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Woolf, M. (1945). Prohibitions Against the Simultaneous Consumption of Milk and Flesh in Orthodox Jewish Law. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 26:169-177.

(1945). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 26:169-177

Prohibitions Against the Simultaneous Consumption of Milk and Flesh in Orthodox Jewish Law

M. Woolf

Few subjects in orthodox Jewish religious law have been treated with such exhaustiveness and precision as the keeping apart of milk and flesh in eating. Milk and foods derived from it may not be consumed sooner than six hours after the consumption of meat, though meat may be eaten two hours after milk. Separate vessels, crockery and table implements must be used for foods made with meat and milk; milk and meat must not even be cooked simultaneously at the same fire, and so on.

These ramifying and complex regulations are said to be derived from an extension and elaboration of a single prohibition in the Bible, which in itself has a somewhat mysterious sound: 'Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk.' The numerous rules and injunctions which have become attached to this single prohibition are explained as avoidances and safety measures to ensure that there shall be no involuntary, unconscious or accidental breach of this important law. It might happen, for instance, that some milk bought at a particular place might come from the same goat as a kid offered for sale at another place at the same time. The person who purchased and made use of the two foods might then, without being aware of it, break the law. It is true that such a possibility might not be excluded with absolute certainty in the case of a lamb or kid; but it is impossible to imagine why it should be that the rules applying to the flesh of lambs, kids or calves should also be extended to fowls. This fact alone shows how illusory is the usual explanation of these many regulations as avoidances and safety measures or, as the Talmud puts it, syngim (hedges) around the primary law. The inadequacy of the explanation is finally brought home to us when we read in Frazer (1918) that similar and even stricter laws and customs in regard to the separation of milk and flesh exist among many peoples and may even perhaps have once been a universal phenomenon in primitive cultures.

In any case there has been no lack of attempts at explaining the biblical law against seething a kid in his mother's milk. And amongst them there has been one upon psycho-analytical lines, by Frieda Fromm-Reichmann, on which I must make a few comments.

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