I've recently read (again) the verse "לא תבשל גדי בחלב אמו", meaning, "Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk".

How did anyone get from that, to "Don't eat meat with milk at all"?

  • 3
    Welcome to the site, and thanks bringing this important question here! I hope you stick around end enjoy the site.
    – msh210
    Feb 17, 2012 at 16:15
  • @msh210: Meh :) area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/36772/hebrew-language-usage By yours truly. Please come and follow :) Feb 17, 2012 at 16:38
  • There's some interesting discussion over at Biblical Hermeneutics for the curious. (Though, I should point out that some of the answers are not at all helpful for someone interested in Jewish Life and Learning. The accepted answer here is far more useful for that. ;-) Feb 17, 2012 at 17:56

4 Answers 4


See here for more.

Basically, if you look carefully in Biblical Hebrew, g'di actually means "a young animal" -- usually if you didn't specify it meant a goat, but it could be a generic term for any young. Thus elsewhere it might specify g'di izim -- "a young goat."

So that gives us "don't cook a young animal in its mother's milk."

Why the thing about "mother's"? Hebrew lesson once again, the language is written without vowels. "Chalav" is milk; "chelev" is fat. So by adding in the phrase "mother's" we know it's talking about cooking it in milk, not fat.

We believe that an Oral Tradition was given along with the Bible as we know it, which meant that this verse was intended as:

Don't cook the meat of any ruminant animal in the milk of any ruminant animal.

The verse appears thrice in the Torah, giving us: don't cook it, don't eat it if it was cooked, and don't sell it if it was cooked.

In fact you'd only violate the direct Torah prohibition if it was cooked with milk; if you took a cold hamburger and soaked it in milk for an hour, that isn't in the prohibition. Centuries later, the rabbis of the Talmud added a prohibition of their own, knowing that if you okayed people to eat such a hamburger, it's likely they'll reheat it - thus getting to a Torah prohibition.

That pertains as the legal definition. As for the ethical message, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch suggests that meat is taking, and milk is giving. Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook suggests going back to the simple reading of the verse -- once you kill an animal, its mother's milk has no use. To then take that milk and use it to make the meat extra-tasty is too blatant of a disrespect for animal life.

  • 7
    +1 Excellent answer! I've never heard that part about cheilev/chalav, but it makes a lot of sense! Thanks!
    – HodofHod
    Feb 17, 2012 at 14:27
  • 2
    +1, but the answer would be much improved IMO if it contained a fuller explanation of the "The verse appears thrice..." paragraph, explaining that that, too, is part of the oral tradition.
    – msh210
    Feb 17, 2012 at 16:17
  • 3
    Why can't the verse be telling us not to cook the kid in the mother's fat?
    – avi
    Feb 19, 2012 at 9:27
  • 1
    I second @Avi. That is, after all, how the Shomronim understand it. (Also, since you specify ruminants, you might want to add that the prohibition was extended to include fowl).
    – Shimon bM
    Nov 25, 2013 at 22:40
  • 1
    @HodofHod It’s a Gemara in Sanhedrin 4a
    – DonielF
    Oct 15, 2017 at 12:03

The Torah never says anything unnecessarily, yet it repeats the law about not eating a young animal in the milk of its mother three times when it could have said just one "Don't eat meat with milk". From here the gemara and later commentators pick up a few things: 1) There are three aspects - not cooking, eating or benefiting 2) The d'oraysa aspect only applies to kosher, domesticated mammals 3) Milk is kosher even though it was mixed with meat in the mother's udders. All these are learned (see gemara in Chullin as referenced above and elsewhere) from the wording of the three repetitive verses.


The commandment

“Do not seethe a kid in its mother’s milk.”

was mentioned three times in Torah, so that indicates it's pretty important.

According to Rabbi Ariel Bar Tzadok, this forbidden mixture could be a source of extreme spiritual danger.

Meat is the product of the animal and milk is the byproduct of the animal, so milk made inside the cow ought to be drunk by its young.

The meat and milk are prohibited by the Torah only when they're cooked together, because heat is energy and the cooking process does the transference of their essential energetic elements creating the psychically dangerous mixture.

When flesh is dead and is a meat then it can no longer absorb milk as a life giving food, therefore life giving energy within the milk inverts when it comes into contact with meat and its energy polarity implodes, creating spiritual imbalance.

Therefore it's prohibited to make and to eat also as one may not derive any semblance of benefit from it.

And these rules apply to everyone who seeks holiness.

Source: Kosher Torah teachings: Energy Secrets Underlying Kashrut: Meat & Dairy by Rabbi Ariel Bar Tzadok (PDF) explained by Rabbi Ariel Bar Tzadok


As a lawyer, I know that rules are to be interpreted by looking primarily to the plain meaning of the words. If the words are a prohibited commandment, then they must be sufficiently clear as to allow no ambiguity or misundestanding. Otherwise, they cannot be enforced. This commandment has always bothered me, because the interpretation is so far from the plain meaning of the words that it is more than ambiguous; it is creative imagination. No other commandment is, to my knowledge, so "creatively" interpreted.

As an amateur, but well-read, historian, I suppose that the Torah contained this commandment to differentiate and elevate the moral and ethical superiority of the Hebrew tribes from the Canaanite cultures they were to dispossess from the promised land. There probably was a Canaanite custom to boil a kid in its mother's milk. That was disrespectful to the miracle of life in all animals and insensitive to the feelings of animals. The Canaanite practice (assuming it existed and that my interpretation is correct) taught a form of cruelty. Thus, by prohibiting this particular practice, the Torah taught respect and humanity, ideas not usually found in the world and cultures of that time. It helped justify the apparent conflict with the commandment that we Hebrews were to make war, a most cruel act against an entire community, in order to replace that community with our own, which operated on a higher ethical and moral level.

The interpretation that all milk and meat must not be eaten together and that we must have separate plates, utensils and kitchens for each class of cuisine, must have come much later, introduced into the Talmud during the rabbinical period after the destruction of the Temple. I would bet that some Jewish communities in the diaspora that separated before the rabbinical period Talmud, do not follow this interpretation of the commandment.

Does anyone have reliable information about the practices of Ethiopian Jews or other ancient Jewish communities outside of Israel? Do they practice complete separation of milk and meat?

I believe this is an extremely important subject, because the burden of keeping strictly separate meat and milk kitchens (albeit within the same room in the house) is the hardest part of keeping kosher. More Jewish families would accept kashrut as a lifestyle if this were interpreted according to its literal meaning.

  • 2
    Are you a lawyer who is an expert in Jewish law? If not, then why does that credential give your opinion any weight?
    – Double AA
    Nov 25, 2013 at 21:43
  • 3
    Your argument for interpreting laws literally holds only if you are analyzing a complete written law. If the law was never meant to be fully transcribed, then there is no reason to assume the parts that were transcribed would be complete in that sense. Which is why your argument fails here.
    – Double AA
    Nov 25, 2013 at 21:44
  • "No other commandment is, to my knowledge, so "creatively" interpreted." An eye for an eye? The singular witness referring to two witnesses? Being permitted to cook on all yom tovs not just Pesach? That is just off the top of my head, there are probably better examples.
    – Yishai
    Nov 25, 2013 at 21:57
  • @Yishai - ben sorer umoreh is up there too. Nov 25, 2013 at 22:02
  • @MonicaCellio, indeed. Not needing to eat Matza all seven days of Pesach also came to mind. Is there a question on Mi Yodah asking for such examples? Might be interesting. Is that still considered appropriate? It seems less common recently.
    – Yishai
    Nov 25, 2013 at 22:05

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .