EXODUS 23:19 b: OR The Angry Fish (“What, I’m Parve? and the chicken ain’t?”)
Thou shalt not seethe a kid in its mother’s milk.
EX 23:19b this week’s parsha: one would think that this is the KEYSTONE of Judaism! (Just as one would think by Yeshua’s request to memorialize him in the Seder by the middle matzot and the cup of wine, becomes the entire edifice of Mass daily or weekly! When I learned that that was the source of the Sunday Mass, I marveled at the credulity of the medieval peasants. )
Etz Hayim a standard Chumash on this verse “Many scholars, medieval and modern, follow the suggestion of Maimonides that this law prohibits a pagan rite, although no such rite is known”.
This half verse has been crushed to a subatomic diameter sheet by the crushing weight piled atop it. A Billion dollar industry is involved in keeping separate Meat from Dairy and Parve.
Entire kitchens are obsessively organized to prevent the possible use of a meat utensil with a clean dairy one. And why? The verse CAN be read very specifically. It says “kid” although the word “calf” is also found in the Torah. It could have used that word עגל (egal) if it intended to mean calves. It could have even made a general statement about seething a kid in milk, or even goat or sheep milk, but it specifically said HIS or its mother’s milk. Its particular mother!
So one can follow the Written law by not partaking of some fertility rite of kid cooked in its mother’s milk, OR one can erect an entire religion over it. I know too many Jewish people who have elevated this half verse into the be all and end all of their Judaism! Pious rules about how long before eating chicken may one have yogurt? And how did poultry even get involved? AND IF I were a FISH, I’d be quite offended to be considered Parve!
Matthew 23: 1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
And 23:15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.”
And 23:27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
The whole complicated rules of this half-verse’s implementation can fill entire scholarly books. The time duration between eating meat and consuming dairy differs from the time that must pass between having dairy and eating meat. There are even two entirely separate sets of utensils, and p-ts and pans; that G-d forbid an atom of meat might contact an at-m of milk (as if these substances had any atomic existence!)
I know of many Jewish family members who would eat shrimp out, but would sooner starve tan have a cheeseburger! Though shrimp is absolutely traif, (can never be consumed), and it is nowhere written that the meat of the steer not be consumed with the cheese of a cow. Perhaps one can generalize and say the calf in its mother’s milk, i.e. Veal Parmigianino is considered in this case. However, one must be aware that this is adding to the Torah, it knows how to say “calf”.
Even lamer are the post facto explanations. These are like the ads for an investment company, perhaps one that got bailed out, “What can synchronized swimming teach us about investing?” Clearly, the lesson to be taught had been decided prior and a way was found to make it fit the metaphor. I often have heard that this teaches us that we must not expect to have our cake and eat it too. Or, we do not kill the goose laying golden eggs, as if one had to tell us Jews about that! Or, we cannot have it all; we must sacrifice this for that, which is really just bloviating on reason one, the cake.
But for real irritation, the Health reasons are trotted out. “Studies” show that combining dairy and meat are harmful. Yet, if so, surely those dummies, the Romans, The Greeks and The Egyptians (Galen, Hippocrates and Imhotep) might have noticed some correlation?
When it comes to other Kukim in Torah, we are not supposed to try to figure out YHVH’s reasons. The classic example of the “Red” Heifer is given. Some Laws are to be obeyed “just because!” And that is fine by me. If it were written, I would accept. I take the LORD on Faith; all others pay facts. And “all others” include those who demand that the Oral Law be taken as Holy Writ (notice the oxymoron of oral and writ); and those who make the astounding claim that the Oral Law be taken as Holy Writ because the Oral Law makes that claim!