Vayechi: Israel's Bounty

Is "halav udevash" really "milk and honey"?

Aloh Naaleh,

Arutz 7

In blessing Yehuda, Yaakov Avinu describes the bountiful produce of the land of Judah, with particular emphasis on the vineyards that will produce large quantities of wine. So much wine that "his eyes are dark from wine (hakhlili eynayim miyayin)."

The end of the verse is somewhat puzzling, for Yaakov Avinu completes the verse with uleven shinayim mehalav, which generally translates, "and his teeth are white from milk."

Actually, the mention of halav should not puzzle the reader who is familiar with eretz zavat halav udevash. However, Rabbi Reuven Margaliyot already raised the question of whether halav udevash should be translated "milk and honey".
The primary blessings of the Land of Israel are from its grown produce.

We know that the primary blessings of the Land of Israel are from its grown produce, and after wheat and barley, grapes and vineyards figure most prominently in descriptions of the bountiful blessings of Eretz Yisrael. The Seven Species all grow from the ground, including "honey" which comes from dates. Why then should "milk" be included as one of the major characteristics of Eretz Yisrael, while wine is ignored completely?

Rabbi Margaliyot goes on to claim that halav means white wine. One of his many proofs is from the story of the meraglim. When they return, the Torah tells us that they "cut down a branch with a single cluster of grapes... and some pomegranates and figs." When they describe the Land of Israel to Moshe and the community, they declare: "We came to the land you sent us to; it does indeed flow with halav and devash and this is its fruit." There is no mention of their bringing a jug of milk. Hence, halav must mean white wine.

Our verse cited above in Vayechi is similarly interpreted as referring to two types of wine - red wine and white wine - and thus Yaakov's blessing is appropriate.

May we continue to enjoy the bountiful blessings of Eretz Yisrael for generations to come.
Carmi Horowitz, a professor of Jewish History and Literature, is Rector of the Lander Institute in Jerusalem.

The foregoing commentary was distributed by the Aloh Naaleh organization.