Meat, Chicken, and Fish with Milk

In wake of the fatal bus accident: The Torah obligation to report a reckless bus driver * A continuation of the laws of meat and milk * The Torah prohibits the mixture of meat and milk only by cooking, however the rabbis also forbade other mixtures * Are the meat and milk of wild animals and chicken prohibited from the Torah * According to halakha, eating the meat of wild animals and chicken with milk are prohibited by rabbinic decree, but we are stringent as if it were a Torah prohibition * One can be lenient in eating fish and milk together, even if he follows Sephardi customs


The Duty to Complain about a Reckless Driver

Following the horrific bus accident that occurred this week killing six passengers due to suspected reckless driving, passengers travelling on public transportation must be made aware of their duty to admonish a driver who is not careful, and if he does not listen, to report him to his superiors.

There are two mitzvoth involved. First, the mitzvah of ‘tochacha‘ or rebuke, for if one sees his fellow sin or follow an improper path, he is obligated to return him to the better path, as it is written: “You must admonish your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him” (Vayikra 19:17). At first, one should admonish gently, but if the driver does listen, one must admonish firmly. This mitzvah is connected to the mitzvah which follows it in the Torah: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The rebuke is indeed for the good of the driver, for if several passengers were to admonish him, there is a chance he will improve his ways, and be able to continue working without causing accidents. In any event, even if the driver chooses to be offended, the person who rebuked him does not transgress any sin, because the mitzvah of ‘tochacha’ applies even when it is clear that the person being rebuked will get angry, as codified in halakha that the mitzvah is to admonish the sinner to the point where he almost wants to hit the person rebuking him (Rambam, Hilchot De’ot 6:7).

Additionally, seeing as the topic is cautious driving, the mitzvah of ‘shmirat ha’nefesh‘ (guarding the life) of all passengers traveling on the trip and on future trips, about which we are explicitly commanded: “Do not stand still when your neighbor’s life is in danger” (Vayikra 19:16), also applies. Our Sages also said that anyone who can protest against a sinner but does not, is considered as if he is guilty of the sin (Shabbat 54 b), let alone in such a case of ‘pikuach nefesh‘ (saving lives).

In consequence of the mitzvah of ‘shmirat ha’nefesh’, if the driver did not listen to the person rebuking him, and did not immediately improve his driving, one must complain to his superiors. And if he did not complain, he is responsible for the blood of all the passengers liable to be killed due to the driver’s reckless driving.

A person should not say “what good will one person’s complaint do”, because if everyone who witnesses the reckless driver reports him, it is clear that his superiors will scrutinize him properly, and if necessary, even fire him from his job to protect the lives of the passengers.

The Prohibition of Meat and Milk

Two weeks ago we dealt with the prohibition of meat and milk. The Torah forbade cooking meat with milk, it is written: “Do not cook meat in milk, even that of its mother.” This prohibition is mentioned three times in the Torah, teaching us that there are three distinct prohibitions: a) it is forbidden to cook milk and meat together; b) It is forbidden to eat them together; c) It is forbidden to derive benefit from them (Chulin 115b).


The Prohibition of Cooking and Deriving Benefit

This prohibition is unique and different from all other prohibitions of forbidden foods – for concerning all forbidden foods, the prohibition is invariable, whereas meat by itself and milk by itself are kosher, only when mixed do they become prohibited on the most serious of levels; for indeed, although it is forbidden for a Jew to eat meat of beasts and unclean animals, nevertheless, one is permitted to cook them for a non-Jew; meat and milk, however, are even forbidden to be cooked together, and therefore a Jewish cook is forbidden to cook meat and milk for a non-Jew.

Not only is it forbidden to eat and cook meat and milk together, but it is also forbidden to derive benefit from them, therefore, one must burry or destroy in a different way, meat and milk that was cooked together. And it is forbidden to give it as a gift to a non-Jew, since the Jew derives benefit from it. Even if one were to burn the prohibited food, it is forbidden to receive benefit from the heat of burning it, or from its ashes.

A Mixture without Cooking Is Forbidden by Rabbinic Decree

The Torah prohibition is precisely when mixing milk and meat by means of cooking, because the process of cooking blends the two thoroughly. But when the tastes of meat and dairy are not mixed by means of cooking, such as by soaking, they are forbidden to be eaten only by rabbinic decree, however our Sages did not forbid deriving benefit from it, nor did they forbid the mixing of meat and milk by means other than cooking for the needs of a non-Jew, or for other necessities (S. A., Y.D., 87:1; 91:8).

Are Wild Animals and Chicken Also Included in the Prohibition?

The Tana’im differed about which types of meat and milk are included in the prohibition. According to Rabbi Akiva, the meat and milk which are forbidden are the flesh of one of the three species of clean animals with the milk of one of them. The three species of wild animals are ox, sheep, and goat. However, the species of ruminant mammals, such as deer and elk, are not included in the prohibition. This law was also determined from the Torah mentioning three times the prohibition of “do not cook meat in milk, even that of its mother”, coming to teach us that there are three species of wild animals included in the prohibition, while types of clean animals, types of clean poultry, and types of unclean beasts and animals are not included in the prohibition (Mishna Chulin 113a).

The difference between beasts and animals is that animals can be domesticated, whereas beasts cannot. Since beasts are in man’s possession, he can milk them and slaughter their offspring, and the Torah forbade mixing the meat of one of the beasts with the milk of one of them.

The Opinion that the Torah Prohibition also Includes Animals and Birds

In contrast, according to Rabbi Yossi Ha’Galili, the prohibition also includes the seven species of pure animals, seeing as their meat and milk are permitted to be eaten as well. However, poultry is not included in the prohibition since female birds have no milk, nor did our Sages forbid eating it with milk (Mishna Chulin 103a).

Some authorities are of the opinion that the meat of poultry is also included in the prohibition, since poultry also contains meat, and the indication that that the meat of poultry is considered meat is that it must be slaughtered in order to permit it to be eaten. According to this opinion, only species of fish and clean locusts are not included in the prohibition (Mishna Chulin 103b, according to the explanation of Tosephot).

The Practical Halakha

In practice, the opinion of the overwhelming majority of Rishonim is that the halakha follows the opinion of Rabbi Akiva that the Torah prohibition applies only to species of beasts, i.e., species that man breeds and produce milk; however, our Sages also prohibited eating species of animals and poultry cooked with milk. The prohibition applies only to eating, but the rabbis did not prohibit cooking them for a non-Jew, and did not prohibit deriving benefit from them (Sh.A. Y.D. 87:2). However, we have found a few Rishonim who decided the halakha according to the opinion of the Tanna Kama, namely, that poultry and milk are also prohibited from the Torah (Tosephot, Ye’ri’im, Mordechai).

Some eminent Achronim wrote that although it was determined that that the prohibition of poultry in milk is of rabbinic status, in practice, we refer to the prohibition of eating poultry and milk with severity – as being close to a Torah prohibition. We also find that the ‘seyagim‘ (precautionary prohibitions, intended to distance one from this prohibition) our Sages determined regarding the eating of meat and dairy, they also determined for poultry and milk, such as the prohibition to bake dairy bread or meat bread, lest they come to be eaten with foods of the opposite type (S.A., Y.D. 97:1), and also the prohibition to place meat and milk on a table while eating, lest one comes to eat them together (S.A. 88:1).

Consequently, although the halakha was determined according to the opinion of Rabbi Akiva, namely, that there is no Torah prohibition in the meat of poultry or animals and milk, we take into consideration the opinion of the Tana’im who are of the opinion that it is a Torah prohibition.

Fish and Milk are Not Prohibited

Q: Is it prohibited to cook fish with milk?

A: It is permissible to cook fish with milk, and also fish may be eaten with milk, for our Sages did place a decree on fish to consider it as meat, since fish are very different in appearance and their laws are different, for they do not have to be slaughtered, and it is permitted to eat their blood. It is also explained in the Mishnah (Chulin 103b) that fish may be cooked with milk. It is also explained in the Talmud, that people were used to eating fish dipped in kutah, which is a dairy sauce (Chulin 111 b). And thus wrote the Rishonim.

The Stringency of the ‘Beit Yosef’ and the Sephardi Minhag

Nevertheless, Rabbi Yosef Karo wrote in his book ‘Beit Yosef’ (Y.D. 87:3) that one should not eat fish with milk because of possible danger. There were some authorities who explained that this refers to the danger of leprosy (Rabbeinu Bachya). Some authorities were puzzled by Rabbi Yosef Karo, questioning how he could write that something was prohibited, when it is explicitly written in the Talmud that it is permitted. (Schach 87:5). Others wanted to claim that a scribe made an error in the words of the ‘Beit Yosef’, and in truth, he also permitted fish to be eaten with milk, and his intention was to write not to eat meat with fish, because our Sages said (Pesachim 76b) that this involved a danger (Taz 87:3; Pri Chadash 6).

In practice, the custom of many Jews in the countries of East and North Africa was to be stringent, and this is the instruction of rabbis up until today (Yechave Da’at 6:48). Others said that one only has to be careful not to eat fish with milk, but eating fish with butter was permitted (Zivchei Tzedek). On the other hand, even among the Sephardi poskim (Jewish law arbiters) there were those who permitted eating fish with milk (Pri Chadash, Chida, Shulchan Gevoha). And in recent times, thus wrote Rabbi Shalom Mesas (Shemesh U’Magen 4, Y.D. 12), and Rabbi Haim David Halevi (Mayim Chaim 3:24).

Members of All Ethnic Groups are Permitted to Be Lenient

In practice, all ethnic groups are permitted to eat fish with milk today, since from a halachic aspect, we have learned that there is no prohibition whatsoever, and the custom of Jews for generations – during the periods of the Mishna, Talmud, and Rishonim, was to eat fish with milk.

And even those who were accustomed to be machmir (strict), did so only for medical reasons, and since nowadays doctors agree that there is no danger, the prohibition is nullified.

This is not casting aspersions on the minhag of previous generations who took into consideration the dangers, for perhaps in the past in certain geographical locations there was bacteria present in milk that when it came in contact with fish caused diseases, and from experience, doctors in those places ordered to avoid eating fish with milk. And since it is a mitzvah to be careful of dangers, the rabbis in those places instructed to listen to the doctors. But today when we are accustomed to pasteurize milk, those diseases should be of no concern.

Therefore, even people whose previous custom was to be ‘machmir‘ and not eat fish with milk, today are permitted l’chatchila (from the outset) to eat fish with milk and cheese, because their custom of being stringent was not determined for a situation where milk is pasteurized, and all doctors agree that there is no danger of eating fish with milk.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew. Other interesting and informative articles by Rabbi Melamed can be found at:

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