised by honey).

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