Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Milk and Honey

I made some milk with warm with honey last night, and I got to thinking about the Bible. Why? Well, it's simple really. In the Book of Exodus, the Promised Land is referred to as "a land flowing with milk and honey". When you read the Tanakh there are many references to the Promised Land, and most of them refer to it in this way. Ezekiel says, "in that day I lifted up My hand unto them, to bring them forth out of the land of Egypt into a land that I had sought out for them, flowing with milk and honey, which is the beauty of all lands..." This is only one of many references like that.

My first question is why milk and honey? Why not a land flowing with apple juice and coconuts? Or pomegranates and petunias? Why milk and honey in particular?

Well, there are probably many reasons, but I'm sure none of them have anything to do with sticky rivers in which all the fish would have a hard time swimming. (Yes, I actually saw it depicted like that once, in a book shown to me by a Jehovah's Witness, but I won't name names.)

One thing which occurred to me last night is just how pleasant warm milk with honey is when you have a cough. It's a great remedy that just makes you feel warm and snuggly inside.

Some have interpreted it more in lines with the Talmud, in which it says that the milk is flowing from the udders of the goats and the honey is flowing from the dates and figs. That speaks of a land that is plentiful and full of life.

But is this all that it means? I mean, sure, goats were a symbol of wealth back in the day, and dates and fig trees were, too, but then why not say goats and dates? I think it is because there is more to it than just the mere material wealth.

In that incredibly mystical work, The Song of Songs, Solomon writes, "Thy lips, O my bride, drop honey -- honey and milk are under thy tongue; and the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon." I doubt he is speaking of someone who has difficulty eating, or one who drools while consuming food. (And I can only presume that she did not smell like goats.) No. I think he is referring the beauty of her words.

And it's not only here in the Tanakh that we see these references. In the Hindu Faith, we are told that if we are obedient to the laws, and recite the sacred verses every day, this "will ever cause sweet and sour milk, clarified butter and honey to flow".

Here, as in Judaism, there seems to be a connection between our good actions and obedience, and the flowing of this milk and honey. As one Jewish scholar pointed out, the land of Palestine is "completely dependent upon the waters above for a bountiful harvest". Without the good will of God, there would be no food in a very short time.

In the Vedic scriptures this theme is also repeated, when the Brahmins, those holy men who were to guide the people spiritually, were told to be "even as two lips that with the mouth speak honey, even as two breasts that nourish our existence".

Baha'u'llah, in one of His Tablets, says, "Therefore an enlightened man of wisdom should primarily speak with words as mild as milk, that the children of men may be nurtured and edified thereby and may attain the ultimate goal of human existence which is the station of true understanding and nobility." In the Hidden Words, He refers "to the delightsome words of My honeyed tongue". In the Seven Valleys, He talks "of the honey of reunion with Him".
More and more references are given by Him to the impact of these Words He utters, and His very presence.

"If others hurl their darts against you," says 'Abdu'l-Baha, "offer them milk and honey in return". I suspect that He is not telling us to walk up to them with a warm cup to drink, but instead suggesting that we speak to them with kind and loving words. In another prayer, 'Abdu'l-Baha refers to "the honey and the milk of Thy love".

But most of all, Baha'u'llah says, "Out of the pure milk, drawn from the breasts of Thy loving-kindness, give me to drink, for my thirst hath utterly consumed me."

And this last quote, with the reference to the milk of His Words, reminds me that when Baha'u'llah was there in the Holy Land, that land promised way back in Exodus, it truly did flow with milk and honey.

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