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Ask the Rabbi #29

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July 10, 1994; Issue #29

This issue is dedicated Z''N Reuven B''R Moshe Yaakov HaLevi Z''TL, Rubin Guy, R. Ph.

My father, a pharmacist, taught me by example that Torah is the true "Sa'am HaChayim."

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  • Is mother's milk "Milchig" (dairy)?
  • What is the meaning of the words that are written on the back of a Mezuza?
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  • Is mother's milk "Milchig" (dairy)?

    Marvin from the Oregon Institute of Science and Technology wrote:

    Does mother's milk have the same laws as cow's milk? May one drink it with meat?

    Dear Marvin,

    Your question reminds me of an incident that happened in my neighborhood a few years ago. A pious Jew lives in the Geula section of Jerusalem who is known for holistic remedies. One of his well-known treatments for inducing labor is to drink a certain amount of mother's milk.

    Well, it so happened that the wife of one of my neighbors was overdue, and doctors suggested that she be induced. Before having the doctors induce her she called up the wife of the pious Jew from Geula and asked her what she should do. Naturally, the wife told her to drink mother's milk.

    My neighbor hung up, thought for a moment and then called back -- "Will it affect the remedy if I mix in some chocolate powder?"

    They say that if you see the wife of that pious man today, she's still smiling -- "Only an American could ask such a question!"

    Now on to your question. The Talmud teaches that the prohibition against mixing meat and milk applies only to the meat and milk of a kosher species of animal. Therefore, mother's milk is "pareve" (neither dairy nor meaty).

    Nevertheless, the Shulchan Aruch rules that it is forbidden to cook meat with mother's milk because it looks like you are cooking with cow's milk ("Marit Ayin -- it "looks" bad). This prohibition is of Rabbinic origin. It was enacted because people might make a mistake and assume that you used cow's milk in your recipe.

    Rav Moshe Isserlis states that if you use almond milk together with meat, which is not Biblically forbidden, you must place some almonds nearby so that people will know that it is in fact almond milk. Again the concern is about "Marit Ayin". Following this line of reasoning, many halachic authorities require that when using a non-dairy creamer at a meat meal, one should also display the container of the creamer so that everyone can see that it is in fact non-dairy.


    • The Talmud - Tractate Chullin 113a.
    • The Shulchan Aruch - Yoreh Deah 57:4.
    • Rav Moshe Isserlis - Yoreh Deah 57:3.

    What is the meaning of the words that are written on the back of a Mezuza?

    Shua from Baltimore wrote:

    I was looking on the back of a Mezuza scroll and saw some words written at the bottom. I was told that these words are written on the bottom of all Mezuzas, but when I asked what the words meant no one could tell me. Can you help me?

    Dear Shua,

    The three words at the bottom of the Mezuza on the outer side of the parchment are "Cuzu B'mucsz Cuzu" -- an altered form of the phrase "Hashem Elokeinu Hashem." It is actually a form of Gematria (Numerology) where each letter is "raised" to its next letter. Thus, an Alef becomes a Bet, and a Bet becomes Gimel, etc. Rav Moshe Isserlis quotes the Hagahot Maimoni as the source for this custom. It is "only" a custom -- a Mezuza without these words is still considered valid.

    Maimonides mentions a custom that some people practiced: They wrote the names of angels or other holy names on the same side of the parchment as the two paragraphs of the Sh'ma. He writes that these people "...invalidate the Mezuza and make a mockery of the Mitzvah...." The Hagahot Maimoni does quote other Sages who permitted such additions. We generally follow the ruling of Rav Moshe Isserlish who rules in agreement with Maimonides and forbids these other additions.


    • Rav Moshe Isserlis, The Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 288:15.
    • Maimonides, Mishne Torah, "The Laws of Mezuza" 5:4.
    • Hagahot Maimoni, ibid.

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