Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Session #1C: Definition of Meat - Final Clarification

Before progressing to the next subtopic, I would like to add one further point of clarification that was requested by "Yeshivish" in his comment on the previous post. If the גר"א and מהרש"ל agree with the ב"ח that cooking and benefiting from mixtures of עוף and חיה is forbidden because these substances are Rabbinically included in the category of בשר, then why don't they agree with him in extending the prohibition to non-kosher species of meat/milk as well?

The answer is as follows: There are three ways in which we can understand the Rabbinic "inclusion" of עוף and חיה in the framework of the prohibition of בשר בחלב:

1) The Rabbis did not change, extend or modify the categories of בשר or חלב as defined by the Torah. They simply decreed a totally new, separate prohibition on eating עוף or חיה with milk in order to prevent misunderstanding, confusion and possible violation of Torah Law. This is the view of the majority of פוסקים, including the  שלחן ערוך.

2) The Rabbis expanded the definition of בשר to include חיה and עוף, and expanded the definition of חלב to include the milk of חיות. Hence, these mixtures are considered full fledged בשר בחלב מדרבנן and may not be cooked, eaten or benefited from. However, there was no reason to extend this decree to non-kosher species of meat/milk, since they are already forbidden for consumption anyway. This is the view of גר"א and מהרש"ל.

3) The Rabbis didn't expand the definitions of meat or milk to include new species, such that we would have to "justify" applying their decree to non-kosher species. They simply "removed" the requirement that meat/milk come from a particular list species in order to qualify for the prohibition. Ipso facto, (or, as we would say in Talmudic parlance, ממילא) this means that ALL combinations of meat and milk - including עוף, חיה and even non-kosher animals - are now defined as בשר בחלב מדרבנן with all the implications that emerge therefrom. This is the position of the ב"ח.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Session #1B: Definition of Meat

In the previous post, we discussed the fundamental disagreement between the ב"ח and all of the other פוסקים as to whether there is a rabbinical prohibition of mixing milk and meat when one of the components is from a non-kosher species. Everyone agrees that poultry, venison, etc., are only forbidden to be mixed with milk by Rabbinic decree. The question is how to properly understand the mechanics of this decree. According to most פוסקים, when the Rabbis added to the prohibition of בשר בחלב, they enacted new Rabbinic legislation that forbade poultry, venison, ect. They were concerned that allowing people to eat poultry/venison and milk would lead people to transgress the Biblical prohibition of meat and milk. However, they did not see fit to enact special legislation with regard to meat and milk from non-kosher species. Since these foods are already prohibited by virtue of their sources, adding a Rabbinical prohibition of בשר בחלב would not serve any purpose.

By contrast, the ב"ח maintains that when the Rabbis forbade poultry/venison with milk, it was not through the enactment of special prohibitive legislation. Rather, they simply decreed that the condition imposed by the Torah - namely, that to qualify for the prohibition of meat and milk the substances have to be from particular species - would no longer be in effect. Automatically, the prohibition extended to all forms of meat and milk, whether kosher or not. They were not inspired to decree a special prohibition of בשר בחלב on non-kosher meat and milk. But by suspending the Biblical rule that limits בשר בחלב to certain species, they necessarily included non-kosher meat and milk as well.

This distinction can help us understand another point of dispute between the ב"ח and many other פוסקים (although, in this case, the ב"ח is joined in his view by the מהרש"ל and the גר"א). We know that the Torah prohibits cooking, eating and benefiting from mixtures of meat and milk. The question arises: What about mixtures that are prohibited Rabbinically? Are these forbidden to be cooked and benefited from, or are the Rabbinic prohibitions on consumption only? Put simply: Am I permitted to cook chicken in milk as long as I don't eat it, or is cooking it forbidden as well?

The שלחן ערוך, the רמב"ם and nearly all other פוסקים state that, when it comes to poultry, venison and the like, only consumption is prohibited. Cooking בשר עוף or בשר חיה in milk is permitted, and the resulting combination is מותר בהנאה.

The ב"ח and a few others disagree and maintain that just as the Rabbis forbade the consumption of chicken and milk, so too did they prohibit cooking and benefiting from such mixtures. They reason that if the Rabbis gave these substances the status of בשר בחלב , then the full range of relevant prohibitions should apply. Granted, the prohibition in these cases is only Rabbinic, but shouldn't its form be identical to that of the Biblical injunction?

It seems we can explain the theoretical dispute here along the same lines as the previous מחלוקת, and in so doing we find that the ב"ח is highly consistent in his view. According to him, when the Rabbis forbade chicken or venison and milk, they did so by expanding the categories of בשר and חלב to include ALL species. They did not institute a new prohibition with its own format or parameters; rather, they left the prohibition as it was, and simply widened its range of applicability. Once the definitions of בשר and חלב are extended in this way, the entire gamut of איסורים associated with בשר בחלב- the prohibitions of cooking, eating and benefit - will apply to mixtures of fowl and venison with milk just as they apply to mixtures of beef and milk. There is no real basis for any distinction between the two.

By contrast, most authorities understand the prohibitions on mixing בשר עוף and בשר חיה to be distinct גזירות, Rabbinically decreed safeguards. In order to prevent people from mistakenly eating meat and milk, the Rabbis forbade the consumption of poultry/venison and milk. According to this view, the Rabbis did NOT expand the categories of בשר and חלב while leaving the form of the prohibition intact. In fact, they did the opposite - they left the Biblical categories intact and introduced a completely new set of Rabbinic strictures in order to accomplish their objective. Since these rules were separately legislated by the Rabbis, they do not have to follow the format of the Biblical law, and can therefore be limited to consumption but not to cooking or deriving benefit. In other words, according to these פוסקים, a mixture of poultry or venison and milk is NOT Rabbinically defined as בשר בחלב; if it were, all three prohibitions would have to apply. Mixtures of poultry/venison and milk are Rabbinically forbidden in their own right, under their own distinct heading, and the Rabbis only saw fit to forbid eating them.

In summary, we see that a difference in the way we conceptualize the mechanics of the Rabbinical prohibition on mixing poultry/venison with milk - whether we understand it as a widening of preexisting categories under the preexisting framework, or as a set of new and independently formulated safeguards - leads to a difference in the way these Rabbinical laws are applied in practice.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Session #1A: Definition of Meat

יורה דעה סימן פ"ז - Shulhan Arukh Yoreh Deah Section #87

The first subject discussed in the Siman is the definition of "meat" and "milk" as they pertain to the prohibitions of cooking, eating and benefiting from combinations of meat and milk.

According to the Shulhan Arukh and the majority of posqim, only the flesh and milk of בהמות (domesticated animals) are subject to the Biblical prohibition on mixing meat with milk. The flesh of חיות ועופות (wild animals like deer and fowl) is only Rabbinically forbidden to be combined with milk. Similarly, the milk of wild animals, even when cooked with beef, is only Rabbinically prohibited.

The question arises as to the status of the meat of non-kosher species, such as pork (everyone is in agreement that beef, even if it is not properly slaughtered, is still not allowed to be cooked with milk). The Mishna in Masekhet Hullin (113A) tells us that the flesh of non-kosher animals is not included in the Biblical prohibition of meat and milk. But is there a Rabbinic prohibition on cooking such meat with milk?

This issue is the subject of a dispute between the ב"ח (Rabbi Yoel Sirkis) and the בית יוסף (Rabbi Yosef Karo, author of the Shulhan Arukh). The ב"ח maintains that although the Torah already forbade us to eat pork, it is Rabbinically prohibited to cook it with milk, and that such a mixture would have the halakhic status of בשר בחלב. He points out that there are certain legal stringencies that apply only to בשר בחלב and not to other forbidden foods (we will explore these at a later date). The ב"ח argues that these strictures, which would not have applied to pork alone, do apply, by Rabbinic decree, to a mixture of pork and milk.

The בית יוסף writes that since pork and species like it are already forbidden for consumption anyway, the Rabbis did not decree an additional prohibition of בשר בחלב in this case, despite the fact that it might add a level of stringency in certain cases. The ש"ך (Rabbi Shabtai HaKohen) and ט"ז (Rabbi David Halevi) agree. According to these פוסקים, it is permitted to cook pork with milk, and the resultant mixture will be treated just as ordinary pork, without the added stringency of בשר בחלב.

What is the conceptual issue at play in the argument between the ב"ח and the בית יוסף? It seems we can explain it as follows:

Everyone agrees that only the flesh of certain species of animals is included in the Biblical prohibition of meat and milk, and that the Rabbis expanded this list to include venison, chicken, etc. How we explain the mechanism of this expansion makes all the difference.

The בית יוסף and most other פוסקים explain that the Rabbis legislated a new prohibition with regard to the flesh of חיה and עוף. This additional prohibition was only instituted where the meat and milk involved were permitted to begin with, but was not applied to a case where the meat or milk were from a non-kosher species.

The ב"ח adopts a different theory. In his view, the Rabbis didn't introduce a new prohibition on these species. What they did was remove the halakhic requirement of "particular species" altogether! Normally, to "qualify" for inclusion in the prohibition of בשר בחלב, the substances had to be from specific types of animals. The Rabbis decreed that this condition was no longer in effect. Automatically, then, the prohibition of בשר בחלב extends not only to undomesticated animals and fowl, but to non-kosher species of meat and milk as well!

This resolves one of the strongest questions raised by the other פוסקים against the ב"ח - why would the Rabbis bother adding the prohibition of בשר בחלב to food that is already forbidden? True, certain stringencies would now be applied that are unique to meat and milk, but what did the Rabbis gain from adding a new dimension of stringency to food that was already prohibited?

We can now see the answer clearly. According to the ב"ח, the Rabbis didn't specifically come along and prohibit cooking pork or horse meat with milk; rather, when they decided to prohibit the mixture of things like venison and chicken with milk, they simply "removed" the Biblical "condition" that limited בשר בחלב to particular species. This ipso facto meant that the prohibition, with all of its ramifications, would extend to non-kosher species of meat and milk as well.

In my next post, I hope to point out another key dispute in this section of the Shulhan Arukh that can be clarified and illuminated by this principle.

Shabbat Shalom!

Welcome to Sephardic Bet Midrash

Sephardic Bet Midrash is an exciting new program held at Magen David Sephardic Congregation, the Sephardic Synagogue of the Nation's Capital in beautiful Rockville, MD.

We are currently studying Yoreh Deah together on Thursday nights, beginning from Siman 87 of the Shulhan Arukh and steadily making progress in the area of איסור והיתר.

The purpose of this blog will be to summarize and present the main points discussed as well as any חידושים (novel insights) that emerge in our weekly sessions.

If you are studying for Semikha, reviewing איסור והיתר for practical reasons or simply interested in it for its own sake, this is the blog for you!