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H4. Boiling a Kid1 in Its Mother's Milk, and Acts of Similar Heathen Cruelty [Make a Comment]
We are not to boil a young animal in its mother's milk, nor do anything of similar cruelty to any of God's creatures.
This precept is derived from His Word (blessed is He):
Avraham ran to the herd, took a good, tender calf and gave it to the servant, who hurried to prepare it. Then he took curds, milk and the calf which he had prepared, and set it all before the men; and he stood by them under the tree as they ate.
(Maimonides RN186; Meir MN91; Chinuch C92)
Three times a year all your men are to appear before the Lord, ADONAI. You are not to offer the blood of my sacrifice with leavened bread, nor is the fat of my festival to remain all night until morning. You are to bring the best firstfruits of your land into the house of ADONAI your God. "You are not to boil a young animal in its mother's milk."
(Maimonides RN187; Meir MN92; Chinuch C113)
Three times a year all your men are to appear before the Lord, ADONAI, the God of Isra'el. For I am going to expel nations ahead of you and expand your territory, and no one will even covet your land when you go up to appear before ADONAI your God three times a year. You are not to offer the blood of my sacrifice with leavened bread, and the sacrifice of the feast of Pesach is not to be left until morning. You are to bring the best firstfruits of your land into the house of ADONAI your God. You are not to boil a young goat in its mother's milk.
You are not to eat any animal that dies naturally; although you may let a stranger staying with you eat it, or sell it to a foreigner; because you are a holy people for ADONAI your God. You are not to boil a young animal in its mother's milk.
1. The term "kid" is representative of young animals generally - not just goats.
The commandment "You are not to boil a young animal in its mother's milk." forms the basis for a number of halachic rules that include not mixing milk with meat, not eating foods that contain both milk and meat, and abstaining from eating milk and meat at the same meal or within a short time of each other. This illustrates the rabbinical principle of "building a fence around the Law" in which rules are promulgated that are more stringent than those of the Torah, ostensibly to keep one from violating it.
The problem with this particular fence is (1) no one accidently cooks a young animal in its own mother's milk, and (2) keeping the rules of kashrut regarding milk and meat have so overtaken the attention of Orthodox Judaism, that the underlying moral message in the Scripture has been all but lost. What is that moral message? It most probably is "Don't do cruel things to God's creatures as the heathen do."
I say "most probably" because we have no absolute proof that boiling young animals in their mother's milk was a heathen practice. Nevertheless, it was certainly not a Jewish practice, so whose practice would it otherwise be? We know that heathens sacrificed children to their gods by fire (Leviticus 18:21), and how very similar it is to kill a mother's child (albeit an animal mother, and assuming her live child) by boiling it in her own milk - milk of her body that was meant to nurture it, not kill it. It is as though the mother herself had killed her child!
I believe the commandment "You are not to boil a young animal in its mother's milk" is an idiom that was very well understood in Moses' day as meaning: "Don't do cruel things to God's creatures as the heathen do." The reason I believe it is an idiom meant to be interpreted broadly, is because it appears three times in Scripture, and all three times it is appended (almost as an afterthought that doesn't quite fit) to commandments associated with our treatment of animals. In Exodus 23:17-19 and Exodus 34:23-26, the commandment follows instructions involving blood sacrifices, and in Deuteronomy 14:21, it follows an extensive exposition regarding our use of living creatures for food. It is also meaningful that Abraham saw no problem in serving his guests a meal prepared with milk and meat (Genesis 18:7-8), and his guests, who were (at the very least) God's emissaries, ate it.
What does this mean for Messianic Jewish practice? First, and quite obviously, we must not boil a young animal in its mother's milk. Second and most important though, we must treat all of God's creatures with humane kindness - especially those that we domestically raise for slaughter. This Mitzvah #H4 stands for that above all.
Whether or to what degree we comply with Orthodox halachah regarding the mixing of milk and meat is entirely a matter of choice and not of commandment, but there are some situations where compliance is appropriate and even needed. One that comes to mind is where we live within, or are part of, a Jewish community that keeps kosher. Another is where hospitality requires it because a guest whom we wish to accommodate keeps some level of kashrut, and will be constrained in what he can eat at our table if we serve meat and dairy at the same meal. Still a third is where (while recognizing our liberty to do otherwise) keeping kosher helps us in maintaining our identity as Jews.
Although the practice of not mixing milk and meat is most commonly associated with Orthodox and Conservative Judaism, this Mitzvah #H4, with its emphasis on morality, is as applicable to Gentiles as it is to Jews. The only thing that does not apply to a Gentiles is keeping halachically kosher as a help in maintaining Jewish identity (since there is none). The reasoning might, however, apply to k'rovei Yisrael Gentiles who find that keeping halachically kosher is helpful in maintaining their K'rov identity.
Maimonides, Meir, and HaChinuch are almost identical in how they express their two mitzvot - the one that prohibits cooking meat in milk, and the other that prohibits eating meat cooked in milk. Their mitzvot do not specify any specific animal or its age. Since the Scriptures they rely on prohibit the cooking (boiling) but not the eating, they need a rationale for their mitzvot that prohibit the eating. The rationale they offer is that eating meat cooked in milk derives an improper benefit from the prohibited cooking. Meir states that we must not benefit from cooking meat in milk if both the meat and the milk come from kosher animals, but if one or the other is from a non-kosher animal, we may benefit (but of course, not eat). He also states that we may cook fish or locusts in milk and eat the resulting product. Maimonides speculates that the reason for the Scriptures prohibiting boiling a kid in its mother's milk has to do with idolatrous practices (Guide to the Perplexed 111:48); HaChinuch disagrees, but offers no alternative.
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