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Laws of Religion

Laws of Judaism Concerning Food

from the Biblical Books of Moses (Torah)

and the Code of Maimonides (Mishneh Torah)

5.  Animals and their Offspring, Including Milk and Meat Restrictions

From the Biblical Books of Moses (Torah)

 

It is forbidden to boil a kid (young goat) in its mother's milk.[1] It is forbidden to kill a cow or sheep and her offspring on the same day.[2] It is permitted to take young birds from a nest, but the mother bird sitting on the young or on eggs must not be taken – she must be let go.[3]

 

 

Animals and Their Offspring, Including Milk and Meat Restrictions

Jewish Law (Halakha) from the Code of Maimonides (Mishneh Torah)

 

Contents

Milk and meat

Animals and their offspring

Birds and their offspring

 

Milk and meat.  Cooking or eating milk with meat is forbidden. The mixture must be buried. The punishment for either cooking or eating a mixture of milk and meat larger in size than an olive is flogging.[4] The prohibition against eating milk and meat is a consequence of the Torah’s prohibition against cooking a kid in its mother’s milk[5] (Exodus 23:19, Exodus 34:26, Deuteronomy 14:21). The Torah mentions only the kid but its meaning includes all clean* domestic animals – ox, sheep, goat – and their milk.[6]

 

There is no prohibition against cooking or benefiting from cooking the meat of a clean animal in the milk of an unclean one, or vice versa, or the meat of a wild animal or bird in any milk. However, eating any of these is forbidden either because of the prohibition against consuming unclean animals or their milk or  because the Sages extended the meat-milk prohibition to include wild animals in order to prevent anyone from thinking that the prohibition is limited to the specific case – the kid – mentioned in the Torah.[7]

 

If meat falls into boiling milk, the meat cannot be eaten but the milk may be consumed if a heathen samples it and says that it does not taste of meat.[8] If milk falls into a dish of meat and lands on only one piece of the meat, then that piece and all the others may be eaten if a heathen reports that the contaminated piece does not taste of milk. If the piece of meat does taste of milk then it must be discarded, but the rest of the dish may be eaten if the contaminated piece of meat is less than one sixtieth the size of the total contents of the dish, including the meat, vegetables, gravy and spices.[9] If the milk is mixed with the whole meat dish, then the dish may be eaten if a heathen reports that it does not taste from milk. If there is no reliable heathen to taste the dish, then it may be eaten as long as the added milk does not exceed one sixtieth of the total dish.[10]

 

A pot in which meat has been cooked cannot be used for boiling milk. However, if this happens, the milk can be consumed as long as it has no meat flavor.[11] It is permitted for two people who do not know each other to eat at the same table even if one is eating meat and the other is eating cheese because they will not share food with each other.[12]

 

After consuming milk or cheese it is permitted to then eat meat immediately as long as one has first washed one’s hands and cleansed one’s mouth by eating bread or fruit or any other food except dates, flour or vegetables, which do not properly cleanse the mouth.[13] Poultry can be eaten immediately after eating cheese or milk without washing the hands or cleansing the mouth.[14] However, after eating meat from either an animal or a bird it is necessary to wait the usual amount of time between meals, approximately six hours, before consuming milk because pieces of the meat will remain between the teeth even if the mouth is cleansed.[15]

 

Animals and their offspring.  If, in violation of the prohibition of the Torah (Leviticus 22:28, cited on this page, above), a cow or a sheep and its offspring are slaughtered on the same day, the meat may be consumed but the slaughterer is to be flogged.[16] The violation only occurs if both animals are killed in accordance with the procedures of ritual slaughter (shehitah, discussed on a following page). Otherwise, if one or both of the animals is killed in another way (for example by stabbing), then no violation occurs in killing them both on the same day.[17] If a pregnant cow or sheep is slaughtered, there is no violation because the fetus is considered to be like a limb of the mother.[18]

 

Birds and their offspring.  The prohibition in the Torah against taking a bird that is sitting on its young or on eggs is intended to protect wild female birds who are trying to prevent their offspring from being taken.[19] It does not apply to a male bird, to any domesticated bird, to any bird that has killed a person or to a bird whose young are capable of flying and are therefore independent of their mother.[20] If the mother bird is fluttering about outside the nest but touching it with her wings, she must be released if taken.[21] However, if she is sitting outside the nest touching it, or even inside the nest but not touching the young birds or eggs, then she may be taken.[22]

 

The meat of a mother bird taken in violation of the prohibition may be eaten after proper ritual slaughter. However, the punishment of flogging for taking the mother bird is still incurred. If the mother bird is taken in violation of the prohibition against taking her (Deuteronomy 22:6) but is then released alive in accordance with the admonition to release her (Deuteronomy 22:7), then there is no punishment.[23] This is an illustration of the general rule that punishment for violation of a negative commandment can be avoided if the violation is reversed by acting on a positive commandment.[24] Eggs may not be taken if the wild mother bird is sitting on them.[25]

________________

 

* We use the words "clean" and "unclean" to refer to animal species that are permitted (kosher) or forbidden for eating; other things or people are referred to as being "pure" or "impure" or, occasionally for more clarity, as "ritually pure" or "ritually impure." A separate section of this website is devoted solely to the issue of ritual purity in Judaism.

 

 

Laws of Religion is a project of the Religion Research Society.

 

Updated October 9, 2012

 

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Food Laws of Judaism, Table of Contents

Index – Food Laws of Judaism and Islam

 

Abbreviations used in footnotes:

Gen: The Biblical book of Genesis.

Exod: The Biblical book of Exodus.

Lev: The Biblical book of Leviticus.

Num: The Biblical Book of Numbers.

Deut: The Biblical Book of Deuteronomy.

MT:  The Mishneh Torah of Maimonides (Code of Maimonides). The names of the specific books and treatises within each book are given according to the Yale University Press translation and also the Moznaim/Touger Hebrew transliterations to facilitate locating the texts posted here. (Book 10, the Book of Cleanness, has not been published by Moznaim.)

F:  indicates page numbers in the Feldheim Publishers, Ltd., translation of Book 1 of the Mishneh Torah of Maimonides, the Book of Knowledge.

M:  indicates page numbers in the relevant volume of the Moznaim Publishing Corporation’s Touger translation. (Some of the books of Mishneh Torah are published in several volumes by Moznaim, so the Moznaim volume numbers do not correspond to the Book numbers of Maimonides’ work.)

Y:  indicates page numbers in the translation of the Yale University Press Judaica Series.

  The sources cited are described on the page Source Texts Used for Laws of Judaism.

 



[1] Exod 23:19, Exod 34:26, Deut 14:21

[2] Lev 22:26-28

[3] Deut 22:6-7

[4] MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 2 on Forbidden Foods, Ma’achalot Assurot; Chapter 9, sec 1, pages 368M 195Y

[5] MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 2 on Forbidden Foods, Ma’achalot Assurot; Chapter 9, sec 2, pages 370M 195Y

[6] MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 2 on Forbidden Foods, Ma’achalot Assurot; Chapter 9, sec 3, pages 370M 196Y

[7] MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 2 on Forbidden Foods, Ma’achalot Assurot; Chapter 9, secs 3-4, pages 370-372M 196Y

[8] MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 2 on Forbidden Foods, Ma’achalot Assurot; Chapter 9, sec 8, pages 374M 197Y

[9] MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 2 on Forbidden Foods, Ma’achalot Assurot; Chapter 9, sec 9, pages 374M 197Y

[10] MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 2 on Forbidden Foods, Ma’achalot Assurot; Chapter 9, sec 10, pages 374-376M 197Y

[11] MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 2 on Forbidden Foods, Ma’achalot Assurot; Chapter 9, sec 11, pages 376M 198Y

[12] MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 2 on Forbidden Foods, Ma’achalot Assurot; Chapter 9, sec 21, pages 382M 200Y

[13] MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 2 on Forbidden Foods, Ma’achalot Assurot; Chapter 9, sec 26, pages 384M 201Y

[14] MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 2 on Forbidden Foods, Ma’achalot Assurot; Chapter 9, sec 27, pages 384M 201Y

[15] MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 2 on Forbidden Foods, Ma’achalot Assurot; Chapter 9, sec 28, pages 384M 201Y

[16] MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 3, Laws Concerning Shehitah (Shechitah, Ritual Slaughter); Chapter 12, sec 1, pages 616-618M 312Y

[17] MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 3, Laws Concerning Shehitah (Shechitah, Ritual Slaughter); Chapter 12, secs 3-4, pages 618M 312Y

[18] MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 3, Laws Concerning Shehitah (Shechitah, Ritual Slaughter); Chapter 12, sec 10, pages 620M 314Y

[19] MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 3, Laws Concerning Shehitah (Shechitah, Ritual Slaughter); Chapter 13, sec 7, pages 626M 316-317Y

[20] MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 3, Laws Concerning Shehitah (Shechitah, Ritual Slaughter); Chapter 13, secs 8-10, pages 626-628M 317Y; MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 3, Laws Concerning Shehitah (Shechitah, Ritual Slaughter); Chapter 13, sec 21, pages 632M 319Y

[21] MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 3, Laws Concerning Shehitah (Shechitah, Ritual Slaughter); Chapter 13, sec 13, pages 628M 317Y

[22] MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 3, Laws Concerning Shehitah (Shechitah, Ritual Slaughter); Chapter 13, sec 15, pages 630M 318Y

[23] MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 3, Laws Concerning Shehitah (Shechitah, Ritual Slaughter); Chapter 13, sec 1, pages 624M 315-316Y

[24] MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 3, Laws Concerning Shehitah (Shechitah, Ritual Slaughter); Chapter 13, sec 2, pages 624M 316Y

[25] MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 3, Laws Concerning Shehitah (Shechitah, Ritual Slaughter); Chapter 13, sec 18, pages 630M 318Y