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QUESTION: I am presently nursing. I would like to know until what age it is permissible to nurse my child soon after feeding him chicken. In general, how long do we wait between eating meat and dairy?
A Concerned Mother
New York City
ANSWER: We note that you are actually asking three questions: the time one waits in between consuming meat and dairy, whether it applies to young children, and whether these rules apply to mother’s milk.Mother’s milk is actually pareve (neither dairy nor meat), as we shall explain later on. Let us first discuss basar bechalav, the concept of meat and milk, which may not be consumed together due to a biblical prohibition.

We find this prohibition in no less than three different parashot in the Torah. The first reference is in Parashat Mishpatim (Exodus 23:19), “… Lo tevashel gedi bachalev immo… You shall not cook a kid in its mother’s milk.” We find it repeated in Parashat Ki Tissa (Exodus 34:26), and finally in Parashat Re’eh (Deuteronomy 14:21).

Rashi (Exodus 23:19; 34:26) cites the Gemara in Perek Kol Habasar (Chullin 115b), where we find the following exegesis: The academy of R. Yishmael taught, It states [in the Torah], “Lo tevashel gedi bachalev immo… – You shall not cook a kid in its mother’s milk” three times – once to prohibit eating it, once to prohibit any benefit to be derived therefrom, and once to prohibit cooking that mixture.


Rambam (Hilchot Ma’achalot Asurot 9:1-2) rules as well that meat and milk are prohibited to be cooked together, prohibited to be eaten as a mixture, and that it would be prohibited to derive a benefit from such a mixture. However, he also points out that the Torah did not avoid mentioning the prohibition of eating that mixture; rather, by stating that it cannot be cooked, the obvious implication is that it cannot be eaten and that benefit cannot be derived therefrom.

Thus we see that he does not utilize the theory of R. Yishmael, but compares the prohibition to the matter of arayot (forbidden relationships), where we derive the law of one’s (out of wedlock) daughter from the law of one’s granddaughter, which is specifically stated there, for if the granddaughter was forbidden by the Torah, then surely the daughter is forbidden.

The Maggid Mishneh (ad loc.) refers us to a Midrash in Vayikra Rabbah (which we do not find in our texts), which notes two places where the Torah derived laws through the means of not mentioning the greater prohibition while openly stating the lesser, i.e., in arayot, the granddaughter, and in basar bechalav, cooking.

Either way we see that meat and milk as a mixture is clearly prohibited in any form, even though the openly stated text only mentions bishul (cooking).

As to the parameters of this prohibition, i.e., which types of meat are prohibited, we find in the first Mishna in Perek Kol Habasar (Chullin 103b) the definition of what constitutes meat that one may not cook in milk: “All meat is prohibited to be cooked in milk, with the exception of meat of fish and locusts.”

The Gemara immediately notes: “Therefore [we must assume that the meat of] fowl is biblically prohibited.” There is a discussion noting R. Akiva’s view – that non-domesticated animals and fowls (chayya ve’of) are only prohibited rabbinically.

Similarly, as we noted concerning bishul, the Mishna in its continuation states an even stricter rule: “It is also forbidden to put [meat] on the [same] table with cheese [i.e. dairy products], with the exception of meat of fish and locusts. [Likewise, as a practical difference in Halacha] one who vows to abstain from meat is permitted to consume the meat of fish and locusts.”

[Note that while some species of locusts or grasshoppers are kosher, today we are not knowledgeable as to which are kosher, and thus abstain from including any of them in our diets.]

The Gemara’s initial statement where we deduce that the meat of chicken is biblically prohibited would seem to apply to this portion of the Mishna as well – that we are forbidden from putting milk and chicken on the same table.

The Gemara cites the view of R. Yosef that the meat of fowl cooked in milk is biblically prohibited, for were it only prohibited rabbinically, how can we include it in the second part of the Mishna, which is a gezera (an edict or a precautionary measure) since according to his view, eating is a gezera. Thus, placing it on the table would be a gezera ligezera, a precautionary measure upon a precautionary measure.

Yet we find a further Mishna (113a) which states, “One who places [meat of] fowl with cheese on the [same] table does not violate a prohibitory command.” The Gemara, without any challenge, states, “However, if one eats it [milk and chicken together], one does violate a prohibitory command. This is proof that the meat of chicken with milk is biblically prohibited.”

The Gemara therefore interprets the Mishna as follows: “One who places [meat of] fowl with cheese on the [same] table will not come to violate a prohibitory command.”

Rashi (ad loc. s.v. “eino ba lidei lo ta’aseh”) explains that not only do we not worry that he might violate a prohibitory command – for perhaps through so doing he will come to eat this mixture, which would be the reason for the Mishna’s statement – but he will not violate a biblical prohibitory command even for eating the mixture.

The following Mishna then states, “It is (biblically) forbidden to cook the meat of a clean (kosher) animal in the milk of a clean animal and to derive any benefit therefrom. But it is permissible to cook the meat of a clean animal in the milk of an unclean animal, or the meat of an unclean animal in the milk of a clean animal and derive benefit therefrom.” Rashi notes that one may not eat these mixtures because of the violation of eating an unclean animal.

In contrast to the statement and exegesis of R. Yishmael (infra 115b, which we noted at the outset) that mentioning thrice “Lo tevashel gedi bachalev immo” teaches us the prohibition of consuming it, deriving benefit therefrom, and cooking it, is the statement of R. Akiva in the following Mishna, “Non-domesticated animals [that are kosher] and fowls are not included in the prohibition of the Torah, as the Torah states, ‘Lo tevashel gedi bachalev immo – You shall not cook a kid in its mother’s milk’ three times, once to exclude the non-domesticated animal, once to exclude fowls, and once to exclude unclean [nonkosher] animals.”

We also have the view of R. Yosi HaGelili that the verse (Deuteronomy 14:21) starts with, “Lo tochlu [k]ol nevela… – You shall not eat any carcass….” and concludes with “… Lo tevashel gedi bachalev immo – You shall not cook a kid in its mother’s milk.” Whatsoever is biblically forbidden as nevela, under the law applying to carcasses, is forbidden biblically to be cooked in milk; I would assume that a fowl which is forbidden biblically as nevela should be forbidden biblically to be cooked in milk. Therefore it tells us “bachalev immo – in its mother’s milk.” Thus a fowl is excluded since it has no mother’s milk.

The Gemara that immediately follows (113a-b) cites the verse (Genesis 38:20), “VaYishlach Yehuda et gedi ha’izim – Judah sent forth the kid of the goats…” Here it says “the kid of the goats,” but elsewhere the term is “kid,” which includes cattle and sheep. Thus, “Lo tevashel gedi” includes all kosher mammals.

Indeed, the Rema (Yoreh De’ah 87:3) explains our practice today of not cooking fowl in milk as a rabbinical prohibition. That is why there are leniencies regarding mar’it ayin in the use of “nut” (soy) milk with poultry.

(To be continued)