The laws regarding separating meat from milk have their root in the commandment repeated three times in the Torah (Exodus 23:19, Exodus 34:26, Deuteronomy 14:21): “You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.” Despite the fact that hens do not produce milk in which their young could be boiled, by the time of the Rabbis named in the Mishnah (70 C.E. – 200 C.E.), it was nearly universal Jewish practice to separate chicken (and other fowl) from milk as one would separate beef or lamb from milk. The Rabbis of the Mishnah period record three main approaches to explain the status of fowl and milk:
Rabbi Yoshaya says that the prohibition is stated in three places in order to include [in the prohibition] three different categories of animals: a) domesticated cattle; b) wild [kosher] animals (e.g., deer); and c) fowl…
Rabbi Akiba says that the prohibition is stated in three places in order to exclude a) wild [kosher] animals; b) [non-kosher species of] domesticated animals; and c) fowl.
Rabbi Yose HaGalili says that the verse (Deuteronomy 14:21) states: “You shall not eat any neveilah (kosher species of animals that have died by any means other than kosher slaughter)… you shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.” [This juxtaposition in the same verse teaches that species] which [can be] forbidden as neveilah (i.e., kosher species of animals) are forbidden to boil in milk (thus non-kosher species are excluded from the prohibition – so it is permitted to boil horse meat in milk in order to make glue); fowl which [can be] prohibited as neveilah (i.e., kosher species of birds) – is it possible that they are prohibited to boil in milk? The Torah teaches ,”in its mother’s milk”, excluding fowl which have no mother’s milk…. (Mechilta deRabbi Yishmael, Mishpatim, Massekhta dekaspa, Parasha 20)
The opinions of Rabbi Akiba and Rabbi Yose HaGalili, and possibly the opinion of Rabbi Yoshaya (brought anonymously), are represented in chapter 8 of Mishnah Hullin and discussed in the Talmud there. Mishnah Hullin 8:1 states: “All meat is forbidden to boil in milk except for the flesh of fish and locusts (there are some kosher varieties), and it is forbidden to serve on the same table with cheese, except for the flesh of fish and locusts.”
The Babylonian Talmud (Hullin 103b) suggests that this formulation of the anonymous teaching of this mishnah may reflect the view that fowl is forbidden by the Torah (apparently, as Rabbi Yoshaya would derive the prohibition from one of the three repititions of the prohibition in the Torah). Indeed, a major authority in the Babylonian Talmud, Rav Yosef (circa 350 C.E.) holds that the final editor of the Mishnah (Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi – d. 200 C.E.) deliberately chose to decide the law according to this opinion, which Rav Yosef identifies as the opinion of “Rabbanan” (the majority of the Sages). A later, thus more authoritative, opinion is expressed by Rav Ashi (circa 430 C.E.), who rejects Rav Yosef’s opinion and interprets this mishnah to be consistent with Rabbi Akiba’s position as stated in Mishnah Hullin 8:4 (B.T. Hullin 113a): “Wild animals and fowl are not prohibited by the Torah, since ‘you shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk’ is stated three times to exclude wild [kosher] animals, fowl, and non-kosher domesticated cattle (e.g. pigs, horses, camels).”
The Talmud’s discussion of the opinions of Rabbi Akiba and Rabbi Yose HaGalili (Hullin 116a) raises two possible interpretations: 1) Rabbi Akiba holds that both fowl and wild [kosher] animals are only forbidden to boil in milk by Rabbinic decree, but Rabbi Yose HaGalili holds that wild [kosher] animals are prohibited to boil in milk by Torah law, while fowl in milk is prohibited by Rabbinic decree; 2) Rabbi Akiba and Rabbi Yose HaGalili also disagree regarding the status of fowl in milk – Rabbi Akiba holds that it is prohibited by Rabbinic decree, but Rabbi Yose HaGalili holds there is no prohibition whatsoever against eating fowl and milk together. Another teaching from the period of the Mishnah is adduced as evidence for the second interpretation: “In the place of Rabbi Yose HaGalili they used to eat fowl in milk.”
Post-Talmudic decisors of Jewish Law decide that the law follows Rabbi Akiba, that fowl in milk is forbidden by Rabbinic decree. Maimonides code of Jewish Law (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Forbidden Foods 9:4) explains the reason for the Rabbinic prohibition most clearly:
… the flesh of wild [kosher] animals and of fowl, whether [boiled in] the milk of a wild [kosher] animal or of domesticated kosher cattle is not forbidden by Torah law, therefore it is permitted to boil it and it is permitted to derive benefit from it, but it is forbidden to eat it by Rabbinic decree, in order that people will not mistakenly come to violate the Torah prohibition of meat and milk by eating the meat of kosher domesticated cattle (=beef, lamb, goat) in the milk of kosher domesticated cattle (=milk of cow, sheep, goat), [mistakenly thinking] that the verse only prohibits [boiling] a kid in its own mother’s milk, literally, therefore they forbade all meat and milk.” (See also Mishneh Torah, Laws of Rebels 2:9.)
To sum it all up: Since people thought of fowl as meat, the Rabbis were concerned that if people were permitted to eat fowl and milk together, they would conclude that other types of meat must also be permitted with milk. They thus decreed that everything which people think of as meat should be prohibited to eat with milk, and decreed that fowl and kosher wild animals, which were not prohibited by Torah law, would henceforth by prohibited by Rabbinic law.
The Jewish Dietary Laws (Kashrut) are largely found in the third book of the Torah, the Book of Leviticus (see chapter 11). However, the separation of milk and meat is not found in Leviticus, but rather in Exodus 23:19, 34:26 and Deuteronomy 14:21.
Based on the three biblical passages cited above, “You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk,” the Sages of Israel, known as Chazal, learned that there are three prohibitions that obtain with regard to milk and meat.The three are that they must not be eaten together, cooked together, nor any benefit derived from their mixture.
Your question regarding chicken and other fowl is a valid one, one that has perplexed many.
Leviticus discusses the permissibility of eating of the animal kingdom.Animals of all types are mentioned, usually those that are impermissible.Large and small land animals, birds and fish.While we are accustomed to believe that meat coming from kosher animals, including birds are to be strictly separated from dairy products, poultry was originally considered much as fish, neutral— In Yiddish—pareve.They were treated as neither meat nor milk.
To bring clarity, avoiding confusion and misunderstandings, poultry was later treated indistinguishably from other meat products.Fish, completely formed eggs and all vegetables were considered pareve, to be eaten with either meat or dairy.
We must remember that our Judaism is not Biblical Judaism, rather it is Rabbinic Judaism—the Torah as taught by the Sages of Israel and the Oral Torah.
We cannot look at things pertaining to Kashrut or any other subject just relying on our own understanding, but we are taught to look into the Rabbinic sources, such as the Talmud and then the codes, such as the Shulkhan Arukh in order to discern our proper observances.
Simply put, if one were to serve up slices of turkey or slices of veal on a platter, or other such meats—it would be hard to distinguish which one is which.In one case, it would be strictly Biblically prohibited with milk and in the other; it would be strictly Rabbinically prohibited.
The Rabbis are very earnest in preventing transgression of the individual and even causing the inadvertent appearance of transgression.
A classic that I like very much comes from England.It is Practical Guide To Kashruth by Rabbi S. Wagschal.
Rabbi Levy gave an excellent overview of the legal tradition behind the banning of chicken and dairy. In addition, there is another perspective from which we can answer this question.
In a wonderful article entitled, "Locusts, Giraffes, and the Meaning of Kashrut" Meir Soloveichik argues pursuasively that people often go wrong when the look for the meaning behind the laws of kashrut. In essence, he says that the individual laws don't contain any meaning or rationale. But, taken together, they form a distinctively Jewish way of eating, and that is the value of the dietary system. We could just as easily eat only land animals which don't have cloven hoofs and chew their cud; so long as we're all agreeing to eat in a similar way (or, so long as God commanded us to eat that way), then we're doing the right thing. [Solevichik certainly wasn't the first to argue this, but he does so very well!]
My favorite metaphor is that it's a bit like wearing the colors of your favorite sports team. It's not the colors themselves which matter, it's the symbol of team affiliation - e.g. "all fans of this team wear red" - that really matters.
So, while the "where did this law come from" version of this answer is very interesting, on some level, to me, it misses the point. I don't eat dairy with chicken because that's part of "Jewish eating." Even if I believe, as I do, that it was somewhat unecessary to include that restriction in the larger law (especially since some Talmudic Rabbis didn't agree with it, as Rabbi Levy pointed out), I have to admit that Chicken Parmesian just isn't kosher. That seems to be one of the few things that most Jews can agree on! So, my decision to not eat it isn't so much about the Talmudic arguments, as it is about deciding to eat Jewishly.
Answered by: Rabbi Jason Rosenberg (Emeritus)
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