Illustration: "The Children of Israel Crossing Jordan" by Gustave Dor'e
"The Land of Milk and Honey" by Dror Ben Ami
Throughout this series of articles submitted to the Jerusalem Post, I have tried to drive home the point that each food in the Torah is a metaphor for a specific type of knowledge. Our first indication that this is correct is, of course, the story of the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve don’t eat the tree, they eat the fruit from the tree to obtain knowledge, hence it is the fruit itself which contains the knowledge and the tree should be seen as a source of knowledge or a teacher. Therefore, even in modern times, we speak of turning the leaves of a book and trees, of course, have leaves as well.
So I do indeed agree with the rabbis that in ancient times there were “oral laws”. This is because it is an historical fact that for centuries the books of Homer (i.e. “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey”), were memorized and recited by bards and only much later were written down. What I don’t agree with is that the oral law the rabbis quote today is the same oral law of Abraham or even of Moses.In fact, I don't even believe they resemble one another.
Regardless, what we see from this metaphor of the Tree of Knowledge is that the fruit represents the knowledge itself; the tree represents the source of knowledge (i.e. either a man or a book) and the land represents a school. This is not to difficult for us to accept because even today in the 21st century people speak of the earth as being a school.
A good example of how these metaphors were used can be found in the Book of Judges, chapter 9, lines 7 - 15, where one of the sons of Gideon tells a story about trees and the type of knowledge each tree produces.
Another problem with modern day rabbinical teachings is that they insist that the written Torah is based on a true historical story. Naturally, if the rabbis insist that the Torah is the literal truth, then priests and ministers are going to insist that the New Testament is the literal truth. Nevertheless, anyone who reads either of these works can clearly see that both are based on metaphors and neither one is literally true. Hence, the story of Moses splitting the waters of the Red Sea is a metaphor and Jesus walking on water is a metaphor. The trick is to understand what water represents (see previous article: http://www.jpost.com/Blogs/Torah-Commentaries/Metaphors-in-the-Torah-Beshalach-Exodus-1317-1716-388451).
One of the results of insisting the Bible is literally true is that rabbis and religious scholars run around Israel today searching for logical or plausible explanations and proofs to demonstrate that the Bible is indeed based upon fact. Hence, it is commonly accepted in Israel today that “the honey” from the “Land of Milk and Honey”, was not real honey, but refers to a type of paste made from crushed dates. Yes, I believe that….So therefore, according to these "scholars", before the lion died in the story of Samson, it crushed some dates, made it into a paste and placed it in its mouth for Samson to find the next morning…Yes, that sounds logical…
What is needed to understand when reading the Torah is that, 2,500 years ago, Hebrew used a different type of writing for the Torah called: Paleo-Hebrew (this form of an alphabet is STILL used by the modern day Samaritans in Israel). The shape of the letters in Paleo-Hebrew usually reflected their meaning (i.e. The Hebrew letter which sounds like the word for: "eye", was indeed a little picture of an eye). Much more importantly, however, this Paleo-Hebrew alphabet did not utilize the grammatical system of dots and dashes underneath the letters to assist in pronunciation. Today, everyone uses the Aramaic alphabet in the written form of the Hebrew language, because the shapes are more clear and easier to identify (Possibly, also because this was the alphabet used in Babylon and it was just easier to write both languages using the same shapes of letters).
Why this is important is that, without these dots and dashes, each Hebrew word has a double meaning. Today,however, almost every single word has its own meaning because by adding two different combinations of dots to the same word it is possible to distinguish between them.
The Hebrew word for “bee” and the Hebrew word for “a word”, originally were the same. Today, however, “a bee” is pronounced: “de-vor- ah” and “a word” is pronounced: “da-var”. We know this because of the dots and dashes underneath the letters which the rabbis added about 2,000 years ago. Nevertheless, the root of both words are the same, hence, when the Torah and Tanakh were originally written it was much easier to play “word games” and give everything a double meaning. Here I must point out that in ancient times, the Hebrew words had a two letter root, not the three letter root used today (At least this is the theory proposed by Edward Horowitz in his well known book: "How the Hebrew Language Grew")
Accordingly, we see that the word for: “bee” and the word for: “word”, share the same root and bees, of course, work together to produce honey. Words also work together, but they produce knowledge.
If we accept that, and we also accept that in Hebrew land is a metaphor for a school, then what we begin to see is that “a land of honey”, represents: “a source of knowledge”. Since, both Samson and lions are associated with strength, what we can then conclude is that this knowledge associated with honey represents a very powerful type of knowledge and that the strength being referred to is: “intellectual strength”.
Also, the Bible repeatedly refers to bitter foods and sweet foods. Even today we speak of ideas being: “difficult to swallow”. Therefore, since honey is an extremely sweet food, what this suggests is that, even though it represents a very powerful type of knowledge, nevertheless, this powerful knowledge is not too difficult to accept.
The second part of metaphor related to the Land of Israel is: milk, but this milk refers to the milk from a mother’s breast and not cow’s milk. First off, milk from a mother’s breast is much sweeter than cow’s milk and we have just discussed the connection between sweetness and one’s ability to accept the information being presented. Second, we have also discussed that in ancient times there were no dots and dashes under the words, so each word had a double meaning. The root for the Hebrew word for: “field” and the root for the Hebrew word: “female breast” is the same. Furthermore, this same Hebrew word is also used for: “spirit” (Again: according to the theories of Edward Horowitz that Hebrew originally was based on a two letter root)
So, if we accept that land is indeed a metaphor for a school, then: "a land of milk" represents: “a religious school providing spiritual knowledge that is easy to accept”.
Hence: “A Land of Milk and Honey” represents: “A religious school providing powerful spiritual knowledge about God which is easy to understand” and this is why in the Book of Deuteronomy 33.4 Moses says that the inheritance of Jacob are the Books of the Law, whereas most of us think the inheritance of Jacob is the physical land of Canaan.
How the do we reconcile these two statements ? Well, it is my personal opinion that the physical land of Israel gives off a type of vibration, or electro-magnetism, which is very good for both the body and the brain. (i.e. the longer one lives here, the healthier and more intelligent one will be). So: Sell your house in California and move to Israel today !!!