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Shabbat Parashat Vayetzei| 5766
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Question: I was teaching the laws of meat and milk, including that one who is within six hours of eating meat should not eat pareve at a table with those eating milk without a reminder in place. One of the students asked if sitting around in a kumzitz where there are milchig refreshments on nearby tables is considered eating at one table.
Answer: [We orally received more information regarding this question, enabling us to discuss the background of the matter with the fine, young teacher. The class was learning from a sefer in English, written, to a great extent, for yeshiva students who are new to preparing food. The students were primarily from “Modern Orthodox homes.”]
Although the question is a perceptive one, excuse us that we want to concentrate on the assumption that introduces it and the phenomenon of which it is representative.
The mishna and gemara (Chulin 103b-104b) gives instructions to avoid accidental eating of milk and meat together. One step is that one who is eating cheese should not bring meat, including poultry, to the table. The gemara is bothered that, if, as we rule, poultry with milk is forbidden only rabbinically, this is a gezeira l’gezeira (an injunction on an injunction). In other words, the mistake that the Rabbis’ legislation is intended to avoid is itself only a rabbinic prohibition. As a rule, this is an improper injunction. The gemara, after pointing out that there is a Torah prohibition only when the milk and meat have been cooked together, concludes that without a gezeira,one might come to mix the two in a boiling pot on the table. Therefore, the gezeira is “legal.”
Several Acharonim cite the Beit Yaakov, who extends (as you read) the aforementioned gezeira to one who is not eating meat now but did so within six hours and thus may not yet eat milk products. Most of those who cite this opinion reject it (see a summary of the opinions in Darkei Teshuva, YD 88:16 and Badei Hashulchan, Biurim to YD 88:1). The most prominent of those who reject the stringency (chumra)is the Pri Megadim (YD 88, MZ 2), who cryptically makes the following points that strike a strong chord for us. One is that the gemara was concerned that the gezeira regulating people eating milk and meat at one table at the same time was over-extended. It finally constructed a case where one might violate a Torah law. However, in the case at hand, meat is not present. Rather Chazal extended the prohibition of eating meat and milk that were cooked together to waiting six hours (according to the most stringent opinion) after meat. We have no right to extend the gezeira even further than the gemara and Shulchan Aruch spell out.
The Pri Megadim and others make a general point, which it is crucial to teach your students. He writes: “I have not seen people being careful about this.” What difference do regular people make in the face of the scholarly opinions of the Pri Megadim and Beit Yaakov? The answer is that the great majority of halachic authorities have taken the minhag ha’olam (common practice) very seriously when determining halacha.You, we, and your students have grown up in observant homes and have visited many others. I daresay that few have even heard of this chumra. Now, if a consensus of sources indicates that a minhag ha’olam appears to violate a Torah law, it is a serious matter, requiring rabbinic guidance. In this case, most poskim reject the chumra, and the worst-case scenario is on an extended Rabbinic prohibition. In our opinion, the author of the sefer erred in his ruling. Perhaps, he intended the sefer for those who believe in adopting every chumra they can find. However, you are teaching a group that was not brought up to do so. It is complex enough (requiring its own discussion) to deal with cases where they learn that their parents have clearly been acting incorrectly. A teacher’s experience and sensitivity should help determine what is a chumra thatcannot be accepted at face value, even if it is in print. If one is not sure, he should ask, rather than assume that he and many others have been doing the wrong thing.
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