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!


  1. Just teaching the eight perek of Chullin to my Mishhah class tonight. This clarification will certainly make it easier for me to teach it. Thanks.

  2. Why do the rabbis feel it necessary to add so many additional restrictions to the point that it no longer seems a fence to protect the Torah, but an addition to the Torah? Even Rambam felt poultry and milk were fine together. I think the rabbis distance Jews from the Torah by so many of their unneccessary restrictions and decision not to revoke some that are no longer valid, e.g. 2 day holidays.