Sunday, November 9, 2014

Meat & Milk Together????

"You should not cook a kid in his mother’s chalav" (Shemot/Exodus 23:19)

At face value (p'shat), this verse seems to simply state that one should not cook a kid (baby goat) in the milk of its own mother. However, the Rabbonim have elaborated upon this precept and throughout many centuries continued to apply one elaboration… upon another… upon another… etc. Now, according to Orthodox Judaism, this verse means that we should not mix meat and dairy together, according to some poskim we should wait 6 hours after eating meat before consuming dairy and 3 hours after consuming dairy to eat meat. The Rambam insisted that after eating meat one should rinse ones mouth out with water. Further, we must maintain separate dishes for milk and dairy and never the twain shall meet.
What is the origin of the elaborate command and what does the Torah intend to teach us? The Mishna in Hullin 113a, records the opinions of  R. Akiva and R. Yossi HaGlili regarding the Biblical scope of basar bi’chalav. They both agreed that the prohibition of cooking a kid in its mothers milk does not apply to the varietal species of fowl as a mother fowl does not produce milk like a mammal thus it is illogical to apply this verse to be inclusive of fowl, the other debate was whether this prohibition should include wild game such as deer since the context of the verse clearly indicates domesticated goat. Thus the gap between the Mishna and modern Rabbinic prohibition is HUGE! Over the centuries the Rabbonim desired to reinterpret and elaborate the prohibition of the Torah and the Mishna by first prohibiting the consumption of all meat and dairy together, subsequently the Rabbonim extended the prohibition of meat to include poltry (fowl), then they prohibited having meat and dairy on the table at the same time (Hullin 103b), then the Rabbonim ruled that one should wait many hours between the consumption of one and then the other (Hullin 104b-105a).
The Rabbonim traveled far from the original Torah injunction by not only creating a safeguard against violating the Torah command but creating safeguards to avoid violating safeguards, in spite of the fact that it is prohibited to establish safegurads on top of safeguards- eyn gozrim gezeirah li’gezairah.  The Gemarah asks this question itself and the answer is that the ruling not to make safeguards upon safeguards should not be strictly complied to (Tosafot 104a). In other words we should violate the Torah by creating non-contextual safeguards and then we should also violate rabbinic rules of not adding safeguards to safeguards because nothing is apparently sacred. This entire attitude violates the integrity of the Rabbinic halachic foundation as the Rabbi's neither respect the sanctity of the Torah's prohibition of not adding or subtracting from the text nor do they respect the decrees that they themselves set up in Torah shebaal peh. However the Rabbi's do not look at it this way. Their perspective is that they made one safeguard and then rather than making additional safeguards they just "extended" the original safeguards.
Can we discern the true intent of the original Torah prohibition to not cook a kid (goat) in its mother's milk? The p'shat of the verse clearly says a few things: this prohibition applies to goats, cooking and maternity. These three distinguishing features of the pasuk (verse) rule out the Rabbinic injunctions entirely as being frivolous perversions of the text which are reinforced with a myriad of mental gymnastics. The Rabbinic commentary that comes closer to the truth of this vereses context was penned by the Rambam who suggested that this was a pagan custom (Guide for the Perplexed 111:48). This prohibition occurs three times in the Torah and the first two passages of the kid in its mother milk comes right on the heels of the Feast of Tabernacles (Ex. 23:16; 34:22). The Feast of Tabernacles is the end time or autumn harvest festival. It comes in October on the Gregorian calendar. And in the third passage where the kid is mentioned, immediately after that is the Feast of Tabernacles (Deut. 14:22).
HaShem was declaring to His People Israel, that after the harvest season was over, when the pagan peoples around them would practice idolatry 'to insure a good harvest' for themselves for the next year, they were not to imitate the pagans. Israel was to trust their God for next year's bountiful harvest.
The pagan context of this verse is also reinforced by Karaite commentaries, which assert that the surrounding pagans of that era had fertility rites, which involved boiling a kid in its mother's milk and subsequently sprinkling the broth as a magic charm on their gardens and fields. The Treasury of Scriptural Knowledge states thus:
"The true sense of this passage seems to be that assigned by Dr. Cudworth, from a MS comment of a Karaite Jew. 'It was a custom with the ancient heathens, when they had gathered in all their fruits, to take a kid and boil it in a dam's milk; and then in a magical way, to go about and sprinkle all their trees, and fields, and gardens, and orchards with it, thinking by this means, that they should make them fruitful, and bring forth more abundantly in the following year. Wherefore, God forbad his people, at the time of their in-gathering, to usa any such superstitious or idolatrous rite."
Everything said up to this point is a logical and literal perspective of the Torah's narrative. However, we must note that what has been stated thus far applies far better to the prohibition in Deuteronomy rather than the two prohibitions found in Exodus. Typically, the above explanation is used as a blanket explanation but there is more to consider. There is another perspective on the dynamics of these verses in Exodus which are important to examine.
Scholars have long pointed out that the phrase: "You should not cook a kid in his mother’s chalav," seems out of place in the surrounding context. The verse seems like an addendum. R. Joseph ben Isaac (12th cent.) expressed his opinion that this phrase is simply a mistranslation. He argues that this verse has nothing to do with cooking a kid in its mother's milk nor does it have anything to do with mixing meat and dairy.
"According to the plain meaning, the term “bishul” here means grow or complete, similar to its use [in the verse (Gen. 40:10)]: “its clusters ripened (הבשילו) into grapes.” This is what the verse is saying: do not allow [the kid] to grow up and be weaned from its mothers milk. [In other words, do not] wait until [the kid’s mother grows it with her milk, rather bring it at the beginning. This fits with the context of the first part of the verse, “the choice first fruits of your soil [you shall bring].”
Rav Isaac offers a similar explanation for Exodus 34:
"According to the plain meaning, to not leave [the kid] until it is full grown from its mother’s milk. “Bishul” implies completion, as [in the verse (Gen. 40:10)]: “its clusters ripened (הבשילו) into grapes.” The Talmud uses the term similarly (b. Ketubot 112a): “[The land of Israel] grows its fruit with ease.” This makes it of a piece with the beginning of the verse “the choice first fruits of your soil [you shall bring].” This implies that they are going through the process of maturation,that one should not delay until the fruits are all ripe."
According to the correct reading of our verse it shouldn't have anything to do with eating meat or cooking rather the verse is admonishing the Israelites to bring their first-born animals to God as soon as possible. This reading fits in very well with the context of verse 19 and also verse 18 which states that Israel should not leave the fat of a sacrifice until morning rather it should be eaten immediately. In other words, the entire context is about doing things sooner rather than later.
With all of this Scriptural, historical and cultural information at hand it seems apparent what the originality of Torah thought was concerning the prohibition in question.