Talmud Tips

For the week ending 30 March 2019 / 23 Adar II 5779

Chullin 107-113

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
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A Kosher Taste of Treif

Yalsa said to Rav Nachman (her husband), “I want to eat something that has the taste of meat and milk.”

Yalsa was not merely expressing her desire to taste meat and milk together, knowing quite well that it is forbidden and that she would not be able to fulfill this wish. Rather, she was asking her husband Rav Nachman to teach her what she could eat in a permitted way that has the same flavor as eating milk and meat together. He complied with her request by instructing the cooks to roast an udder for her, thereby providing her with a kosher way of eating meat and milk together.

Prior to this request, Yalsa had already stated her certainty that “Everything which the Torah prohibited, something similar to it was permitted.” In other words, for every prohibited food and prohibited “taste” that is taught in the Torah, there exists in the world a “parallel” and similar permitted taste. How did she know this concept of similarity?

She told Rav Nachman: “The Torah prohibited eating blood, but it permitted eating liver (which is entirely congealed blood, and has the taste of blood – Rashi): The Torah prohibited the cheilev of a beheima (forbidden fat from a domestic animal, such as a cow, sheep or goat), but it permitted eating the cheilev of a chaya (a non-domesticated animal, such as a deer): The Torah prohibited eating a pig, but it permitted eating the brain of a shibuta (a brain of a type of kosher fish called shibuta, which has the same taste as the taste of pig – Rashi).

I’ve heard a non-sourced tradition that there are 700 types of kosher fish, all of which were exiled along with the Jewish People from the Land of Israel to Bavel after the destruction of the First Temple. Over time, the various types of kosher fish returned “home” to the Land, with the exception of the shibuta. But with the Mashiach’s arrival, may it be speedily in our days, the shibuta will also return to the Land of Israel. But please don’t quote me on this!

There’s an important message in there being a permitted kosher taste that matches every forbidden non-kosher taste in the world. One might think that the Torah banned non-kosher foods because they are disgusting in essence. However, this is not the reason why certain foods are not kosher. Any food that is not kosher is due to a command from Above that it is forbidden. Something being not kosher is “a decree from the King,” without any reason that our limited human understanding can grasp.

And this is the message that Yalsa is conveying in our sugya: Don’t think that the Torah prohibited certain tastes — such as blood and certain fats — because they are disgusting. If this would be true, then why would there exist other foods with the same tastes that are permitted? Rather, the taste of the item is not the reason it is prohibited. The ban is solely due to “the decree of the King.” Yalsa therefore reasoned that there should also exist a food that is permitted, despite its having the taste of meat and milk. She desired to taste it, and asked her husband Rav Nachman to assist her to fulfill her wish. Rav Nachman’s reply to have an udder roasted for her not only displayed his honor to his wife, but also provided validation for her thesis that any food forbidden by the Torah is forbidden purely due to “the decree of the King” — and not for any other reason. (Maharsha)

§ Chullin 109b

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