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Why Didn't the Chicken Cross with Milk?

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Topic: Why Didn't the Chicken Cross with Milk?

From: Nechama

Dear Rabbi,
My question concerns food, since I am a chef. And so far, no rabbi was able to explain this to me to my satisfaction. I know that kashrut is one of the mitzvot (commandments) that "doesn't make sense," and I accept that. But there are certain things, which were added to the law later, which truly don't make sense to me. My biggest problem (among many others) is why do we consider chicken "meat"? I am aware that chicken was consumed with milk for a long while, and then someone decided that it was "too similar to meat," and bah! what is this ruling based on? What is the similarity between chicken and meat? I don't see any. When it comes to "do not cook a calf in its mother's milk" well, chickens have no mammary glands! They have no milk! Some fish are more "meaty" than chicken - tuna for example - yet we can eat fish and milk together. So please, if you can, give me an explanation I can "live with."

Dear Nechama,
Ah, your question brings back memories: I'm at a friend's wedding in the ballroom of a five-star hotel here in Jerusalem. A tuxedoed waiter circles the table and ladles each person a bowl of smooth, creamy liquid. I taste it: Cream-o'-pumpkin. Mmm mmm good! If I didn't know this was a kosher hotel serving a meat meal, I would almost swear I tasted cream.

So I'll try to give you an answer you can "live with"; but if I fail, I hope egg whites are a milk substitute you can live with. (And they're cholesterol-free!)

I agree with you that tuna steaks look incredibly like meat. And there are birds that swim and fish that fly. But these physical similarities are not what is relevant.

The meat of the matter is that chicken and meat have many points of Jewish law in common. For instance, both chicken and meat require ritual slaughter (shechita). Fish do not. Blood of both chicken and meat is forbidden. Fish blood is not. Both chicken and meat are invalidated by certain physical defects (treifot). Fish are not…etc.

So, from the perspective of someone keeping Jewish law, chicken has a lot more in common with meat than fish does.

Let me add that it wasn't just "someone" who decided that Jews shouldn't mix milk and meat. Rather, it was the Sages of the Sanhedrin, whose authority to make rabbinic decrees is explicit in the Torah (Deuteronomy 17:8-10).

Keeping kosher does not require forfeiting any of this world's pleasures, but rather channeling pleasure in the right time as a vehicle for the spirit. Keeping kosher builds character. Not every indulgence is immediately available, especially at the expense of the life of a living creature.

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