Masechet Chullin 103a-109b

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06 Oct 2011

The Coming Week’s Daf Yomi by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim (original ideas) of Talmudic scholar Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud.

Chullin 103a-b: Meat and milk

Three times in the Torah we find the prohibition repeated “Thou shalt not seethe a kid in its mother’s milk” (see Shemot 23:19, 34:26 and Devarim 14:21). Although it appears that the Torah limits this prohibition to a specific case – a kid in its mother’s milk – nevertheless the Sages had a long-standing tradition that these passages refer to a general prohibition against cooking milk and meat together. The fact that this prohibition is repeated three times is understood as forbidding not only cooking milk and meat together, but also eating them cooked together and deriving any benefit from such a mixture.

The eighth perek of Masechet Chullin begins on today’s daf and its focus is on these laws. Given the enigmatic presentation of the prohibition of cooking meat and milk together, there are many issues that need to be clarified by the Sages, the most basic of which is how we define the terms “milk” and “meat.” Is all meat included? Is there a difference between meat from domesticated animals (behemot) and wild animals (chayot)? What is the status of the meat of kosher birds, fish or insects? Similarly, is the prohibition limited to actual milk, or are other milk products forbidden, as well?

The first Mishna teaches “every kind of meat is forbidden to be cooked in milk, except the meat of fish and of locusts; and it is also forbidden to place upon the table meat with cheese, excepting the flesh of fish and of locusts.”

This last requirement – to separate meat and milk products even if they are not being cooked together – is not part of the biblical prohibition included in the thrice repeated passage, it is a Rabbinic injunction whose purpose is to keep people from mistakenly eating them together. This applies, however, only to a table where people are eating; on the table where food is being prepared there is no such requirement.

Chullin 104a-b: What is considered “meat”?

As we learned on yesterday’s daf, the first Mishna in our perek teaches that “every kind of meat is forbidden to be cooked in milk, excepting the meat of fish and of locusts; and it is also forbidden to place upon the table meat with cheese, excepting the flesh of fish and of locusts.”

At first the Gemara suggests that this Mishna does not follow the opinion of Rabbi Akiva, since he rules that neither the flesh of fowl (ofot) nor that of wild animals (chayot) would be considered “meat” with regard to the laws of meat and milk. Rav Ashi concludes, however, that the Mishna should be understood as follows:

“Every kind of meat is forbidden to be cooked in milk: some being forbidden by the law of the Torah – meat of domesticated animals – and others by the enactment of the Sages – meat of fowl or wild animals – excepting the meat of fish and of locusts, which are neither prohibited by the law of the Torah nor by the enactment of the Sages.”

The Gemara relates that Chiya’s father-in-law, Agra, taught that fowl and cheese may be eaten without restriction, meaning without washing the hands or cleaning the mouth between the eating of the one and the other.

The Ramban explains this teaching as being based on the fact that fowl is not considered meat on a Torah level, so the Sages do not require the same level of separation between fowl and milk products the way they do with real meat. Rabbeinu Tam suggests that Agra’s reasoning is based on the fact that fowl does not become stuck on the hands, teeth and gums the way real meat does.

While the Rambam limits Agra’s teaching to situations where the cheese was eaten before the fowl, the Ramban and others point out that this does not seem to be the simple meaning of his statement. Nevertheless, common practice is not to distinguish between fowl and meat with regard to the amount of time that people wait before eating milk products.

Chullin 105a-b: Washing during and after meals

Today’s Gemara turns its attention to the need to wash hands both during the meal, for reasons of kashrut, and after the meal, for reasons of safety.

Mayim emtza’iyim – washing during the meal

Rav Nachman explains that one is not obligated to wash between different dishes in the course of the meal, unless both a meat dish and cheese are both being served, in which case washing would be necessary.

The Rashbam explains that Rav Nachman is contrasting between a meal consisting of two dishes of meat or milk (where no washing is needed), and a meal where a milk dish is followed by a meat dish (where washing between them is essential). It is clear, however, that a milk dish could not possibly follow a meat dish, since that is forbidden. Rabbeinu Tam argues that Rav Nachman is even talking about a meat dish that follows a milk dish. So long as there is no actual meat or milk products being consumed – all that is in the dish is a “taste” of meat or milk, there is no need to wash between them. Only when actual cheese is being eaten after meat would there be a requirement to separate them by washing.

The Rama accepts the Rashbam’s position, and it is common practice to wait a significant amount of time between meat dishes and milk dishes.

Mayim Achronim – washing after the meal

Rav Yehuda the son of Rabbi Chiya explains that it is essential to wash hands after the meal, as the salt – Melach Seodomit – could blind you if there is any left on your fingers. Abayye adds that even if a small amount of this type of salt would become mixed with ordinary salt it would pose a serious danger.

It appears that the reference is to Magnesium Chloride (MgCl2), which can be found in large quantities in the Dead Sea. Both magnesium and chlorine can mix easily with the ordinary salt – Sodium Chloride (NaCl) – that is produced in Sodom near the Dead Sea. Since these are poisonous substances, someone who rubs his eyes with an unwashed finger could easily develop an infection.

Chullin 106a-b: Washing in the hot-springs of Tiberias

While the Gemara on yesterday’s daf discusses ritual hand washing during and after the meal, on today’s daf the Gemara turns to the question of ritual hand washing that must be done before the meal begins.

In the Gemara, Chizkiya is quoted as prohibiting the use of hot water for ritual hand washing before meals, as well as the use of water from the hot-springs in Tiberias – although he can dip them in the water as in a mikvah.

Rabbi Yochanan disagrees with both of these statements.

With regard to hot water, Rabbi Yochanan testifies that he asked Rabbi‘s son, Rabban Gamliel, who said that all of the Sages of the Galilee use it for ritual hand washing
Regarding the hot-springs of Tiberias, Rabbi Yochanan rules that it can be used as a mikvah for the entire body, but not to wash one’s face, hands and feet.

Ultimately Rav Papa explains that all agree that the hot-springs of Tiberias can be used as a mikvah in their place. Additionally, all agree that water from those springs cannot be used for hand washing if they are removed in a bucket or some other vessel. The difference of opinion is limited to a situation where pipes are laid through the hot-springs so that the water that runs through the pipes would be heated up. Hizkiyah prohibits the use of those waters, lest they be confused with the actual water from the hot-springs; Rabbi Yochanan is not concerned with that possibility.

The Tiberias hot-springs, near the Sea of the Galilee, contain geothermally heated groundwater that is at a constant temperature of 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit). The waters are high in mineral and salt content and have been recognized for centuries as having medicinal value. Even though these waters were not used for drinking because of their bitterness, nevertheless they were used by the local people to heat fresh drinking water by means of pipes that were inserted in the hot springs.

In explanation for why the waters of the Tiberias hot-springs cannot be drawn for hand washing, the commentaries note that they are bitter to the extent that they are not even drunk by dogs.

Chullin 107a-b: Washing when feeding others

We have been discussing issues related to ritual hand washing. The Gemara on today’s daf asks whether in a situation where one person is feeding another the person who is doing the feeding – who is touching the food – must wash his hands and whether the person who is eating – but is not touching the food – must wash his hands.

To help answer this question, the Gemara quotes a baraita that discusses the laws of Yom Kippur, when adults are prohibited from eating, and also from washing themselves for pleasure.

The baraita opens with Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel teaching that a woman who needs to feed her children can wash one hand so that she can give them food.

The baraita continues with a story about Shammai ha-Zaken, who did not want to feed his child on Yom Kippur, and the Sages ordered him to wash both hands and feed him.

Most of the commentaries explain that Shammai ha-Zaken was reluctant to rely on the “leniency” and wash his hand. The Sages ruled that he should therefore wash both his hands, because they wanted to emphasize that, in this case, there was no prohibition at all. The Ritva points out that there are several similar cases in the Talmud, where the Sages went beyond the letter of the law in order to emphasize the correct ruling. Rabbeinu Yehonatan understands this case differently. He argues that Shammai ha-Zaken was concerned lest he touch the food with his unwashed hand, so he refrained from feeding his children entirely. The Sages reacted to this by insisting that he wash both hands.

What was the great concern about touching food?

The Gemara quotes Abayye as explaining that the Sages were afraid of shivta. Rashi explains that shivta is a ruach ra’ah – an evil spirit. According to the responsa literature from the period of the Geonim, shivta was a disease that affected mainly babies and younger children. From the descriptions that appear in the Gemara it seems likely that it is some type of contagious infection that can be carried by dirty hands.

Chullin 108a-b: Defining a 60:1 ratio of meat to milk

As we have learned (daf 97), if a small amount of non-kosher food fell into a large amount of kosher food, the mixture will remain kosher if the ratio is 60:1 such that the taste of the non-kosher food is nullified. This same rule applies to meat and milk. Thus, if a small amount of milk falls into a large amount of meat, if the ratio of meat to milk is at least 60:1 the milk is considered nullified and the mixture is kosher.

The Mishna on today’s daf distinguishes between two different cases where a small amount of milk becomes mixed into a pot of meat. According to the Mishna, if the milk fell on a single piece of meat, we gauge the possibility of nullification solely on the relationship between the milk and that piece of meat. If, however, the milk fell into the pot and then the pot was mixed up, the question will be whether the entire mixture has a 60:1 ratio of meat to milk.

Tosafot explain that the first case of the Mishna must be talking about a situation where the piece of meat is entirely outside of the mixture of food in the pot, which is why we focus on it as an individual case when determining whether or not nullification takes place. Rashi, however, suggests that the piece of meat was partially in the gravy.

Based on Rashi’s explanation, the Taz argues that unless that piece of meat is immediately removed, the entire pot may become prohibited. His reasoning is straightforward: Once the piece of meat on the top becomes forbidden as a mixture of meat and milk, the ratio of 60:1 needed to permit the rest of the pot will not be measured against the drop of milk, but against the entire piece. The Drisha rejects this argument. He points out that one way or another the pot of food will remain permitted. If we view the milk as affecting the entire pot (since the meat that it fell on is partially in the mixture) then the volume of meat in the entire pot will be used to nullify the drop of milk. And if we view the drop of milk as affecting only the single piece of meat upon which it fell, then only that single piece will become forbidden – unless someone mixes up the pot.

Chullin 109a-b: What if you want to taste pork?

The Mishna teaches that in order to prepare udder for eating, it must be opened so that the milk can be removed. In the Gemara Rav Yehuda teaches that the requirement is for the udder to be cut crosswise and pressed against the wall.

The Gemara follows this by relating the following story about Yalta, Rav Nachman‘s wife:

Yalta once said to Rav Nachman: ‘Observe, for everything that the Divine Law has forbidden us it has permitted us an equivalent:

I wish to eat flesh in milk, where is its equivalent?’

In order to satisfy her request, Rav Nachman asked the butchers to prepare roasted udders for her. The Gemara asks how he could do so, given the requirement to cut it crosswise and press it against the wall, and explains that that requirement is limited to situations where the udder was to be cooked, but that it does not apply when the udder was roasted.

Rav Nachman’s wife, Yalta, was a member of the family of the Exilarch. From the stories related in the Gemara about her, it is clear that she was a strong-willed woman, who expected to be treated with respect by her husband and by the other Sages. Furthermore, the stories show that she was learned in her own right and that she participated in the discussions that Rav Nachman had with his contemporaries and peers.

One of her examples of something that the Divine Law permitted was the brain of the shibbuta, whose taste was that of pork. Scholars have searched for – and may have found – the shibbuta in Turkey.

In addition to his monumental translation and commentary on the Talmud, Rabbi Steinsaltz has authored dozens of books and hundreds of articles on a variety of topics, both Jewish and secular. For more information about Rabbi Steinsaltz’s groundbreaking work in Jewish education, visit or contact the Aleph Society at 212-840-1166.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.