July 20, 2024
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‘Kosher’ Breast Milk?

While this (“Klal Yisrael’s Youngest Members Benefit From STAR-K Kashrus” July 2, 2020) might have been a well-intentioned effort, it is also halachically problematic.

First, the midrashim about Moshe refusing to nurse from an Egyptian woman are not halachically normative. Shemot Rabbah itself cites the Mishnah’s rule (Avodah Zarah 26a) that a Jewish baby may have a non-Jewish wet nurse as long as there is no physical danger to the child––Moshe was the exception (see Torah Temimah to Ex. 2:7 and Lev. 11:43).

More to the point: If a baby requires natural breast milk as a matter of pikuach nefesh (grave danger), it is halachically forbidden to delay providing the milk, even for a minute, in order to obtain the “kosher” variety (imagine nurses in preemie units around the world scrambling to get bottles of certified kosher breast milk for their Orthodox patients).

As for Rema’s ruling to avoid using a non-Jewish wet nurse or breast milk from a woman who eats non-kosher, the author cites Rashba as the basis for this ruling. In fact, Rashba (Yevamot 114a) concludes that it is “completely permissible” to use breast milk from a non-Jewish woman even when milk from a Jewish woman is readily available, and that it is only a “midat chasidut” (an optional pious observance) to seek out the latter.

David Zinberg
Teaneck
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