Tu B'Shvat: Tree-Milk and Honey
Happy Tu B'Shvat! 'A land flowing with milk and honey' - could the Torah be referring to milk that comes from the land, and not from animals?
by Rabbi Lazer Brody
This time of year, children all over the Land of Israel are singing:
Hashkedia porachat, hashemesh la zorachat, Tu B'Shvat Higuia, chag ha'ilanot!
Translated, "the almond tree is flowering, the sun is shining for it, Tu B'Shvat has arrived, the festival of the trees."
In the middle of the month of Shvat, if you're making the picturesque ascent from Shaar Hagai to Jerusalem on Highway One, or if you're driving through the hill country of Judea and Samaria, you'll see scattered gorgeous pink-blossoming trees adorning the hillsides. These are the almond trees, a native of the Land of Israel that for centuries has been thriving in her holy soil. The Eretz-Yisrael almond tree is a hardy variety that endures cold winters, hot summers, desert winds and even drought. Its robust roots penetrate rocky soil and are capable of anchoring it to steep slopes where other arbor varieties would wither. By virtue of its durability, almond seedlings are the root stocks upon which many fruit-tree farmers choose to graft peach, plum and nectarine varieties, all of which are members of the almond family. The Land of Israel almonds are smaller than California almonds but renowned for their phenomenal nutritional value. These almonds are nutritionists' first choice for a number of protein supplements, especially for pregnant women and nursing mothers. They are high in protein, fiber and Omega 3 and 6, yet easy to digest. More on the nutritional treasures of the almond in a moment...
The almond's name in Hebrew, shaked, is testimony of its remarkable nature and intrinsic qualities. "Shaked" in Hebrew, pronounced shah'ked (like the Shah of Iran and Keds sneakers), is the root word of the Hebrew word for diligence, shkeda. In fact, "shkeda" means more than diligence, like perseverant diligence. A Torah scholar who learns with focus and concentration for long periods of time is called a shakdan, also from the same root word that is also the almond's name. What's the connection between the shakdan and the shaked, the almond? The diligent Torah scholar is the first one to arrive in hall of study every morning. Likewise, the almond is the first of the fruit trees to flower, even weeks before the termination of winter.
The Torah describes Eretz Yisrael as a land “flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 13:5). Rashi explains that the honey the Torah is talking about is not that of the bees, but date honey, for ripe Land of Israel dates, especially the Medjool variety, are sweet as honey. Many people use silan, or date syrup, as a substitute for honey. Yet, if we are exacting in the Torah’s terminology of a land flowing with milk and honey - referring to the land and not the insects or animals - then we can interpret that the milk comes from the land as well; in other words, the Torah could be referring to something other than cow milk or goat milk. In the case of the almond, such a Torah interpretation is a perfect fit.
Almond milk is a highly nutritious alternative to cow milk, especially for those who suffer from lactose intolerance and therefore have difficulty digesting cow milk. It’s also perfect for vegans who avoid foods from animal sources. And, it’s parve, allowing you to drink your favorite coffee with milk after a meat meal. Mixed with dates, the almond+date=”tree milk”, a delicious alternative to chocolate and sweetened milk as follows:
Many parents prod their milk-refusing children to drink milk by adding sugary powders and chocolate syrups, both of which are empty carbohydrates that give kids a surge of hyper energy then lead to hypoglycemia, or a glucose crash, that leaves kids exhausted in school at about 10 AM, unable to concentrate. The sugary powders and syrups, especially the ones that include corn syrup solids, are digestive and metabolic nightmares that also cause obesity and dental problems. Here’s good news - there’s a great alternative that provides kids with protein, vitamins, Omega 3 and 6 and digestive fiber. It comes exclusively from trees and is great for children, for nursing mothers and for athletes who need to replenish their bodies after a serious workout. Try this – it's simple to prepare:
Rabbi Lazer’s Land of Israel Tree milk:
52 Dried (raw, not roasted) almonds = 80 gr.
6 Medjool dates = 144 gr.
Water = 800 ml (about 4 cups)
Mode of Preparation:
Cut the dates open, remove the pits and make sure that they are clean of worms, insects and fungi. Place the dates and almonds in a blender. Add the water, which preferably should be chilled. Blend for 40 seconds at low speed and 20 seconds at high speed. You now have a liter of sweet almond milk that the whole family will love, ready to drink!
Nutritional Value, 200 ml (one cup) of Rabbi Lazer’s Tree Milk:
Protein: 4 gr.
Fat: 8 gr.
Dietary Fiber: 4 gr.
Total carbohydrates: 26 gr.
Vitamins: One glass of tree milk is loaded with Vitamin E, magnesium and calcium, and also contains high amounts of iron and zinc (both of which are conducive to strength and fertility).
Shelf Life: Store in fridge; good for three days (but the family will finish it off way before that).
Don’t forget that this mixture is parve, as long as you don’t use a blender that has been used with milk or meat in the last 24 hours.
For a great Tu B’Shvat milkshake, use the above with mixture with 3 cups of water instead of four.
Enjoy, and have a lovely Tu B’Shvat!
Rabbi Lazer Brody was born in Washington, D.C. in 1949. After receiving his bachelor's degree in agriculture from the University of Maryland in 1970, he moved to Israel and joined the Israel Defense Forces regular army, and served in one of the elite special-forces units. He is a decorated combat veteran of two wars and numerous of counter-insurgence and anti-terrorist missions on both sides of Israel's borders.
Rabbi Brody is the English-language editor of Breslev Israel's highly popular English-language website at www.breslev.co.il, and the founder and director of Emuna Outreach. Between Breslov Israel and Emuna Outreach, he devotes his time to spreading emuna and particularly the teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslev around the globe.
"Lazer Beams," Rabbi Brody's award-winning daily web journal, has been instrumental in helping tens of thousands of people around the globe find joy and fulfillment in their lives.