Milk and Honey

June 19, 2020 


It’s fair to say that life recently has been anything but “normal” for most of the world. Whatever we thought was normal has morphed into a life of varying degrees of isolation, reduced human contact, and even an unexpected return to the family mealtime experience. It is this third realization to which I want to draw our attention this week.

There is an abundance of research that highlights the importance of time spent together at mealtimes. We have known for thousands of years that family mealtime improves family connectedness, which in turn has higher results of healthy development and reduced the probability for emotional distress and dangerous high-risk behaviors. If there is an immediate silver lining to the outcome of our COVID-19 experience, it’s that many families have eaten more meals together in the last 3+ months than they have in the last three years combined!

21st Century eating together isn’t just about putting food on the table. We have also developed infinite ways to improve the natural taste of our foods. We have learned to make combinations of flavors that highlight tastes, smells, and textures, in order to make the meal all the more beautiful.

In this week’s Torah portion, Shelach, we read about Moses sending forth a group of Hebrews to scout the land of Canaan, the land of the Israelite’s destiny, and tells them to bring back only “fruit of the land” (Numbers 13:20). But it is also from this request that today we refer to Israel as the land “flowing with milk and honey” (13:27).

What these “spies” come back with is not the beautiful aromatic citrus fruits native to the land, or the vines of grapes in season, they didn’t even come back with the herbs and plants that would have added so much flavor to their mana from heaven. What they return with is a vision of life and hope, and they identify these two virtues as the land’s fruit. The milk was symbolic of life and the future generations that would be raised on this land, and the honey was symbolic of the sweetness and hope for settling in a land that could provide stability and permanence.

As we continue our lives during these strangest of times, what this week’s Torah portion reminds us to do is to remember that our meals together are moments of life and hope. Our meals highlight how things that might be bland alone can come together to be full of flavor. These meals should bring smiles to our faces, they should offer opportunities for sharing our experiences, for telling stories, and for getting to know one another. Let’s not take these moments for granted, even during these unprecedented times.

As the Jewish Federation of San Antonio, our purpose is to help ensure a future Jewish community for our children’s children. It is to provide the resources for every Jewish family to be able to know that they will be taken care of, and that our local agencies, synagogues, and essential services will be here like the milk and honey in the land of Israel. We are passionate about this responsibility and are here planning for our Jewish San Antonio future! We invite you to join us on this journey.


Shabbat shalom and b’teavon (happy eating)!