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Treif Cows Milk?
A Toldah of Dash
(Shabbos 144a)



As we know, it’s forbidden to milk animals on Shabbos. The Rishonim debate the source of this prohibition, but the generally accepted view among poskim is that milking is mefarek, which is a toldah of dash. This melacha is defined as separating produce from the shell in which it grows. (Rif; Ramban, Shabbos 8:7; Chayei Adam 14:8; Iglei Tal, dash 12).

What if someone unlawfully milked a cow on Shabbos? May a Jew drink this milk? (Unfortunately, this question is particularly relevant in Eretz Yisrael where many dairy farms are operated by secular Jews.)


For Me – For Him?

According to halacha, a person who unlawfully (and deliberately) cooks on Shabbos may not eat the cooked item, but others may eat it after Shabbos (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 318:1). The Magen Avraham asks what the halacha is if someone cooked on Shabbos for the benefit of another. Is the recipient also forbidden to eat the food?

Citing the general rule that people usually don’t sin for the benefit of others, the Magen Avraham concludes that the second person can eat the food after Shabbos. The violator is unlikely to repeat his transgression for his sake.


Usual And Recurring

The Ksav Sofer (Orach Chayim 50) argues that the Magen Avraham’s reasoning doesn’t always apply. For example, a secular Jewish hotel will always cook for its guests on Shabbos if they are allowed to eat the food as soon as Shabbos is over. Therefore, food cooked by a Jewish hotel must be forbidden, even to guests.

Even non-guests may not eat food cooked on Shabbos in a Jewish hotel. If they do, they will be supporting the hotel and encouraging it to violate Shabbos in the future. The Torah warns us against “placing stumbling blocks before the blind;” that includes encouraging others to sin.

Thus, it would seem that we may not drink milk produced on Shabbos.


Treif Pasteurization Vats

What about the milk vats? Do they become treif? In general, when treif food is cooked in a pot, the pot absorbs its taste and becomes treif as well. So are the vats used for milk taken from a cow on Shabbos also treif?

The Rashba (Teshuvos 1:175) was once asked if a pot in which food was cooked for a deathly-ill person on Shabbos (which is allowed) needs to be kashered. Since the food may not be eaten by anyone other than the patient, perhaps the pot also becomes forbidden to them.


A Fine Line

The Rashba responded that since the food was cooked in accordance with halacha, the pot does not become forbidden. The Magen Avraham (318, s.k. 1) infers from this ruling that if food is cooked in violation of halacha, the pot is forbidden. The Mishnah Berurah accepts this ruling (s.k. 4).

However, other poskim reject it. They distinguish between foods that are forbidden because they are inherently not kosher and foods that are forbidden due to prohibitions (such as prohibitions related to Shabbos) that apply to people rather than the food.

In the case of food cooked on Shabbos, it is not quite correct to say that the food is a forbidden substance. Rather, the person is restricted from eating it. Therefore, the pot in which it was cooked is not treif (Yad Yehuda, Yoreh De’ah 99:18).


Aiding And Abetting The Sinners

According to the Magen Avraham and Mishnah Berurah, vats that are used to pasteurize chillul-Shabbos milk are treif. Therefore, even milk produced in them during the week should be forbidden. Rabbi Zoldan (Nesiv Hachalav, p. 84, published by Tenuvah) justifies using these vats, though, explaining that even according to the Magen Avraham, food cooked on Shabbos is only treif for the person who cooked it.

Even the Ksav Sofer didn’t consider food cooked by a Jewish hotel on Shabbos to be treif to such an extent that it causes the pots in which it was cooked to become forbidden to those who didn’t cook the food.

Furthermore, purchasing chillul-Shabbos milk encourages businessmen to continue milking cows on Shabbos. Purchasing weekday milk that absorbed the smallest residue of chillul-Shabbos milk, however, presumably does not encourage them to milk cows on Shabbos.


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Rabbi Yaakov Klass is Rav of K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush; Torah Editor of The Jewish Press; and Presidium Chairman, Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim.