Introduction to Laws of Meat & Milk

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In this introduction we will explore the uniqueness of the Kashrus subject of Basar Bechalav, review a synopsis of the topics under discussion, explore the number of commands it consists and the reasons behind why the Torah prohibited it, and discuss some fascinating Derush which will increase our veneration of this Mitzvah.


1. The uniqueness of the laws of Basar Bechalav within the laws of Kashrus:

The laws of Kashrus are many and complex. In the Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah, the laws of Kashrus contain over 150 chapters. While in today’s times, much of these laws are dealt with only by Kashrus agencies and their operatives, the laws of Basar Bechalav retains relevance to all Jews even in the privacy of their home. Thus, the laws of Basar Bechalav remain one of the most relevant topics of Kashrus today for every Jew to know and be expert in. Aside for this unique relevance and practicality, we also find some unique Halachic aspects delegated to Basar Bechalav, which is unprecedented in any other area of Kashrus. The prohibition of Basar Bechalav is the only Kashrus prohibited food that a) contains an innate cooking prohibition, irrelevant of one eating the food. 2) Starts off as a Kosher ingredient and only afterwards becomes Treif. All other non-Kosher foods start off as non-Kosher and are free of any cooking prohibition.


2. Synopsis of the topics under discussion:

The laws of Basar Bechalav are found in Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah between chapters 87 and 97 and contain several topics.

  1. The forms of meat and milk that are defined to be under the prohibition. [Chapter 87]
  2. The details of the cooking prohibition. [Chapter 87]
  3. The prohibition to benefit from the forbidden mixtures. [Chapter 87]
  4. Eating meat and milk on the same table. [Chapter 88]
  5. Eating milk after meat or meat after milk [Chapter 89]
  6. Having separate utensils and appliances for meat and milk. [Scattered amongst various chapters]
  7. Taaruvos/Mixtures of Basar Bechalav:
    1. Cold mixtures. [Chapter 91]
    2. Hot mixtures. [Chapter 92-94]
  8. Pareve:
    1. The law of Pareve that was cooked in a meat or dairy vessel.
    2. The law of Charif


3. The number of negative commands:

The number of commands included in the prohibition of meat and milk is debated amongst the Monei Hamitzvos [those who list the 613 commands]. While everyone is in agreement that meat and milk is Biblically prohibited in cooking, eating and benefiting, there is disagreement as to how many Mitzvos these prohibitions are to be counted as amongst the 365 negative commands. Some authorities[1] count the prohibition as a single negative command. Others[2] count it as two negative commands, one against cooking, and one against eating, which includes the prohibition against benefit. Others[3] count it as three negative commands, one each for cooking, eating and benefit. The Shulchan Aruch does not weigh into this matter, and it is unclear as to what the practical ramification would be, if any.


4. The reasons for the prohibition of eating milk and meat:

The Mefarshim and Poskim mention several reasons behind why G-d prohibited the mixture of meat and milk:

  1. Chok: Some[4] explain that the true reason behind this prohibition is beyond the understanding of a human, and it is hence deemed as a “Chok” [i.e. law that surpasses human intellect] by the Torah.
  2. Cruelty: Some[5] explain that eating milk and meat together is forbidden being that it is an extremely cruel insensitive act to cook the meat of the child within its mother’s milk.
  3. Idolatry: Others[6] explain that eating meat with milk was the practice of idol worshipers, and thus in order to distance the Jewish people from these practices the above mixture of foods was prohibited.
  4. Is like blood: Others[7] explain that eating milk with meat numbs the heart and the soul, just as can be caused upon eating blood. The reason for this is because milk in truth is produced from the blood supply of the body. [The properties of the blood go through a series of chemical transformations and extractions until it become milk. The hormone called prolactin causes the alveoli to take nutrients, such as proteins and sugars from the blood supply and turn them into breast milk.] Now, when one cooks milk with meat it causes that its spiritually damaging blood tendencies become resurrected and is hence considered as if one is now eating blood.
  5. Sorcery: In Kabala[8] it is explained that meat and milk have two distinct spiritual roots, and these roots, although individually holy, may not be mixed. Mixing the two together is similar to sorcery, which consists of intertwining the Sefiros and Divine names in ways never mandated by G-d.[9] The exact understanding of this cannot yet be revealed, and it will only be revealed after the coming of Moshiach.

Will Basar Bechalav become permitted when Moshiach comes?

Rabbeinu Bechayeh[10] notes that the prohibition of eating meat and milk will be nullified after the resurrection, when the evil inclination will cease to exist.


5. How was Avraham Avinu allowed to serve meat and milk to the travelers?

As we know, Avraham Avinu guarded all the Torah before it was given and endeavored to influence others to do so through his hosting services. It is quite awkward then to find in the beginning of Parshas Vayeira that upon hosting the three guest angels on the 3rd day of his Bris, he offered them meat and milk in the same meal. As the verse[11] states: “And he took butter and milk, and the cow that he made”. Various justifications are proposed in the Mefarshim:

  1. Not a real cow: Some opinions[12] explain that Avraham had created the cow using Sefer Yetzirah[13], and it was hence the laws of Basar Bechalav did not apply to it.
  2. Angels may eat meat and milk: Others[14] explain that angels do not have an evil inclination and are hence not commanded against eating meat and milk together.
  3. First dairy than meat: Others[15] explain Avraham did not feed the guests the meat and butter at the same time, rather he first fed them one food and then the other.
  4. Menu of either/or: The Rebbe[16] explains that Avraham offered each guest an alternative; either meat or dairy, however not both.


6. The Mitzvah of meat and milk helped us receive the Torah:[17]

The Midrash[18] famously states that the supernal angels attempted to litigate against the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people for various reasons. The final rebuttal, or comeback, which closed all litigation and allowed the Torah to be given involved the Mitzvah of not eating meat and milk together. The argument was as follows:[19] After the angels told Hashem that they desired to keep the Torah for themselves, Hashem answered the angels that it states in the Torah “Thou shall not eat a kid in its mother’s milk.” Now, you angels surely remember the meal you ate in the home of Avraham Avinu? You ate meat and milk together during that meal as the verse[20] states “Vayikach Chema Vechalav,” so how can you now ask to receive the Torah? This, states the Midrash, was the final comeback which refuted any claims from the angels, and allowed the Torah to be given. Accordingly, we eat dairy and then meat on Shavuos to emphasize the reason why we received the Torah over the angels, as they did not keep the dietary laws of separating between meat and milk.[21]

A fascinating explanation of the Alter Rebbe:[22]

An even deeper approach is stated in the name of the Alter Rebbe: The law is that while one may not eat dairy after meat, one may eat meat after dairy.[23] The above Midrash is hence puzzling, as the verse explicitly states that it offered first dairy and then meat to the guests, and they therefore performed no transgression. The explanation is as follows: The reason for the prohibition against eating meat and milk together is because milk is from Chesed and meat is from Gevurah, and their combination can be catastrophic. However, this only applies if the Gevurah overpowers the Chesed, while if the Chesed overpowers the Gevurah then it is actually a positive matter. Now, we have a general rule of Tatah Gavar, the bottom overrules, and hence if one first eats dairy, he may eat meat afterwards, as the bottom which is dairy/Chesed, overrules the meat/Gevurah. However, if one eats meat first, then the Gevurah overpowers the Chesed. This system however only applies in this world, in which we hold that the lower realms are of greater importance than the higher realms, and hence the lower item overpowers. However, in the Heavens, they believe that the higher realm is greater than the lower realms, and therefore the rule of Tatah Gavar does not apply. Accordingly, Hashem told the angels that if the Torah is given to them, and thus the higher realms prevail, it would end up that they ate meat and milk together, hence transgressing the Torah. Furthermore, by the mere fact that by Avraham they agreed to eat first dairy and then meat shows that they too agree that the lower realms overpower, and hence they have no claim to receive the Torah. [Accordingly, we can explain the custom of eating a dairy meal on Shavuos, and then eating a meat meal, as this commemorates the victorious rebuttal which gave us the Torah to begin with. It also emphasizes that the purpose of the Torah is for the lower realms.]


[1] Rasag and Bahag only list the command against cooking

[2] Chinuch Mitzvah 92, negative 55 against cooking and Mitzvah 113, negative 66, against eating; Rambam Sefer Hamitzvos Mitzvah 186 against cooking and Mitzvah 187 against eating; Not listed in Rasag and Bahag as a separate command

[3] Rashbatz in Zohar Rakia

[4] Bechayeh Mishpatim 19 in his 2nd explanation; Chinuch Mitzvah 92; Keli Yakar

[5] Rashbam Vayikra 11

[6] Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim 3:32; Even Ezra Vayikra

[7] Bechayeh Mishpatim 19; However see there that he negates this as being the true explanation, and rather gives an explanation in accordance to Kabala, which is explained next.

[8] Bechayeh Mishpatim 19; Chinuch Mitzvah 92; Keli Yakar

[9] Chinuch

[10] Bechayeh Mishpatim 19

[11] 18:8

[12] Cheishek Shlomo 98

[13] As the verse states that Avraham said “and the calf which I have made

[14] Rabbeinu Bechayeh Mishpatim 19

[15] Daas Zekeinim

[16] Likkutei Sichos 6 p. 150

[17] See Beir Heiytiv 494:8 [towards end]; Toras Menachem 5743 3:1579 [brought in Shulchan Menachem 3:41]

[18] Midrash Raba Yisro 28

[19] Midrash Tehilim 8; Daas Zekeinim on Vayeira ibid

[20] Vayeira 18:8

[21] Beir Heiytiv 494:8 [towards end] “I heard that we eat dairy and then meat, unlike what the angels did by Avraham in which they ate meat and milk, as due to this the Torah was given to the Jewish people”; Toras Menachem 5743 3:1579 [brought in Shulchan Menachem 3:41]

[22] Brought in Sefer Pardes Haaretz [Horowitz] Vol. 3 p. 548 in footnote

[23] See Michaber Y.D. Chapter 89

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