Thursday, May 21, 2015

A Bit of Reality from Sinai

By Rabbi Yisrael Rosen
Dean, Zomet Institute
"This teaches you that scripture, the Mishna, halacha, tosefta, hagadda, and whatever a veteran scholar will teach in the future already exists, and it was all given as halacha to Moshe at Sinai" [Kohellet Rabba 1].
Seasoned Actuality
All year round in this column we deal with reality, including political issues. What could be more interesting than to comment on the establishment of a fledgling and faltering government in Israel, and/or the appointment of ministers with a minimum of national experience? I could also write about the historic accomplishments of Rabbi Moshe Levinger, a sort of Kalev Ben Yefuneh of our generation, who we accompanied on his final journey on the day that I wrote this article. (Note that we might write "bal yefuneh," a hint of the fact that Rabbi Levinger strongly opposed abandoning any of the lands of Eretz Yisrael.) However, today, in honor of the day when the Torah was given, we will turn our gaze on halachic reality, about which it is written (in the quote from the Midrash above) that there is never anything novel – "Whatever a veteran scholar (who is this, anyway?) will teach... was given as the halacha to Moshe at Sinai." And there you have it: Mature Actuality...
But first a word "from our sponsor" - This week, as every year close to Jerusalem Day (the state) and Shavuot (Torah), we published a new volume of "Techumin," Number 35. This consists of about 500 pages of halachic reality on subjects related to Torah, society, and the state. Fifty-five articles have been added to about 1,800 that appeared in previous volumes, written by prominent Torah scholars (I feel that the title, "senior rabbi," which is used by the press, is a show of excess pride) of the first class, and by others who have not yet achieved prominence – all of them have managed to absorb something new from Mount Sinai and felt a desire to publish their findings in Techumin.
Recipes with Meat and Milk
In honor of the holiday, we have pieced together for you, from the newest volume, some juicy samples of dairy halachot, as is fitting for the holiday of Shavuot, in order to fulfill the verse, "Honey and milk are under your tongue" [Shir Hashirim 4:11]. We will capture your interest for halachic sophistication by offering you, from this new volume of Techumin, a serving of meat cooked in milk (yes, you read that right!). Compare this to Rav Nachman, who gave his wife an udder soaked in milk in order to satisfy her desire to taste a combination of milk and meat (Chulin 109b). And what is our enticing menu item that fits this requirement? See below...
(1) "Ben Pekua" – It is an accepted halacha (admittedly quite odd) that if a cow is slaughtered in the eighth month of her pregnancy and the calf is found to be alive, it is called a "Ben Pekua" and there is no need to slaughter it. It can be eaten in any manner, including even taking off a limb while it is still alive (Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Dei'ah 13), even many years later, and there is no need to check if it has one of the faults that would render a normal animal unkosher. And now, here is the most surprising part: The offspring of a male and female "Ben Pekua" (both of the "parents must be of this type) will never require kosher slaughtering either, and this includes all subsequent generations. (However, if only one parent is a "Ben Pekua," the offspring cannot be made kosher, even by slaughtering!)
Rabbi Meir Rabi from Australia published a dramatic article where he claims that by definition a Ben Pekua is not cattle (but is rather the same as fish), and therefore not only is there no need to remove the veins in the hind quarter, one is even permitted to cook it and eat it together with milk! To come to this conclusion, the rabbi bases his ruling on a Torah insight by the Meshech Chochma, that our Patriarch Avraham served his guests, the angels, "a calf (literally, the son of cattle, or a ben pekua!) that was tender and good," from the womb of a pregnant cow, and he gave them " butter and milk, and the calf" [Bereishit 18:8]. Rabbi Rabi went further, and acted on his ruling. Using this method he created male and female "sheep" and grew flocks from them, and he now has a culinary and halachic declaration – these animals do not need to be slaughtered, their veins do not have to be removed, their fat is not prohibited - and the rabbi has a long list of other benefits.
However, modern rabbis do not accept this idea! In the new volume of Techumin, Rabbi Zev Vitman, the rabbi of Tenuvah (which sells milk, meat, and fish) vigorously opposes the novel ruling. Aside from the release from the requirement of ritual slaughtering (which is carried over from the mother or the grandmother of the calf), Rabbi Vitman disagrees with (almost) all the other conclusions. He finds no justification for defining the Ben Pekua as a "new and separate species." In addition, in volume 19 of Techumin, sixteen years ago, Sephardi Chief Rabbi Bakshi-Doronrejected a similar proposal that was sent to him by meat farmers on the Golan, fearing that it would lead to serious problems. Other prominent rabbis, such as Rabbi Shmuel Vazner and Rabbi Asher Weiss, warned against getting involved in this sophisticated and complex halachic problem.
(2) We are thus left to search elsewhere for a combination of meat and milk: meat that has been cloned from stem cells! In a previous volume, Rev Tvi Reizman (a well-known businessman from Los Angeles who is also a Torah scholar well versed in matters of halacha and actuality) writes about an "artificial hamburger" which was created two years ago. This is produced from artificial meat made from stem cells of a cow which was not slaughtered or which was declared unkosher ("tereifa"). In principle, he concludes that clone meat is not real meat, and that it can therefore be cooked and eaten with milk! (The summary of the article includes many details which will not be repeated here. For example, the problem of appearances can be solved by proper packaging and declarations, as is done for soya milk.)
However, my friends, I doubt that you should rush out after the holiday to search for an "artificial hamburger," in order to season it with honey and dip it in milk. Rabbi Yaacov Ariel opposes the idea in the new volume of Techumin. He concludes that such artificial meat can only be produced from a kosher animal, and that then " it will be considered meat for all intents and purposes, including the matter of cooking with milk."
So, in the end we are left with the solution in the Talmud: Does anybody want some milk-saturated udders?

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