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Milk and meat in Jewish law
Halakhic sources*
Texts in Jewish law relating to this article:
Bible: Exodus 23:19
Exodus 34:26
Deuteronomy 14:21
Babylonian Talmud: Hullin 113b, 115b
* Not meant as a definitive ruling. Some observances may be rabbinical, customs or Torah based.

Mixtures of milk and meat (Hebrew: בשר בחלב‎, basar bechalav, literally "meat in milk") are prohibited according to Jewish law. This dietary law, central to kashrut, is based on a verse in the Book of Exodus which forbids "boiling a kid (goat) in its mother's milk"[1][2]. The prohibition appears again in Deuteronomy[3].

According to the Talmud, these almost identical references are the basis for three distinct dietary laws:[4]

  • the prohibition against cooking a mixture of milk and meat
  • the prohibition against eating a cooked mixture of milk and meat
  • the prohibition against deriving any benefit from a cooked mixture of milk and meat.


Explanation of biblical law

The rabbis of the Talmud gave no reason for the prohibition,[5][6] but later authorities, such as Maimonides, opined that the law was connected to a prohibition of Idolatry in Judaism[7]. Obadiah Sforno and Solomon Luntschitz, rabbinic commentators living in the late middle ages, both suggested that the law referred to a specific foreign religious practice, in which young goats were cooked in their own mothers' milk, aiming to obtain supernatural assistance to increase the yield of their flocks[8][9]. More recently, a theogonous text, named the birth of the gracious gods, found during the rediscovery of Ugarit, clarified that a levantine ritual to ensure agricultural fertility involved the cooking of a young goat in its mother's milk, followed by the mixture being sprinkled upon the fields[10][11]

The biblical suppression of these practices was seen by some rabbinic commentators as having an ethical aspect. Sforno argued that using the milk of an animal to cook its offspring was inhumane, based on a principle similar to that of Shiluach haken, the injunction against gathering eggs from a nest while the mother bird watches.[9][12][13] Chaim ibn Attar compared the practice of cooking of animals in their mother's milk to the barbaric slaying of nursing infants.[14]

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The term "g'di"

Since the Book of Genesis refers to young goats by the Hebrew phrase g'di izim[15], but the prohibition against boiling a kid... only uses the term g'di (גדי), Rashi, one of the most prominent talmudic commentators, argued that the term g'di must actually have a more general meaning, including calves and lambs, in addition to young goats[16]. Rashi also argued that the meaning of g'di is still narrow enough to exclude birds, all the undomesticated kosher animals (for example, chevrotains and antelope), and all of the non-kosher animals[17]. The Talmudic writers had a similar analysis[18], but believed that since domesticated kosher animals (sheep, goats, and cattle) have similar meat to birds and to the non-domestic kosher land-animals, they should prohibit these latter meats too[19], creating a general prohibition against mixing milk & meat from any kosher animal, excepting fish[20].

The term 'non-kosher' itself means that something isn't allowed as food, meaning that the non-kosher animals (eg. pigs, camels, and turtles) were already generally prohibited, and that questions about the status of mixtures involving their meat and milk would be somewhat academic. Nevertheless the lack of a classical decision about milk & meat of non-kosher animals gave rise to argument in the late Middle Ages; some, such as Yoel Sirkis and Joshua Falk, argued that mixing milk & meat from non-kosher animals should be prohibited[21][22], but others, like Shabbatai ben Meir and David HaLevi Segal, argued that, excluding the general ban on non-kosher animals, such mixtures should not be prohibited[23][24].

The term "halev imo"

Rashi expressed the opinion that the reference to mother's milk must exclude fowl from the regulation, since only mammals produce milk[25]. According to Shabbethai Bass, Rashi was expressing the opinion that the reference to a mother was only present to ensure that birds were clearly excluded from the prohibition[26]; Bass argued that Rashi regarded the ban on boiling meat in its mother's milk to really be a more general ban on boiling meat in milk, regardless of the relationship between the source of the meat and that of the milk[26].

Substances derived from milk, such as cheese and whey, have traditionally been considered to fall under the prohibition[27][28], but milk substitutes, created from non-dairy sources, do not. However, the classical rabbis were worried that Jews using artificial milk might be misinterpreted, so they insisted that the milk be clearly marked to indicate its source. In the classical era, the main form of artificial milk was amygdalate, so the classical rabbis imposed the rule that almonds must be placed around such milk; in the Middle Ages, there was some debate about whether this had to be done during cooking as well as eating[29], or whether it was sufficient to merely do this during the meal[30].

The term "bishul"

Although the biblical regulation literally only mentions boiling (Hebrew:bishul, בישול), there were questions raised in the late Middle Ages about whether this should instead be translated as cooking, and hence be interpreted as a reference to activities like broiling, baking, roasting, and frying. Lenient figures like Jacob of Lissa and Chaim ibn Attar argued that such a prohibition would only be a rabbinic addition, and not the biblical intent[31][32], but others like Abraham Danzig and Hezekiah da Silva argued that the biblical term itself had this wider meaning[33][34].

Three distinct laws

Also, Jewish Kosher food can be called Parev food.

The Talmudic rabbis believed that that the biblical text only forbade eating a mixture of milk and meat[35], but because the biblical regulation is triplicated they imposed three distinct regulations to represent it:

  • not cooking meat and milk together (regardless of whether the result was eaten)[20]
  • not eating milk and meat together (regardless of whether it was cooked together)[20]
  • not benefitting from the mixture in any other way[20].

Jacob ben Asher, an influential medieval rabbi, remarked that the gematria of do not boil a kid (Hebrew:lo t'vasheil g'di, לא תבשל גדי) is identical to that of it is the prohibition of eating, cooking and deriving benefit (Hebrew: he issur achilah u'bishul v'hana'ah, היא איסור אכילה ובישול והנאה), a detail that he regarded to be highly significant[36]. Though deriving benefit is a superficially vague term, it was later clarified by writers in the middle-ages to include:

  • Serving mixtures of milk and meat in a restaurant, even if the clientele are non-Jewish, and the restaurant isn't intended to comply with kashrut
  • Feeding a pet with food containing mixtures of milk and meat[37]
  • Obtaining a refund for an accidental purchase of mixtures of milk and meat, as a refund would constitute a form of sale[38]

It was only milk and meat cooked together which the classical rabbis considered to be biblically forbidden from being eaten, but Jewish writers in the Middle Ages also forbade the consumption of anything merely containing the mixed tastes of milk and meat[39]; this forbade, for example, meat which had been soaked in milk for an extended period of time[40]. The prohibition against deriving benefit, on the other hand, was seen as being more nuanced, with several writers of the late Middle Ages, such as Moses Isserles[41] and David Segal[42], arguing that this restriction only applied to the milk and meat of g'di, not to the much wider range of milks and meats prohibited by the rabbis; other prominent medieval rabbis, like Solomon Luria, disagreed, believing that the prohibition of deriving benefit referred to mixtures of all meats and milks[43].

Stringencies and leniencies

The classical rabbis interpreted the biblical phrase heed my ordinance (Hebrew:ushmartem et mishmarti), which appears in the holiness code[44], to mean that they should (metaphorically) create a protective fence around the biblical laws[45], an attitude particularly expressed by The Ethics of the Fathers[46] (a Mishnaic tractate discussing the ethics surrounding adherence to biblical rules). Nevertheless, the rabbis of the classical and Middle Ages also introduced a number of leniencies. Another prohibition on mixtures in Jewish law is Kil'ayim [6].

Classification of foods

To prevent the consumption of forbidden mixtures, foods are divided into three categories [47].

  • "meat" (Yiddish: fleischig, פֿליישיק; Hebrew: basari‎, בשרי)
  • "dairy" (Yiddish: milchig, מילכיק; Hebrew: halavi, חלבי)
  • "parve" (or pareve; from the Yiddish word parev (פאַרעוו), meaning neutral)

Food in the parve category includes fish, fruit, vegetables, salt, non-organic foods, etc.; among the Karaites, Ethiopian Jews, and some Persian Jews it also includes poultry, but other Jewish groups consider poultry to count as "meat." However, classical Jewish authorities argue that foods would lose their parve status if they are treated in such a way that they absorb the taste of milk or meat during cooking[48], soaking[49][50][51], or salting[52].

Minuscule quantities

The classical rabbis expressed the opinion that each of the food rules could be waived, if the portion of food violating the regulations was less than a certain size, known as a shiur (Hebrew: size, שיעור), unless it was still possible to taste or smell it[53][54]; for the milk and meat regulations, this minimal size was a ke'zayit (כזית), literally meaning anything "similar to an olive" in size[53][54][55]. However, some Orthodox Jews argue that the shiur is merely the minimum amount that would lead to formal punishment in the classical era, and insist that even half a shiur is prohibited by the Torah (Hebrew: Hatzi shiur assur min haTorah, חצי שיעור אסור מן התורה).

Many rabbis followed the premise that taste is principle (Hebrew: ta'am k'ikar, טעם כעיקר): in the event of an accidental mixing of milk and meat, the food could be eaten if there was no detectable change in taste.[53][54] Others argued that forbidden ingredients could constitute up to half of the mixture before being disallowed.[56][57] Today the rabbis apply the principle of batel b'shishim (nullified in sixty; that is, permissible so long as forbidden ingredients constitute no more than 1/60 of the whole) (Hebrew: batel b'shishim[58]; this principle is known as )[59].

Due to the premise that taste is principle, parve (i.e. neutral) foods are considered to take on the same meat/dairy produce classification as anything they are cooked with.[60]

Dishes and cooking utensils

Since some cooking vessels and utensils (such as ceramic dishes and wooden spoons) are porous, it is possible for them to become infused with the taste of certain foods and transfer this taste to other foods. For example, if a frying pan is used to fry bacon (which itself is not kosher), and is then used a few hours later to fry an omelette with cheese, a slight taste of the bacon might linger.

Samuel ben Meir, brother of Jacob ben Meir, argued that infused tastes could endure in a cooking vessel or utensil for up to 24 hours[61]; his suggestion lead to the principle, known as ben Yomo (Hebrew: son of the day, בן יומו), that vessels and utensils shouldn't be used to cook milk within 24 hours of being used to cook meat (and vice versa)[62]. Although, after 24 hours, some residual flavour may still reside in porous cooking vessels and utensils, some rabbis hold the opinion that such residue would have become stale and fetid, hence only being able to infuse taste for the worse (Hebrew: nosen taam lifgam, נותן טעם לפגם), which they do not regard as violation of the ban against mixing the tastes of milk & meat[63].

Since parve food is reclassified if it takes on the flavour of meat or dairy produce, Ashkenazi Jews traditionally forbid eating any parve contents of pot that has also been used within 24 hours to cook meat, if the parve contents would be eaten with dairy produce; eating parve foods with meat is similarly forbade, by their tradition, if the vessel used to cook the parve food had been used to cook dairy produce within the previous 24 hours. According to Joseph Caro, the Sephardic tradition was more lenient about such things[64], but Moses Isserles argued that such leniency was unreliable[65]

In light of these issues, Orthodox Jews take the precaution of maintaining two distinct sets of crockery and cutlery; one set (known in Yiddish as milchig and in Hebrew as halavi) is for food containing dairy produce, while the other (known in Yiddish as fleishig/fleishedik and in Hebrew as basari) is for food containing meat.

Physical proximity

Prominent rabbis of the Middle Ages insisted that milk should not be placed on a table at which people are eating meat, to avoid accidentally consuming milk while eating meat, and vice versa[66][67]. Tzvi Hirsch Spira, an early 20th century rabbi and anti-zionist commentator, argued that when this rule was created, the tables commonly in use were only large enough for one individual[68]; Spira concludes that the rule wouldn't apply if the table being used was large, and the milk was out of reach of the person eating meat (and vice versa)[69].

The rabbis of the Middle Ages discussed the issue of people eating milk and meat at the same table. Jacob ben Asher suggested that each individual should eat from different tablecloths[70], while Moses Isserles argued that a large and obviously unusual item should be placed between the individuals, as a reminder to avoid sharing the foods[71]. Later rabbinic writers pointed out exceptions to the rule. Chaim ibn Attar, an 18th century kabbalist, ruled that sitting at the same table as a non-Jew eating non-kosher food was permissible[72]; Yechiel Michel Epstein, a 19th century rabbi, argued that the risk was sufficiently reduced if individuals sat far enough apart that the only way to share food was to leave the table[73].

Problem of sequential foods

Rashi stated that meat leaves a fatty residue in the throat and on the palate[74] and Maimonides noted that meat stuck between the teeth might not degrade for several hours[75] Jonathan Eybeschutz pointed out that meat and dairy produce mix during digestion[76], and Feivel Cohen maintained that hard cheese leaves a lingering taste in the mouth[77]. Generally, rabbinic literature considers the collective impact of each of these issues.[78][79][80][81][82]

Eating dairy after meat

The Talmud reports that Mar Ukva, a respected rabbi, would not eat dairy after eating meat at the same meal, and had a father who would wait an entire day after eating meat before eating dairy produce[27]. Jacob ben Meir speculated that Mar Ukva's behaviour was merely a personal choice, rather than an example he expected others to follow, but prominent rabbis of the Middle Ages argued that Mar Ukva's practice must be treated as a minimum standard of behaviour.

Maimonides argued that time was required between meat and dairy produce because meat can become stuck in the teeth, a problem he suggested would last for about six hours after eating it[83]; this interpretation was shared by Solomon ben Aderet[84], a prominent pupil of his, and Asher ben Jehiel[85], who gained entry to the rabbinate by Solomon ben Aderet's approval, as well as by the later Shulchan Aruch[86]. By contrast, tosafists argued that the key detail was just the avoidance of dairy produce appearing at the same meal as meat, and therefore it would be sufficient to just wait until a new meal, which to them simply meant clearing the table, reciting a particular blessing, and cleaning their mouths[87]; some later rabbinic writers, like Moses Isserles[88], and significant texts, like the Zohar (as noted by Vilna Gaon[89] and Daniel Josiah Pinto[90]), argued that a meal still wouldn't qualify as new unless at least an hour had passed since the previous meal.

Since most Orthodox Sephardi Jews regard the Shulchan Aruch as authoritative, they regard its suggestion of waiting for six hours to be mandatory, but Ashkenazi Jews have various customs; Orthodox Jews of European ancestry usually wait for six hours[91], although those of German ancestry traditionally wait for only three hours[92], and those of Dutch ancestry have a tradition of waiting only for the one hour. The medieval tosafists stated that the practice does not apply to infants[93], but 18th and 19th century rabbis, such as Abraham Danzig and Yechiel Michel Epstein, criticised those who followed lenient practices that were not traditional in their region[94][95]. In the 20th century, many rabbis were in favor of leniency. Moses Stern ruled that all young children were excluded from these strictures[96], Obadiah Joseph made an exception for the ill[97], and Joseph Chaim Sonnenfeld exempted nursing women[98].

Eating meat after dairy

It has traditionally been considered less problematic to eat dairy produce before meat, on the assumption that dairy products would leave neither fatty residue in the throat, nor fragments between the teeth. Many 20th century Orthodox rabbis say that washing the mouth out between eating dairy and meat is sufficient. Some argue that there should also be recitation of a closing blessing before the meat is eaten[99][100], and others viewing this as unnecessary[101]. Ashkenazi Jews following kabbalistic traditions, based on the Zohar, additionally ensure that about half an hour passes after consuming dairy produce before eating meat[102]

Some rabbis of the Middle Ages argued that after eating solid dairy products such as cheese, the hands should be washed. Shabbatai ben Meir even argues that this would be necessary if utensils such as forks had been used, and the cheese had never been touched by the hands[103]. Other rabbis of that time, like Joseph Caro, thought that if it was possible to visually verify that hands were clean, then they need not be washed[104]; Tzvi Hirsch Spira argued that washing the hands should also be practiced for milk[105]

Jacob ben Asher thought that washing the mouth wasn't sufficient to remove all residue of cheese, and suggested that eating some additional solid food would be required to clean the mouth[106]. Hard and aged cheese has long been rabbinically considered to need extra precaution[107], on the basis that it might have a much stronger and longer lasting taste[108]; the risk of it leaving a fattier residue has more recently been raised as a concern[109]. According to these rabbinic opinions, the same precautions (including a pause of up to six hours) would apply to eating hard cheese before meat as would apply to eating meat in a meal when the meat is eaten first. Judah ben Simeon, a 17th century doctor in Frankfurt, argued that hard cheese would not be problematic if it was melted.[110] Binyomin Forst argues that leniency is in order only for cooked cheese dishes and not dishes topped with cheese. [111]

Microwave cooking

Though radiative cooking of meat with dairy produce is not listed by the classical rabbis as being among the biblically prohibited forms of cooking such mixtures, a controversy remains about using a microwave oven to cook these mixtures. Moses Feinstein argues that microwave cooking is a form of cooking that would count as melacha during a Sabbath,[112] but Solomon Auerbach disagrees.[113]


  1. ^ Exodus 34:26
  2. ^ Exodus 23:19
  3. ^ Deuteronomy 14:21
  4. ^ Hullin 113b, 115b
  5. ^ Pesahim 44b
  6. ^ a b Hullin 108a
  7. ^ Maimonides, Moreh, 3:48
  8. ^ Solomon Ephraim Luntschitz, Keli Yakar, to Exodus 23:19
  9. ^ a b Obadiah ben Jacob Sforno, commentary, to Deuteronomy 14:21
  10. ^ Peake's commentary on the Bible
  11. ^ Wycliffe Bible Commentary
  12. ^ Leviticus 22:28
  13. ^ Deuteronomy 22:6
  14. ^ Chaim ibn Attar, commentary to Exodus 23:19
  15. ^ Genesis 38:17-20
  16. ^ Rashi, commentary, to Exodus 23:19
  17. ^ Rashi, commentary, to Deuteronomy 14:21
  18. ^ Hullin 8:7
  19. ^ Hullin 113a
  20. ^ a b c d Hullin 115b
  21. ^ Yoel Sirkis, New House
  22. ^ Joshua Falk, Derishah 87
  23. ^ Shabbatai ben Meir, Lips of the Priest 3
  24. ^ David HaLevi Segal, Rows of Gold 2
  25. ^ Rashi, commentary to Exodus 34:26
  26. ^ a b Shabbethai Bass, Sifsei Chachamim to Rashi, commentary to Exodus 34:26
  27. ^ a b Hullin 105a
  28. ^ Jacob ben Asher, Yoreh De'ah 87:8
  29. ^ Moses Isserles, Sifsei De'ah 7
  30. ^ Shabbatai ben Meir, Lips of the Priest 7
  31. ^ Jacob of Lissa, Havaat Da'at 1
  32. ^ Chaim ibn Attar, Beautiful Fruit 3
  33. ^ Hezekiah da Silva, Peri Hadash 87:2
  34. ^ Abraham Danzig, Wisdom of Man 40:1
  35. ^ Hullin 115b
  36. ^ Jacob ben Asher, commentary on Deuteronomy 14:2
  37. ^ Abraham Danzig, Wisdom of Man 40:62
  38. ^ Jacob ben Asher, Hoshen Mishpat 234:4
  39. ^ Jacob ben Asher, Yoreh De'ah 87:1
  40. ^ Hezekiah da Silva, Peri Hadash 87:2
  41. ^ Rema 87:1
  42. ^ Taz, Yoreh De'ah 87:1
  43. '^ cf. Dagul Mervava 87:1 re Rambams opinion
  44. ^ Leviticus 18:30
  45. ^ Yebamot 21a
  46. ^ The Ethics of the Fathers 1:1
  47. ^ see for example, Aharon Pfeuffer Kitzur Halachot Basar B'Chalav
  48. ^ Jacob ben Asher, Yoreh De'ah 105:2
  49. ^ Hullin 97b
  50. ^ Hullin 111b
  51. ^ Pesahim 76a
  52. ^ Joseph Caro, Shulhan Arukh 91:5
  53. ^ a b c Yoma 73b
  54. ^ a b c Yoma 80a
  55. ^ Joseph Babad, Minchat Chinuch 92
  56. ^ Shabbatai ben Meir, Lips of the priest 109:6
  57. ^ Abraham Danzig, Wisdom of Man 51:4
  58. ^ Abraham Cohen Pimentel, Minhat Kohen 2:1:2-6, giving an overview of the various opinions of Rashi, Maimonides, and Nissim of Gerona
  59. ^ Binyomin Forst, The Laws of Kashrus, Mesorah Publications, Ltd. 2000, page 53
  60. ^ Jacob Sofer Kaf haChaim 89:52-53
  61. ^ Samuel ben Meir, as cited in Arba'ah Turim 103
  62. ^ Abraham Danzig, Wisdom of Man 46:1
  63. ^ Binyomin Forst, The Laws of Kashrus Mesorah Publications, Ltd. 2000, page 86
  64. ^ Joseph Caro, Shulhan Arukh
  65. ^ Moses Isserles, The Tablecloth 95:2
  66. ^ Jacob ben Asher, Yoreh De'ah 88:1
  67. ^ Shabbatai ben Meir, Lips of the priest
  68. ^ Tzvi Hirsch Spira, Darhei Teshuva 7, quoting Chaim Benveniste's Kenesset HaGedolah
  69. ^ Tzvi Hirsch Spira, Darhei Teshuva 7
  70. ^ Jacob ben Asher, Yoreh De'ah 88:2
  71. ^ Moses Isserles, The Tablecloth 88:2
  72. ^ Chaim ibn Attar, Beautiful Fruit 1
  73. ^ Yechiel Michel Epstein, Laying the table 88:8
  74. ^ Rashi, commentary to Hullin 105a
  75. ^ Maimonides, Mishneh Torah 9:28
  76. ^ Jonathan Eybeschutz, Kereti u-Peleti 89:3, to Abraham Gombiner, Magen Abraham, to Joseph Caro, Arba'ah Turim, Orah Hayim 184:9
  77. ^ Feivel Cohen, Badei haShulchan, v'chein nohagim:79
  78. ^ Jacob ben Asher, Yoreh De'ah 89:1
  79. ^ Moses Isserles, Darhei Moses, to Jacob ben Asher, Yoreh De'ah 89:1
  80. ^ Shabbatai ben Meir, Lips of the Priest 3-4, to Jacob ben Asher, Yoreh De'ah 89:1
  81. ^ Joseph ben Meir Teomim, Mishbetzot Zahab 1
  82. ^ Moses Feinstein, Epistles of Moses, Yoreh De'ah:2:26
  83. ^ Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Ma'achalot Assurot:9:28.
  84. ^ Solomon ben Aderet, commentary to Hullin 8:5
  85. ^ Asher ben Jehiel, commentary to Hullin 8:5
  86. ^ Jacob ben Asher, Shulchan Aruch
  87. ^ Hullin (Tosafot) 105a
  88. ^ Moses Isserles, The Tablecloth 89:1
  89. ^ Vilna Gaon, Bi'ur haGra
  90. ^ Daniel Josiah Pinto, Lehem Hamudot to Hullin 8:23
  91. ^ Yechiel Michel Epstein, Laying the table 89:7
  92. ^ Anonymous (but often incorrectly attributed to Jonah of Gerona), Issur V'Heter 39
  93. ^ Shabbat (Tosafot) 121a, commentary of Tosafot
  94. ^ Abraham Danzig, Wisdom of Man 40:13
  95. ^ Yechiel Michel Epstein, Laying the table 89:7
  96. ^ Moses Stern, Pischei Halachah, Kashrut
  97. ^ Obadiah Joseph, Yechaveh Da'at 3:58
  98. ^ Joseph Chaim Sonnenfeld, Salmas Chaim 286 (2:4)
  99. ^ Solomon Mordechai Schwadron, Maharsham 3:126
  100. ^ Tzvi Hirsch Spira, Darhei Teshuva 89:14
  101. ^ Abraham Gombiner, Magen Abraham 494:6
  102. ^ (school of) Meir of Rothenburg, Hagahot Maimoni to Maimonides, Mishneh Torah Ma'akhalot Assurot:9:28
  103. ^ Shabbatai ben Meir, Lips of the priest 20
  104. ^ Joseph Caro, Shulhan Arukh 89:2
  105. ^ Tzvi Hirsch Spira, Darhei Teshuva 89:31, citing Samuel Strashun's comments to Hullin 103:2
  106. ^ Jacob ben Asher, Yoreh De'ah 89:2
  107. ^ Moses Isserles, The Tablecloth 89:2
  108. ^ David HaLevi Segal, Rows of Gold 89:4
  109. ^ Yechiel Michel Epstein, laying the table 89:11
  110. ^ Judah ben Simeon, Yad Yehudah 89:30k
  111. ^ Binyomin Forst, Pischei Halacha: The Laws of Kashrus
  112. ^ Moses Feinstein, Epistles of Moses, Orah Hayim:3:52
  113. ^ Minhas Solomon, Orah Hayim:3:52, footnote 4

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