Parshas Toldos - Milk & Honey

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As time passes this physical world tries to bring us further and further from the truth. And unfortunately because of our human nature we are drawn to falsehood, to sin, to evil. It is so easy to do the wrong thing and it always seems like we have to exert much more effort in order to do what’s right. A man once came to The Kotzker Rebbe, Reb Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, and told him about his business. “Rebbe, I earn my livelihood by selling milk,” he said. “I manage to make enough to live from week to week, although I have no choice but to dilute the milk I sell with water and pass it off as if it is whole milk.” “What do you mean you have no choice?” wondered the Kotzker. “Well, if I do not dilute the milk I cannot earn any profit at all!” explained the milkman. The Kotzker leaned forward, “I need you to try. From now on, I want you to supply all your customers with whole milk.” And the milkman agreed. A few days later the milkman returned, crying, “Rebbe, I did everything you told me to. I promise I didn’t add even a drop of water. But I lost all my customers! They refuse to buy my milk, they told me what I used to sell is milk and what I sell now is something else that I am trying to pass off for milk. Rebbe they don’t want the whole milk, they prefer it diluted!” “In that case,” said the Kotzker, “go back to selling the diluted milk. Make sure they know you are giving them the milk just how they liked it. It’s sad to see that this world even prefers falsehood in their groceries.”

Our Yetzer Hara is always dragging us to nurse from the “false milk” first he starts by diluting the truths we know, and drop by drop we become addicted to the falsehood he feeds us. So much so that when we are presented with the real truth it is disgusting to us, we run back to that “false milk”. This is how Esav operated. Esav, who represents evil brought such a negative presence to the world that even when he was born he already had people drinking up his falsehood. The pasuk says, “The first one came out reddish and covered in hair… they named him Esav. Afterwards his brother emerged… he called him Yaakov.” (25:25,26) One person named Yaakov, “He called him Yaakov”, yet many people named Esav; “They called him Esav”. So many people were attracted to the evil that Esav personifies that they were already followers of his when he was born, and they all called him Esav. Yet, Yaakov personifies truth. He was named by one person, because it takes a lot of effort to connect to the truth in the world, very few people actually pursue the truth so Yaakov didn’t have any followers to begin with. Therefore he was named by one person.

So how can we escape the falsehood that surrounds us? How can we find a ladder out that allows us to connect to the truth? Through the Torah, which is compared to milk and honey; “Honey and milk are under your tongue…”(Shir HaShirim 4:11) Through the sweet and wholesome words of the Torah we can find the undiluted truth.

Another businessman who sold honey also came to the Kotzker with a similar issue. He explained to the Rebbe that he sells diluted honey and passes it off like it’s the real deal. “I present it to the buyer and sell it a high price, yet it is inferior, diluted honey,” explained the merchant. The Kotzker told this merchant that he had a way for him to fix the problem and be an honest businessman, without losing any money, but he would have to follow his instructions exactly. The merchant wholeheartedly agreed. “Promise me,” began the Kotzker, “that you will not sell your honey, however diluted it is, unless you make a 70% profit. If they offer you any less do not sell it.” The merchant did as he was told and a few weeks later the Kotzker told him not to accept any deals unless he made 100% profit. Now requesting such high prices the Merchant was no longer comfortable selling an inferior product, at last he began selling purer and purer product until his honey was unadulterated completely. And even then his business was soaring, because as his prices jumped so did the quality of honey, and his customers were willing to pay for such good honey. Gaining the confidence from all the good reviews of his product he expanded his business and became a well known honey merchant. He returned to the Rebbe, truly with sweet honey under his tongue, thankful for the advice that allowed him to conduct his business with truth.

The Yetzer Hara knows we are naturally drawn to evil, yet we are also drawn to the sweet and wholesome Torah of milk and honey. So he tries to lead us astray by first passing off diluted milk and honey as the real deal, he dilutes the Torah we love drop by drop. Yet if we keep fighting and we connect to truth even a little bit, by a few percent at a time, we will clearly see the evil the Yetzer Hara is trying to feed us. Then we can break away from the followers of evil, and pursue the truth of Yaakov with the words of our sweet and wholesome Torah under our tongue.