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One of my friends returned from a vacation in Norway. I asked him if he was able to drink the milk there, and he said, no because all the milk there is חלב עקום - crooked milk, and the Gemarah prohibits Jews from drinking crooked milk.

I'm puzzled about this. It's the first time I have heard about this prohibition. I've been buying milk in cardboard cartons and when I pour it, the milk comes out at an angle. Is that what's considered "crooked" milk? Or maybe, it's a reference to milk that spoiled? Perhaps, I've been drinking traif milk all these years?

What exactly is considered crooked milk and why is it prohibited?


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  • 1
    I suppose this is another case of 'בת ק' כבת כ, so common of PTIJ's. – Menachem Mar 3 at 0:27
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Thank you for bringing up this very important question. It's worth bringing down the sugiya to understand where the prohibition comes from:

  1. The מצוה מן המובחר is to use whole milk in your tea, as it says: והקטיר עליה חלבי השלמים -- "when you boil your [tea] leaves, you must use whole milk.

  2. Originally, חלב עקום referred to milk that had been watered down. The reason it is called "bent", is because when you drink it, your bones don't get strong enough, and your posture will be bent. As we say each day: זוקף כפופים.

  3. ר' נחמיה was also גוזר on חלב סתם. This is because a סתם sofer always sits bent over his workbench, and some sages were worried that you'd get confused and decide that all bent over milk was fine. As it says: סתם תוספתא ר' נחמיה -- "Stam [milk] is an additional [prohibition] added by Rabbi Nechamya". This is where the general prohibition on "bent" milk came from.

  4. Finally, as you ask, the question came up about opening a milk carton. It is after all "bent" milk and should fall under the gezayra from ר' נחמיה. Fortunately, Rav Moshe already paskened that an open carton is considered a דופן עקומה, and we have a rule that: הלכה למשה מסיני דאמרינן דופן עקומה עד ד׳ אמות. So if you open the carton really wide, this is not assur.

Edit: Thanks to DanF for the correction in #4

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