Cheeseburgers and Moral Sensitivity

God: “And remember, Moshe, to keep kosher, never cook a kid goat in its mother’s milk. It is cruel.”
Moshe: “God, so are you are saying we should never eat milk and meat together?”
God: “No, what I’m saying is, never cook a kid goat in its mother’s milk.”
Moshe: “Oh Lord, forgive my ignorance! What you are really saying is we should wait six hours after eating meat to eat milk so the two are not in our stomachs?”
God: “No Moshe, listen! I am saying, don’t cook a kid in its mother’s milk!”
Moshe: “Oh, Lord! Please don’t strike me down for my questioning! Do you mean we should have a separate set of dishes each for milk and for meat, and if we make a mistake we have to bury that dish outside …”
God: “Fine! Just do whatever you want.”
This famous joke relates to two puzzlements with the Pasuk לא תבשל גדי בחלב אימו which appears in our weeks’ Parsha. Firstly, why does the Pasuk appear, identically, three different times (Mishpatim, Ki Tisa & Re’eh)? And more importantly, how did we get from “not cooking a kid in its mother’s milk” to the elaborate Hilchot Basar VeChalav at the foundation of Hilchot Kashrut?
Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook offered the following reflection to understand this Mitzvah and its apparent importance:
The act of cooking a kid goat in its mother’s milk is cruel and sinister; the mother’s milk, intended to give sustenance and life to the kid is being used to kill it and turn it into food. How insensitive does one need to be to do such a thing?
Mixing meat and milk, explains rav Tzvi Yehudah, holds a similar cruelty. We attain meat from an animal by killing it while we attain milk from an animal by preventing/relieving its pain. Though both products are attained by taking from an animal one is an act of cruelty while the other, an act of kindness. The separation of meat and milk instill within us the sensitivity to distinguish between mercy and cruelty; that we should not confuse the two. We should not blur the fine line that many times exists between that which is positive, or even, ideal and that which is negative, or just permissible. Understood and followed correctly, Hilchot Basar VeChalav heighten our moral sensitivity furthering our moral and religious growth, as individuals and a collective.
As a side note – this is but one example of how a Mitzvah can (and should) be understood in a way which makes it relevant to our – and our children’s – lives; relevant, empowering and, in my opinion, even inspirational. May we always look – and find – the deepest of meaning and relevance in Torah and Mitzvot.  


Filed under Halacha

2 responses to “Cheeseburgers and Moral Sensitivity

  1. Fanstastic… so, if you are good natured and understand the difference between good and bad, do we still need to follow this rule? Just sayin… there are so many reasons to add milk products to cooking to make it better 🙂

  2. 1. How do you know you you actually understand the difference
    2. You can always understand it better
    3. This idea is not the REASON we OBSERVE the Mitzvah, rather, the MEANING and MOTIVATION we identify in it.
    This is true to all טעמי מצוות, which should NOT be translated – as it is by many – as “REASON of the Mitzvot”, rather, “TASTE of the Mitzvot”, insinuating that we search not for their REASONS rather to their FLAVOR; how they impact us in a positive way making us a more moral and more holly individuals and community.
    Or in the words of the great thinkers of yore “where's the beef?”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s