From the Desk - Fish and Milk
Shalom Friends! I hope you’re all enjoying the Summer which we seem to get every other day! Last Shabbat, we enjoyed a hugely successful Generations Shabbat. There was a wonderful sense of community and it was a joy and privilege to spend Shabbat with so many of our members and their families. We look forward to many more wonderful Shabbats in Beth Ora! This week, we’ll be starting the Rise Together Project Daily Whatsapps. Each day, you can get a short, meaningful, practical idea about character improvement sent to your phone. During the first month, we will be sending messages relating to loving-kindness. If you have Whatsapp on your phone and haven’t yet registered for these free messages, you can email email@example.com. Shabbat Shalom, Rabbi Anthony and Carly Knopf Dovid, Rachelli, Yehuda and Avrami
What’s the Deal With… Fish and Milk? A few weeks ago, Joseph Bitton asked about the practice some Jews have not to consume milk and fish together. We know that we’re not allowed to have meat and milk together. Some may be aware that we don’t have meat and fish together. But fish and milk? What’s the deal? Rabbi Yosef Karo (1488-1575) writes in his magnum opus, Beit Yosef, that one should not eat milk and fish together because of negative health concerns. Similarly, the important halachic commentary, Pri Megadim (authored by Rabbi Yosef ben Meir Teomim, 1727-1792) writes that there is a danger in eating milk and fish together. This is also the conclusion of the late Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. Although the Chabad custom is also not to eat fish together with milk, they do eat fish with milk products. Even adding a touch of water or cream to the milk is sufficient to permit mixing it with fish according to the Chabad custom. However, there are two major challenges to the practice of not having fish with milk. Firstly, many important halachic commentaries claim that Rabbi Karo never intended to prohibit eating milk and fish together and that he was actually prohibiting having meat and fish together. In general, there is controversy among authorities as to whether the halacha changes if it is found that the original practice had been based on a faulty manuscript. Some have argued that the halacha should change under such circumstances but others hold that legal codes maintain their authority and cannot simply be rejected when variant texts are found. The other challenge to the practice of not eating milk and fish together is that we don’t know of any such medical risk. Among those who argue this position are Rabbi Yechiel Michel Epstein (1829-1908, author of Aruch Hashulchan) and the late Chief Rabbi of Morocco and Jerusalem, Rabbi Shalom Messas (1909-2003). Nevertheless, Rabbi Isaac Lampronti, an 18th century scholar famed for his rabbinic and scientific knowledge, accepted that there was no historical evidence of any medical danger but asserted that we should continue to follow the traditional practice. This debate highlights how texts, reasons and traditional practice become intertwined in determining ritual practices. So what do we do practically? With the exception of some Chassidic groups, Ashkenazi Jews are not particular to avoid having milk and fish together. The great Ashkenazi halachic authority, Rabbi Moshe Isserles (1530-1572) writes that he has never seen anyone be careful about not eating milk and fish together. Similarly, Rabbi Epstein notes how common it was to eat milk and fish together and that there is no reason to worry when doing so. On the other hand, there is a widespread Sephardi practice not to have fish and milk together. The late Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, Rabbi Chaim David Halevi noted the medical and textual rationale for abandoning this practice but, nonetheless, contended that since it is not a big inconvenience, Sephardim who observe this stricture should maintain their traditional practice. Nevertheless, some Sephardim are not particular on this. As mentioned above, Rabbi Messas notes that contemporary doctors agree that there is no danger of contracting any severe illnesses by eating fish with milk. He adds that it is unclear whether or not Rabbi Karo prohibited fish with milk in the first place and that several Sephardi communities customarily acted leniently regarding this matter and ate fish with milk.