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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: The prohibition against eating meat and milk together, “…Lo tevashel gedi bachalev immo…,” is stated three times in the Torah: Exodus 23:19 and 34:26, and Deuteronomy 14:21. Three warnings are learned from the repetition, one against eating basar bechalav, one against deriving benefit therefrom, and one against cooking the mixture (Chullin 115b). Other exegeses were also derived from this unusual repetition. The types of meat included in basar bechalav were extended by the Rabbis to include fowl and non-domesticated animals’ flesh as well (Chullin 103b).We discussed the Gemara in Ketubbot (60a) that serves as a source for allowing mother’s milk (for babies), as presented by Rambam (Hilchot Ma’achalot Asurot 3:2) and the fact that it is considered pareve (Yoreh De’ah 87:4). Issues of mar’it ayin apply to mother’s milk with regard to cooking meat, but where this does not apply, as with a nursing infant, there is no need for concern.

We continued with an examination of the necessary waiting time between consuming meat and milk. We also addressed the question of the necessary waiting time between the consumption of dairy foods (milk, as well as soft or hard cheeses) and meat. There are various opinions, but one common requirement is that the hands be washed and the mouth rinsed after dairy.

We continue this week with a discussion regarding the age at which a child is required to wait the full time between meat and milk as an adult does.


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Regarding your young child and the wait between meat and dairy, we must discern the age at which a child becomes responsible for the observance of mitzvot.

The katan (lit. minor) we refer to is a boy or a girl younger than 13 years and one day or 12 years and one day, respectively. When a child reaches that age, he or she is no longer considered a child.

We derive this from the verse (Genesis 34:25), “… Vayikchu shnei bnei Yaakov, Shimon veLevi achei Dina ish charbo … – … The two sons of Jacob, Shimon and Levi, the brothers of Dina, took each man his sword…” The parasha relates how Yaakov’s two sons avenged the disgrace that Shechem son of Chamor perpetrated against their sister Dina.

The Gemara (Nazir 29b) discusses the responsibilities of the father regarding his minor son’s vows, and how those responsibilities conclude when the son attains manhood, which Rashi (ad loc. s.v. Ve R. Yosi b. R. Yehuda…) explains as being 13 years of age and a day, the source being the verse cited above (ish charbo…).

A girl’s maturity at the age of 12 is derived (Niddah 45b), according to Rabbi (Judah the Prince) from the verse (Genesis 2:22), “Vayyiven Hashem Elokim et hatzela [asher lakach min ha’adam le’isha, vayevieha el ha’adam] – G-d fashioned the rib[side] that he took from Adam into a woman, and brought her to Adam.” [Rashi ad loc. states the Midrashic view that G-d originally fashioned Adam as one side male and one side female.]

Rabbi reads the word vayyiven not only according to its literal sense, “He fashioned,” but also as “He added understanding,” meaning that women were given greater understanding (bina) than men. This is indicative by her maturing a year earlier than males, at the age of twelve.

This is how Rambam rules in Hilchot Nedarim (11:3): Vows made by a male at age 13 and a day, or a female at age 12 and a day, are beyond the father’s responsibility and rights, and thus he may no longer rebuke them. (If the young man or woman wish to change their mind, their only recourse is to seek a release, hatara, from the beit din).

Regarding the more lenient attitude reserved for minors, the Mechaber (Orach Chayyim 531:6) states that a minor is permitted to take a haircut even on Chol Hamo’ed, the intermediary days of the Festivals.

The Rema comments on the Mechaber’s statement that we will even allow a minor child to take a haircut in public.

The Magen Avraham, however, points out that in the event the minor child appears to have attained physical maturity, it would be better to prohibit him from taking a haircut on Chol Hamo’ed in public.

Thus we see that though young people may begin to mature earlier and can be mistaken for adults, we nevertheless fix the point of maturity at 12 and one day for females, and 13 and one day for males.

The Gemara (Yevamot 114a) states that we rule that when a minor eats unclean animals, the beit din is not required to restrain him, for until the child attains maturity (12 or 13 years of age), the child is still considered a minor with no mitzva encumbrances.

Yet we do find in the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayyim 343:1, Hilchot Shabbat) that though there is no requirement for the beit din to restrain a minor child found to be eating nevelot (the carcass of unclean or non-slaughtered animals), it is incumbent upon the father to rebuke him and restrain him.

The Magen Avraham (ad loc.) cites Issur VeHeter Ha’aruch (chapter 248), who rules that this requirement upon the father applies only where the child has attained understanding, i.e., he/she is a bar/bat “havana.”

As to what constitutes havana (understanding), we find this to be a matter that varies from child to child, as we see from the arbitrary statement of the Mishna in Tractate Sukka (28a): “A minor [child] who is not dependent on his mother is obligated in the mitzva of sukka.”

The Gemara also asks how we define “a minor who is not dependent on his mother.” In the academy of R. Yannai they explained that he is toilet trained and has no need for his mother to clean him. R. Shimon b. Lakish explained it as a child who does not call for his mother when he wakes up. The Gemara questions this, because even some adults call out to their mother upon waking. The Gemara rephrases this to indicate that a child who lies awake and does not consistently call his mother until she comes is considered a minor child who is not dependent on his mother, and as such is obligated to sit in the sukka. Thus we see that this is not a clearly set age but one that varies somewhat from child to child.

(To be continued)


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Rabbi Yaakov Klass, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at