In this week’s parsha, Avraham Avinu serves his guests milchig and then fleishig…
Question #1: The Case of the Desperate Chef!
“I am frantically looking for a job. May I work in the kitchen of a KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken)? What if I have to flip cheeseburgers?”
Question #2: The Last Lapp
“I am in northern Norway, herding reindeer, and I want to know whether doe milk is kosher and milchig?”
Question #3: May I Smoke?
“May I smoke meat and dairy together?”
In three places the Torah teaches lo sevashel gedi bachaleiv imo, “Do not cook a kid in the milk of its mother.” We all know that halacha prohibits eating milk and meat together and requires waiting after eating meat, before eating dairy. These latter are prohibited only miderabbanan, unless the meat and milk were cooked together.
Three and over
The Gemara (Chullin 115b) notes that the thrice mentioning of the Torah’s prohibition can be violated three different ways, by (1) cooking, (2) eating the cooked milk-meat mixture or by (3) benefiting from this mixture.
Although we should be and are careful to observe all details of halacha, whether obligated min haTorah or miderabbanan, we are required to know whether a particular observance is Torah law or is only a rabbinic injunction (see Avos Derabbi Nosson Chapter 1:7 with commentary of Binyan Yehoshua). In the case of basar bechalav, there is an additional reason to know whether something is prohibited min haTorah or because of rabbinic injunction. The prohibitions against cooking basar becholov and benefiting from it apply only to meat and milk that violate the law min haTorah. When the meat or the milk is prohibited because of a rabbinic injunction, the prohibition is limited to consumption of the product, not to cooking or benefiting from it (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 87:3; Rema, Yoreh Deah 87:1 and commentaries in both places; cf. Yam shel Shelomoh, Chullin, 8:100, who disagrees, but whose opinion is not accepted by the later authorities). Please bear in mind that, as always, the purpose of our article is to educate, and not to pasken; that is the responsibility of each individual’s rav or posek.
Therefore, if meat and dairy were mixed together when cold, there is no prohibition of benefiting from the product. For this reason, it is not a violation of the law of benefiting from basar becholov to sell bagged pet food, even when it contains both meat and dairy products, since they are not cooked together, but mixed together at room temperature.
We will soon see that there is much halachic discussion as to which animal species are included in the prohibition, both min haTorah and miderabbanan, and which types of food preparation or cooking are included. Most of these laws are derived from the unusual way that the written Torah teaches this mitzvah.
When teaching about most ma’achalos asuros, prohibited food items, the Torah usually states, in a very straightforward way, that something “may not be eaten.” In the instance of basar becholov, the Torah does not say this, but simply commands not to cook kid’s meat in its mother’s milk. Therefore, we derive that only meat and milk “cooked” together is prohibited min haTorah, and only from species similar to goats.
There is a dispute among tanna’im whether the prohibition of basar becholov applies only to mammals or also to fowl. The conclusion is that the Torah prohibition of basar becholov does not apply to fowl, since they never have any type of “mother’s milk.” Milk is limited to mammals, not to avian creatures. Nevertheless, according to most tanna’im, Chazal prohibited consumption of milk and poultry. According to one tanna, Rabbi Yosi Hagalili, it is permitted, even miderabbanan, to eat milk together with poultry, even if they are cooked together (Chullin 116a). In his opinion, you may cook and serve your favorite chicken-in-cheese-sauce recipe. We have Talmudic statements that demonstrate that, in the era of the Mishnah, there were still communities that permitted eating poultry cooked in milk (Shabbos 130a; Yevamos 14a; Chullin 116a). However, since the time of the Gemara, Rabbi Yosi Hagalili’s opinion is not accepted, so eating chicken prepared this way is prohibited, and the pots and other equipment used to prepare and serve poultry cooked in milk become treif and require kashering to return them to kosher use.
The desperate chef!
At this point, let us examine the first part of our opening question: “I am frantically looking for a job. May I work in the kitchen of a KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken)?”
There is a kashrus issue here: KFC’s breading includes dairy ingredients. Several years ago, a kosher branch of KFC was opened in Israel and required a specially formulated breading to be certified kosher and pareve. (The breading mix manufactured for KFC’s other locations was kosher and dairy, although we well understand why the company never requested kashrus certification for it.)
Since consuming poultry cooked with dairy is prohibited only miderabbanan, it is permitted to cook poultry with dairy. However, there is another halachic issue here — it is prohibited lechatchilah to seek earnings from foodstuffs prohibited min haTorah, such as non-shechted poultry. I would suggest that Desperate seek alternative employment better suited to a nice Jewish boy.
Since the Torah describes the prohibition as referring to “a kid in the milk of its mother,” the halacha is that only kosher species are included in the prohibition, since “kid,” gedi in Hebrew, usually means only baby sheep and baby goats, although, upon occasion, the word can refer also to calves (Chullin 113b).
Where the deer and the antelope roam
Reindeer are a kosher species and are milked in places where they are herded and raised as cattle, such as in northern Europe, including Lapland and northern Scandinavia. The Torah prohibition of basar becholov is limited to eating the flesh (also known as the meat) of a kosher animal that is categorized as a beheimah that was cooked in the milk of a beheimah, but does not include either the milk or the meat of a chayah. When either the meat or the milk is of a chayah, the prohibition to consume the mixture is only miderabbanan.
It is difficult to define the differences between beheimah and chayah. Although we know that beheimah includes cattle and sheep, whereas chayah includes deer and antelope, the common definition of beheimah as “domesticated kosher species,” and chayah as “beast,” “non-domesticated” or “wild species” is not halachically accurate. For example, reindeer, which qualify as chayah,are domesticated, whereas wisents, Cape buffalo, bighorn sheep and Dell’s sheep, none of which is domesticated, are probably varieties of beheimah.
A more accurate description of beheimah is a genus or category in which most common species qualify as livestock, and chayah is a genus or category in which most common species are usually not livestock.
The halachic definitions of beheimah and chayah are dependent on the type of horn or antlers that the animal proudly displays. However, the terminology used by the Gemara to explain this is subject to disputes among the rishonim, and, therefore, the accepted halachic practice is to treat any species of which we have no mesorah whether it is a chayah or a beheimah as a safek in both directions (see Shach, Yoreh Deah 82:1 and commentaries thereon). This is why bison (American buffalo) is treated with the stringencies of both beheimah and chayah, notwithstanding that its horns seem to fit the description of a beheimah. Don’t cook your bison burgers in milk!
At this point, we can address the next of our opening questions: “I am in northern Norway, herding reindeer, and I want to know whether doe milk is kosher and milchig?”
The answer is that it is not milchig min haTorah, but miderabbanan it is considered milchig. Therefore, a Jew may not eat reindeer venison cooked in milk, nor may he eat beef, veal or lamb cooked in reindeer milk. However, it is permitted to cook meat with reindeer milk or cheese, or cook reindeer venison with cow’s, sheep’s or goat’s milk or cheese. It is also permitted to benefit from any of these preparations.
So our frum Lapp may cook and sell venison cooked in reindeer milk, if he shechted the reindeer first. If there is a market for such products in Lapland, perhaps Desperate should be in touch with him! But, remember that a Jew may not eat this product, because of rabbinic injunction.
Since we mentioned cheese, I will add that, according to most authorities, cow’s, buffalo’s, sheep’s and goat’s cheese are milchig min haTorah. There is a minority opinion that holds that, just as lactose, a dairy by-product, is milchig only miderabbanan (a topic upon which I have written a different essay), so cheese is, also, milchig only miderabbanan. However, the vast majority of later authorities reject this position (see Yalkut Yosef, Isur Vaheter, Volume III, page 114).
As I mentioned above, the prohibitions of eating cold meat and milk together or eating dairy shortly after consuming meat are only miderabbanan. The prohibition of lo sevashel gedi bachaleiv imo is violated min haTorah only by cooking meat and dairy together or by eating meat and dairy that were previously cooked together.
There are many methods of making food edible and very tasty that do not use heat, including salting, pickling and marinating. Preparing food this way causes the flavors of the different ingredients to blend together, which halacha calls beli’ah. When one ingredient is, on its own, non-kosher, everything salted, pickled or marinated together has now become non-kosher. If the kashrus prohibition is min haTorah, such as, meat that was not shechted, non-kosher fat (cheilev), blood, or non-kosher species, the other food that was salted, pickled or marinated together has also become non-kosher min haTorah.
However, since lo sevashel gedi bachaleiv imo includes only cooking meat and milk together, there is no prohibition to marinate or salt meat and milk together. The product manufactured this way may not be eaten, but only because of a rabbinic injunction (see Nazir 37a; Pesachim 44b). Furthermore, there is no prohibition, even miderabbanan, in manufacturing or in benefiting from this mixture (Rema, Yoreh Deah 87:1).
At this point, we can examine the second part of Desperate’s question, which opened our essay. “What if I have to grill cheeseburgers?” These products are not cooked in liquid, but are grilled. Is grilling, frying or broiling included in the Torah violation of cooking milk and meat together?
From the way Rashi and Tosafos explain the passage of Gemara in Sanhedrin 4b, it appears that frying dairy and meat together is not prohibited min haTorah. There is also strong evidence that the Ran (Commentary to Rif, Chullin, Chapter 8, on the Mishnah 108a c.v. Tipas chalav) held a similar, if not identical, approach. If this opinion is halachically correct, Desperate could work in a restaurant that uses kosher meat to make its cheeseburgers.
However, many authorities conclude that cooking basar becholov using any type of heat is prohibited min haTorah (Pri Chadash, Yoreh Deah, 87:2; Peleisi 87:2; Chachmas Adam 40:1). According to this approach, grilling cheeseburgers will land Desperate in hot water.
Other prominent authorities rule that consuming basar becholov prepared in these ways is prohibited only by rabbinic injunction (Maharam Shiff (commentary, end of Mesechta Chullin; Pri Megadim, introduction to Basar Bechalav, s.v. Vehinei). And then, there are some authorities that draw distinctions among the various methods of cooking with heat. For example, Rav Yaakov Reisch, a very prominent early eighteenth-century posek, rules that roasting (which presumably includes broiling and grilling) is prohibited min haTorah, but frying is not (Soles Lamincha, Klal 85:3). This approach is based on his analysis of the pesukim and the passages of the Gemara, but without explaining any reason for the distinction, other than the usage of the word bishul. (See also Shu’t Chasam Sofer, Yoreh Deah #97, who has yet another approach to the topic.) Other prominent authorities reach the same conclusion (Pri Megadim, Mishbetzos Zahav 87:1). Among the late authorities, this issue is left as an unresolved dispute. Therefore, the halachic assumption is that we should be machmir in all of these disputed areas.
May I smoke?
At this point, we can explore the third of our opening questions: “May I smoke meat and dairy together?”
To the best of my knowledge, smoking meat and dairy is not addictive, contains no nicotine, and does not cause emphysema. The question is whether it violates the laws of basar becholov. In answer to the halachic question, it appears to have been discussed in a passage of Talmud Yerushalmi (Nedorim 6:1): “The rabbis of Kisrin asked: What is the law of smoked food, in regard to the prohibition of bishul akum? Concerning cooking on Shabbos? What is its law regarding mixing meat and milk together?” The passage of Yerushalmi then changes the subject, without ruling on any of the three questions, something not unusual in the Talmud Yerushalmi.
Based on this unresolved question, the Rambam (Hilchos Ma’achalos Asuros 9:6) appears to rule that the issue is treated as a safek, a doubt, with the following conclusions: When our issue [of whether something is considered cooking] is a halacha that is min haTorah, we rule stringently. However, someone who violated this act would not be punished, since it remains unresolved whether this is indeed prohibited min haTorah. However, when the issue is a rabbinic question, we rule leniently and do not consider smoking to be cooking.
The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 87:6) follows the same approach as the Rambam. Since the issue of whether it is permitted to smoke dairy and meat together is of Torah law, we rule stringently and forbid it.
The Pri Chadash (Yoreh Deah 87:2,3) and the Gra (Yoreh Deah 87:13) conclude that, although the Yerushalmi passage in Nedorim quoted above did not render a decision whether smoking qualifies as cooking or not, a passage of Talmud Yerushalmi in mesechta Shabbos does conclude that smoking is considered cooking. Therefore, they rule that smoking meat and dairy together is definitely prohibited min haTorah, and that the resultant food is certainly prohibited for benefit, min haTorah. Although several later authorities agree with the conclusion of the Rambam and the Shulchan Aruch, according to both approaches it is prohibited to smoke meat and dairy together. The practical dispute between the two opinions involves only more esoteric issues, such as whether the violator can still be a kosher witness.
We should note that the terms “smoking food” or “smoked food” can mean several different ways of manufacturing. The presumed case of the Talmud Yerushalmi is similar to the processing today of frankfurters and many other sausages, which are “cooked” in smoke, often in an appliance called a smoker. Rather than being cooked directly by the fire, or by water that is heated by fire, these foods are cooked by hot smoke. This is also a common way raw salmon is processed into lox.
There is another method of preparing food that involves smoke, but where the food, itself, is processed without heat. Wood is burned inside a sealed room called a “smokehouse.” The food to be smoked is placed inside the smokehouse for several days or weeks, while the smoke, now cool, cures the food, providing it with a smoky flavor. Since the food production in this instance takes place in ambient temperature, this process should not be considered “cooking” for basar becholov purposes (see Perisha, Yoreh Deah 87:9). Therefore, the finished product is prohibited for consumption only miderabbanan, and there is no prohibition to cure meat and dairy together using this method or to benefit from the product. Thus, Desperate could engage in this line of work. We should note that there is one late authority who considers this method of producing food to be similar to cooking (Chadrei Deah, quoted by Badei Hashulchan, Biurim 87:6, s.v. Ha’me’ushan), but, to the best of my knowledge, this approach is rejected by all other authorities.
There is a modern method of providing “smoke flavor” to food that involves preparing food by steaming, cooking or broiling, and smoke flavor, a natural or synthetic ingredient, is added to provide smoke taste. Whether this is prohibited min haTorah or miderabbanan when processing meat and dairy together will depend on which method is used, and also on the above-mentioned disputes among halachic authorities. I do not recommend that Desperate seek employment in a firm that does this.
A well-known, non-Jewish criticism of Judaism is: “Does G-d care more about what goes into our mouths than He does about what comes out?” The criticism is, of course, both mistaken and conceited. Our development as avdei Hashem involves both what goes in and what comes out, and the height of vanity is to decide which is “more” important in His eyes. Being careful about what we eat and about what we say is a vital step in our growth as human beings.