Why does Judaism prohibit mixing milk and meat…ask the rabbi

March 25, 2019 by Rabbi Raymond Apple
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Rabbi Raymond Apple answers question on Judaism….

Rabbi Raymond Apple


Q. What is a “Bobbemayseh”?

A. It has nothing to do with grandmothers or old wives’ tales.

In the 16th century, Yiddish translations were made of much of European literature, including an Italian book about the adventures of a prince or knight called “Buovo d’Antona”.

The result was the “Buovo-” or “Bovo-buch”, a compilation of charming romantic tales about Buovo and his lady Druziana, with an admixture of Jewish elements.

The translator, Elya Bocher, was originally a wandering Yiddish troubador but became well known in the more serious fields of Jewish scholarship as Elijah Levitas.

His fame as a scholar was so widespread that he was invited to teach Hebrew at the University of Paris but he turned down the offer, probably out of Jewish loyalty, since France had expelled its Jews in the 14th century.


Q. Why does Judaism prohibit mixing milk and meat?

A. Many aspects of the Torah are in direct contrast to the customs of the neighbouring cultures.

In the case of milk and meat, there is a blunt contrast with the Ras Shamra rules. The 14th century BCE Ras Shamra texts, recovered in the late 1930s by French researchers from the remains of a Phoenician colony on the Syrian coast, say, “Seethe a kid in milk”.

The Jewish rule is the exact opposite: see Exodus 23:19 and 34:26, and Deut. 14:21.

This is not to say that defying the ways of other ancient peoples – and emphasising the distinctiveness of the Jewish way of life – is the only or the best explanation for our no-meat-and-milk regimen.

Some say that it shows the medical knowledge of the Torah, since eating milk and meat together was a cause of disease.

Most Jewish scholars however attach an ethical and philosophical value to the rule, suggesting that it was ethically repugnant to boil a kid in its mother’s milk and ideologically the self-discipline involved in the rule emphasises the separate identity of each element of the Creation.

Those who want to defy halachah deliberately flout the dietary laws (someone once said to me, “Already a hundred years ago in Germany my family were eating pork!”) – but those who take pride in their Jewishness consciously chose to maintain the observance of kashrut.


Q. Why is it an egg that represents the festival offering on the Seder plate?

A. Though the egg is mentioned in the Talmud (Pes. 114b), a piece of meat could also have recalled the festival offering. Why then an egg? Some link the egg with the Pesach theme of redemption:

• The egg hardens with cooking; the Jewish people never give in to persecution of adversity but end up being stronger.

• The egg has no opening; God closes the mouths of those who deny the redemption.

• The egg is a sign of new life; Pesach began the history of Israel as a people and the messianic redemption will begin the historic fulfilment of our destiny.

• In Aramaic an egg is “be’ah”, which is linked with a root meaning “desire”; the Almighty desires to redeem us if only we are worthy.


Rabbi Raymond Apple served for 32 years as the chief minister of the Great Synagogue, Sydney, Australia’s oldest and most prestigious congregation. He is now retired and lives in Jerusalem where he answers interesting questions.


2 Responses to “Why does Judaism prohibit mixing milk and meat…ask the rabbi”
  1. Adrian Jackson says:

    You might eat them separately but they will mix in the stomach.

  2. Liat Kirby says:

    Every time I see the ‘no milk and meat together’ instruction discussed, I reach out and seek a response to the question: How did the many Jewish laws associated with the Torah referring to ‘not boiling a kid in its mother’s milk’ come about? – the range of law is manifold , from not eating the two products together, to having separate dishes/cutlery and kitchen sinks assigned, and even waiting five hours for proper digestion to take place before consuming one or the other.

    The phrase, ‘A kid in its mother’s milk’, is, of course, a metaphor in reality and as such gives a lot of room to move insofar as analysis is concerned. Thinking on this for relevance to holy text is important. And it is not irreverent to think on it and perhaps find the laws, without good explanation, wanting. I would much appreciate further discussion on this.

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