Oct 15, 2022
Why ‘milk and honey?’ Why not ‘sour grapes and corn mash?’ Turns out, it’s all about the honey!
I owe the better insights (below) to Rabbi Aharon Loschak of Brooklyn, N.Y. For those that are ‘not so good,’ I take full responsibility:
Small businesses in the United States are increasingly organized as pass-through entities, i.e., they pass net business income straight to their owners or investors. (Marx’s worst nightmare!) As a result, only these individuals—and not the entity itself—are taxed on the revenues. 95 percent of U.S. businesses are pass-throughs, but this isn’t about tax codes!
Toward the end of his days, Moses tells the Jewish people that they are about to enter the land promised to their forefathers (the Patriarchs) ... a land flowing with milk and honey. Why ‘milk and honey?’ Why not ‘sour grapes and corn mash?’ Turns out, it’s all about the honey!
A bee’s primary function is to pollinate flowers, collect nectar, and make honey. It’s no exaggeration to say that honeybees make the world go round. On the other hand, honeybees are also famous for their stingers. Just ask any dad, two steps ahead of his own child, as both run out of the park, terror-stricken by a buzz.
Parents tell their children that bees are largely harmless because they only use their stingers in self-defense. Unless they feel threatened, they will not strike first. Just stand still, mind your own business, and chances are you’ll be fine.
Chances are…cold comfort indeed! But point taken: the bee is only concerned with making honey and will only use its stinger when something gets in the way of that goal.
Like the bee, we are also tasked with collecting sweet things. Like the bee, we have a mission: assemble the materials of life, carefully ensuring that those materials are renewable, of course, and then build the City of Dioce (Read "Ectaban" here.), i.e., make them into something luscious.
Never forget who you are in the process of life. You are ‘bee,’ so ‘be bee’ with every ounce of your bee-ing! If something interferes with or threatens your mission, i.e., you, it may be stinger time…but only as an act of self-defense.
Self-defense? Yup, your mission is who you are. You are what you were sent to do. Anything that threatens your mission threatens you. To defend your mission is to defend yourself.
Notice I didn’t say, “defend your property.” Your property is not you! Your mission, on the other hand, is – it’s your seat in the world. Without property, you are still you; without a mission, you are not: Contendo ergo sum.
You are, but you are in the context of an actual world. Your mission is your seat in that world. Without that seat, there is an unbridgeable chasm between you and the world…which means there is no you. So, defend your mission, defend yourself; build the city, make honey! (That’s the principle behind Judeo-Christian martyrdom…but let’s not go there…yet.)
Consider the special place of honey in Jewish dietary practices: though it’s secreted from a non-kosher animal, it’s still kosher. This is in stark contrast to the rule that “all secretions from a non-kosher entity are also not kosher.”
The Talmud explains that honey isn’t really a secretion from the bee’s body because the bee is a pass-through entity. As such, the honey retains its botanical quality and so is fit for kosher consumption. In other words, it’s not about you; it’s about your mission. You are on a mission and the fate of the created universe rests on that mission. You are obeying Kant’s Categorical Imperative: you do what all must do in order for all this to be all this.
You are also honoring the message of St. Paul to the Christian community at Ephesus: “For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.” (Eph. 2: 10)
As with the calling of Jeremiah, God makes it clear that it’s all about the mission. First the mission, then the missionary. No missionary without a mission. The potential for ‘bumper-sticking’ is endless.
All of this ties in with the question of identity, a persistent theme in ATM. “Who are you?” the Caterpillar asked. On one hand, you are Alice, a little girl with a very fertile imagination. On another hand, you are a bee, popping islands of honey (order) into an unbounded sea of disorder (entropy). Everything you think is you is not you: your body, your personality, your education, your possessions, your upbringing, etc. Everything you think is not you is you: how you transform the world, how you inject order into chaos, how you act as a missionary on behalf of the Kingdom of God.
David Cowles is the founder and editor-in-chief of Aletheia Today Magazine. He lives with his family in Massachusetts where he studies and writes about philosophy, science, theology, and scripture. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.