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Thought for the Day: Don't You Dare Cook A Kid in Its Mother's Milk

A coworker (from India) asked me one day if I was a vegetarian.  I replied that I am not, but that I keep kosher.  Then ensued a very high level of the laws of kashrus, how we know them, and so forth.  I actually find it pretty interesting to speak to someone about these issues who has no preconceived notions; she had heard of the bible, for example, but that was about it.  That night I realized she had asked my about being a vegetarian because she has never seen my eat meat.  (I always eat at my desk, so she has certainly seen what I bring for lunch.)  The next day I explained to her that we are not allowed to eat meat with dairy, so that's why I never bring meat.  "That's interesting... why not?", she asked.  I answered that that Torah states the rule this way: Don't boil a baby animal in the very same thing that gave it life, its mother's milk.  The look on her face together with her response was priceless:  "Oh!  When you put it that way, ewww!"

The Torah actually tells us לֹא תְבַשֵּׁל גְּדִי בַּחֲלֵב אִמּוֹ three times: Exodus 23:19, Exodus 34:26, and Deuteronomy 14:21.  The Torah never repeats itself, of course, so each occurrence comes to teach something different.  The "famous" drash is: once to forbid eating milk & meat casseroles, once to forbid benefiting from milk & meat casseroles (such as selling them), once to forbid cooking milk and meat together.  (That last one and the wording of of the prohibition is why I used the word casserole; at the Torah level we are only talking about cooked mixtures.)  By "famous", of course, I mean the one drash I knew.

One year, though, when I was davening up the Rashi's in parshas R'eh, I woke up long enough to see that Rashi brought a different drash!  Why three times?  Once to exclude the meat of non-domesticated animals from the prohibition, once to exclude chicken (any fowl, of course), and one to exclude the meat of non-kosher animals (which is to say that baked ham and cheese sandwich is no worse than a plain ham sandwich -- it's only 39 lashes per bite, not 78).  After the initial shock -- after all, how can you have the triple repetition mean two different things?! -- I promptly went back to davening up the rest of the Rashi's.

Still, though, the question lingered in my mind for some years.  I've been listening to many excellent shiurim from R' Dovid Cohen of the CRC (you can find them here), and a resolution to my dilemma has finally taken shape.

If the Torah had just said לֹא תְבַשֵּׁל גְּדִי בַּחֲלֵב/don't cook a kid in milk (yes; I know the punctuation of בַּחֲלֵב is wrong since it is no longer "milk of", but I it is a quick copy paste), then I would have had the one drosh that Rashi brings that prohibits eating/benefiting/cooking.  Now, however that I have the added word אִמּוֹ, I have another drosh: there are three categories of animals whose meat is excluded from the prohibition.

I finally understood that because of a machlokes that R' Cohen discussed regarding colostrum; that is, the milk like substance that starts flowing before the kid is born.  Since the verse explicitly states "its mother" -- and not simply "mother" -- some want to learn that only milk that is produced after the kid is born is forbidden; to exclude colostrum which is produced from before she is technically a mother yet.  There is actually a kind of sweet cheese made in the Ukraine that contains cow colostrum, called Molozyvo.  (I confirmed that fact with a coworker who is from the Ukraine.)

As long as I was awake, I also noticed that Rashi brings the drosh regarding eating/benefit/cooking on the verses in Exodus where the context is celebrating our holy days.  In Deuteronomy, where the context is which animals we can and cannot eat, Rashi brings the drosh concerning the exclusion of wild animals/fowl/non-kosher animals.  At least one of us was paying attention.

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