Chicken and Milk on the Table

Chulin (8:4) | Yisrael Bankier | 11 years ago

With the beginning of the eighth perek we start learning about the prohibitions of basar b’chalav – cooking and eating and gaining benefit from meat and milk cooked together. In the first Mishnah we learn about the scope of this prohibition as it begins defining the term “meat”. Later (8:4), as this definition becomes more distinct, we learn that chicken is not included in the biblical prohibition of basar b’chalav. Nonetheless as people do refer to chicken as meat, the Chachamim understandably included chicken as part of the prohibition on a rabbinic level.

With this knowledge in hand, the Gemara has a difficulty with the continuation of the first Mishnah. The Mishnah states that just as it is prohibited to cook meat and milk together, so is it also prohibited for meat and milk to be on the same table. This prohibition is a gezeirah (rabbinic decree) out of concern that one will eat milk and meat together. Yet we learn that it also applies to having chicken and milk on the same table; the prohibition of eating the two together itself is a gezeirah. Consequently the Gemara asks that extending the gezeirah that far, appears to be creating a gezeirah l’gezeirah (a decree to safeguard another decree) something which the Chachamim avoid.

The response (Chulin 104b) appears to be that in this case the Chachamim did not enact an extra gezeirah. They decreed once that chicken and milk should not be “raised” on the table in case meat and milk be “raised” together and placed in the cooking pot.

To fully understand this issue, perhaps it is best to ask a more basic question. Why is it prohibited to have meat and milk on the same table? If the concern is that meat and milk will be eaten together, the biblical prohibition of eating meat and milk is only if they have been cooked together. Eating them, not having been cooked together, is a gezeirah. We can therefore ask a similar question by meat itself and milk – is this not a gezeirah l’gezeirah?

Rashi explains that by meat and cheese we are concerned that they will touch each other while on the same table and be eaten having absorbed one from the other. The Maharam Shif explains that the Rashi is concerned that having eaten in this manner he will place them together in one utensil, and if placed then together in a boiling pot he will transgress the biblical prohibition of bishul. Accordingly we once again have one gezeirah.

The Ran (32b dapei HaRif) however explains that this decree against placing meat and milk on the same table is out of concern that we will eat them together. The Chachamim were even stricter by this prohibition as milk and meat are both independently permissible. Similarly he explains that concerning chicken and milk, had the Chachamim permitted them being on the same table, the prohibition against eating them together would never have stood.

How do we understand the Ran in the case of placing chicken and cheese on the same table? Is it not still a gezeirah l’gezeirah? The Melechet Shlomo quoting the Lavush explains that since people put food on the dinner table for the express purpose of eating them, it is as if this prohibition is part of prohibition against eating them together.

The Radvaz (M”A ) explains that the Chachamim strengthened their words to treat them like their biblical equivalent. The reason being that since all that is specifically mentioned is a “goat” as opposed to all meat, without such strengthening, very soon one would violate a biblical prohibition.

Alternatively we can utilise the explanation of the Tosfot. They explain that sometimes we find that indeed the Chachamim do institute decrees to safeguard existing decrees. Each rabbinic enactment is unique and we cannot compare one with another unless the Gemara itself does so. Here, for the above stated reasons, the Chachamim felt it necessary.12

Using this we can once again return and explain the concern by meat and milk. We asked that if the concern is that they be eaten together, if they were not cooked together it would be a gezeirah l’gezeirah. Indeed the Shulchan Aruch states that the concern is that they will be eaten together. The Taz therefore explains that this too is an instance where the Chachamim decided to institute a gezeirah for an existing gezeirah.


12: To see an explanation about how these understandings fit in with the above quoted Gemara see the Lechem Mishneh (M”A 9:20).

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