If the Torah does not wish us to mix meat and milk, why not just say so? How, one may ask, are we to understand this from the thrice-repeated refrain of “Lo tevashel gedi bachalev imo,” “Thou shalt not boil a kid in its mother’s milk”?
This question would not have been asked at the time the Torah was given, for it was usual, in ancient times, to boil young animals, especially young goats, in their mother’s milk. The Torah’s carefully chosen words speak not only to cuisine of ancient time, but also to dietary laws for all time.
First, the verse is repeated three times to tell us that it is forbidden (1) to boil meat and milk together, issur bishul, (2) to eat such a mixture, issur achila, and (3) to derive any benefit from it, issur hana’ah. The word “gedi” (kid), which exemplifies the class of behemot teharot—“clean” domesticated animals, such as the ox, cow, sheep and goat—and the word “imo,” the gedi’s mother, are chosen because the issur bishul and the issur hana’ah apply only to the mixture of meat and milk of clean, domesticated animals. The issur bishul and the issur hana’ah, as opposed to the issur achila, do not apply to the mixture of milk of a clean, domesticated animal with the meat of either an unclean animal, or an undomesticated animal, such as a stag or a roe. The Torah’s choice of words also tells us that as far as Torah law is concerned, the three prohibitions do not apply to the mixture of milk and meat of a chaya, a non-domesticated animal, such as a deer or a roe. Neither does the prohibition apply, as far as Torah law is concerned, to the mixture of milk and chicken, or other fowl. The rabbis, however, have extended the issur bishul and issur achila, but not the issur hana’ah, to non-domesticated animals and to fowl as well. The word “tevashel” (thou shalt not cook) is chosen because the Torah only prohibits the cooking but not other forms of food preparation, such as soaking, salting or pickling meat with dairy, although the rabbis have extended the prohibition to the consumption of these mixtures too. Whether or not a particular mixture of meat and milk is prohibited by the Torah or by the rabbis is important, because, where the mixture is only rabbinically prohibited, the issur hana’ah will not apply and there will be more leniency in borderline cases.
The prohibition of meat and milk mixture is considered a chidush, a novel idea by the Talmud, because the Torah does not refer to it in terms of an “abomination to the soul” as it does in connection with the violation of other dietary laws. Moreover, in the forbidden combination of meat and milk, the meat in itself and the milk in itself are permitted for food. The reason for the prohibition of the mixture of meat and milk, suggests my father, Dayan Grunfeld, zt”l, may be that it infringes on the law of species, which forbids interference with the created order of the universe. Similar laws are those that forbid us to crossbreed animals, to sow our fields with mingled seed and to wear a garment of mingled wool and linen.
Torah law prohibits the simultaneous consumption of meat and milk, but not the consumption of milk after meat. Nevertheless, the rabbis legislated a mandatory waiting period after eating meat, chicken or other fowl and before eating milk products. Some explain that the need for this waiting period is that meat leaves a fatty residue on one’s palate, which exudes the taste of meat for several hours. Eating milk products with meat taste that lingers is considered tantamount to eating meat and milk together. Others explain that the concern is for meat particles trapped between teeth, which would mingle with milk products if these were eaten too soon after meat. There are various practices as to the length of the waiting period. The source of the waiting period is the statement of Mar Ukba, who said, “I am as vinegar to wine (inferior) compared with my father. For whereas my father used to wait 24 hours between meat and milk, I, Mar Ukba, do not eat (cheese) in the same meal, but I do eat it in the next meal.”
The difference of opinions regarding the waiting period arises from different waiting periods between meals prevalent among the communities of the poskim. The Rambam and other poskim require a six-hour waiting period because this was the usual interval between meals in their time. Others, including the Rema, require waiting only one hour. This is based on the opinion of the Tosafists, who say it is sufficient to terminate the meat meal, recite Grace after Meals, and then commence the milk meal.
Raphael Grunfeld, a partner at the Wall Street law firm of Carter Ledyard & Milburn LLP, received smichah in Yoreh Yoreh from Mesivtha Tifereth Jerusalem of America and in Yadin Yadin from Rav Dovid Feinstein, zt’’l. This article is an extract from Raphael’s book “Ner Eyal: A Guide to Seder Nashim, Nezikin, Kodashim, Taharot and Zerayim” available for purchase at www.amazon.com/dp/057816731X and “Ner Eyal: A Guide to the Laws of Shabbat and Festivals in Seder Moed” available for purchase at https://www.amazon.com/Eyal-Guide-Shabbat-Festivals-Seder/dp/0615118992. Questions for the author can be sent to [email protected]