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Thought for the Day: More Potential for Growth Mean More Potential Fall

"Thou shalt not seethe a kid in its mother's milk."  Pretty ominous sounding.  Even if you lose the old English flavor and replace seethe with "cook", it's still very dramatic.  Why not just say, "Don't cook milk and meat together"?  So much drama!  It evokes images of heathens standing around a huge iron pot sitting on a raging fire, the mother cow suspended above and her udders being milked straight into the pot, bleating woefully as she watches her new born calf cast to a painful death into the boiling liquid.  The very milk that nourished it only moments ago now turned to a death trap.  Horrible.

Looking for clues from the context in which the Torah delivers this message seems as first glance to be an exercise in frustration.  The phrase (for it is not even a complete pasuk) shows up at seemingly random times.  The first two times are in Sh'mos (23:19, 34:26), the last in D'varim (14:21).  You are reading along and then out of left field comes "lo s'vashel g'di b'chaleiv imo".  What's up?

The first clue came when I was in beis medrash and had no google available.  Of course, my virtual IQ drops a good 50 points without google.  So I asked a ba'al korei, who noted that the three times are in the chol ha'mo'ed readings (actually the last occurrence is right before the reading).  That reminded me of the S'porno's explanation of the context for this verse.  The S'porno explains that the Torah puts this exhortation concerning milk and meat during the Yom Tov season because we eat more meat then and need to be reminded.  Fair enough.  But all the drama?

The drama, I believe, is because it was a delicacy in ancient society to make a dish in just the manner described, a kid was actually cooked in its own mother's milk.  Yes, horrible indeed.  The Torah is reminding us in no uncertain terms that we are an "am kodesh" -- a holy nation.  Just as a surgeon in the operating room needs to take more care with himself and his tools, so to Klal Yisrael always needs to take more care with ourselves and our actions.  An am kodesh during our holy season needs to be particularly careful with anything that could lead us away from that goal.  Something as simple as mixing milk with meat can lead to the abominable behavior of cooking a baby in its mother's milk.

Far fetched?  Just look at TV in the 70s and TV now.  Actually, don't look.  But you know what I mean.

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