Re’eh: A Holy People

You Are What You Eat

If milk and meat are kosher, why can’t we eat them together?

Table for Five: Re’eh

In partnership with the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles

 Edited by Salvador Litvak, the Accidental Talmudist

You shall not eat any carcass. You may give it to the stranger who is in your cities, that he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner; for you are a holy people to the Lord, your God. You shall not cook a kid in its mother’s milk.

Deut. 14:21


Rabbi Pinchas Winston, Thirtysix.org

In Grade Six, my friend motioned for me to look in his direction. We were doing science experiments, and his mischievous side got the better of him. Before I could say anything he quickly dropped something into a test tube that was angled upwards in the sink, and within a moment there was a small explosion out the end of the tube and glass all over the sink. Some things just don’t mix well. But that combination would have blown up on anyone. If cooking milk and meat together is such a dangerous mixture, why aren’t gentiles forbidden to do it as well?

Because unlike the effects of mixtures with dangerous physical results, the effects of mixtures with dangerous spiritual results are not so readily noticeable. A bad food mixture can result in a painful upset stomach, so we take something for it and avoid it in the future.

But a “bad” food mixture that can upset the soul may not show symptoms for a while, and when they do occur the source for them may not be so recognizable. The fact that a person has become less spiritually motivated or sloppier with their mitzvos can be attributed to a whole host of reasons other than the treif food they may be eating. This is another reason why a mitzvah like cooking/eating milk and meat together is considered to be a chok, a statute, a mitzvah who logic is beyond us. Beyond us, but not beyond God.


Elazar (Ozer) Bergman, Author of “Where Earth and Heaven Kiss”

The core of this verse is the core of this verse: we Jews *are* a holy people. Our table is to be a mizbeach [altar], our eating a korban, an opportunity for closeness to God. But not every sort of food is fit for our refined souls. Additionally, the latent holiness in forbidden foods is so tightly bound to its container—here, the carcass—that even we cannot unleash it and transform it into mitzvahs.

We are occasionally allowed to sell (most) forbidden foods to others whose coarser spiritual makeup tolerates them. We can then apply the benefit received in return towards an array of options that make the world a better, holier place. In other words, we can use the money to do mitzvahs.

Lastly, the novelty and mystery of milk and meat. Kosher unto themselves, we are forbidden to eat or even cook them together! You are what you eat. Milk, soft and liquid, the food of the young and weak, suggests compliance. We should gladly comply with the Torah.

Meat, red and tough, requiring fire to make it edible, implies strength. We need to be hard-nosed to defy wrong thinking, wrong values and wrong behavior.

Both compliance and defiance are necessary, but need to be applied appropriately. Cooking or consuming milk and meat together causes “cross-contamination” of these traits; tragically, one ends up defying Torah and complying with harmful thinking.


Romain Hini-Szlos, Photographer/www.rhsgallery.com

This section of the parsha deals specifically with the laws of forbidden food. As Jews, we have specific dietary laws that set us apart from the rest of the world. However, it’s essential to recognize that we all share this world together.

The prohibition against eating from a carcass while allowing us to give or sell it to non-Jews is grounded in the idea of harmonious coexistence. We must avoid situations where people perceive Jews as discarding something valuable while others could benefit from it. This would lead to the misconception that we consider ourselves superior and unwilling to share with them.

The laws against cooking a young animal in its mother’s milk and mixing meat with dairy serve as a reminder that we can coexist without losing our distinct identity. By maintaining these boundaries, we preserve our unique heritage and avoid assimilation to the point where we lose sight of who we truly are.

In summary, these laws of forbidden food not only guide our dietary choices but also reflect the larger principle of living harmoniously alongside others while embracing our own identity. This balance allows us to be a part of the global community while still remaining true to our roots.


Kylie Ora Lobell, Community Editor, Jewish Journal

Coming out of Egypt, Hashem gave us laws so that we would not be like the Egyptians. One of these laws was not to cook a kid in its mother’s milk – not to mix life and death like the Egyptians did. The Egyptians were obsessed with death; so much of their society revolved around it. Pharaoh even bathed in Jewish babies’ blood.

Judaism was going to be the opposite of Egyptian culture. It would be all about celebrating life. It would focus on the here and now and not the afterlife. We would strive to live life to the fullest in a meaningful way, in line with Hashem’s commandments. We would follow the commandments so we could bring light into this world. And we also would not treat animals in a cruel way. We would never rip a limb from a live animal. We would slaughter animals in a way that resulted in instant death. We wouldn’t cook a kid in its mother’s milk, because it was unkind.

With the kosher laws, we learn how to be caring and compassionate towards animals – even the ones we eat. Now, it may be kind of annoying not to be able to eat a real cheeseburger, but knowing the deeper meaning behind it makes it much easier. So the next time you sink your teeth into a burger with Daiya vegan cheese, make sure you celebrate the occasion with a hearty, “L’chaim, l’chaim. To life!”


Denise Berger, Freelance writer, Miracles in Minutiae columnist

Right off the bat, this passage seems a little jarring, instructing us not to eat any carcass. I know for myself this has never come up in my daily life, and most likely it hasn’t come up for the majority of people reading this short essay. And yet, the Torah only tells us necessary things. So what would we possibly need to know about not eating a carcass?

The next section offers some possible clarity. We’re allowed to give this carcass to the stranger in our cities. This means that strangers, ie: people who are not Jewish, are allowed to eat a carcass. Not only that, but we are allowed to participate in that activity by providing the carcass to them. This is a big deal. It’s telling us that just because we don’t do something doesn’t mean it’s wrong for someone else to do it. This point is underscored by the permission to sell the carcass to foreigners. Not only can we accommodate people engaging in actions off limits to us, we’re even allowed financial gain.

The passage concludes by reinforcing our status of holiness, followed by the admonition not to cook a kid in its mother’s milk. Much has been written about the cooking, about how this is meant to teach us about being humane and considerate and refraining from wanton cruelty. Linking the kid to holiness, and linking holiness to the carcass, suggests that allowing space for differences can help us to be kind.


With thanks to Rabbi Pinchas Winston, Elazar (Ozer) Bergman, Romain Hini-Szlos, Kylie Ora Lobell, and Denise Berger

Image: Mother and baby goat


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