This is more of a complaint/rant rather than a question but it comes from a good place as I’m a previously secular Jew trying to make t’shuvah. A rabbi that I have an enormous amount of respect for told me recently that we have plenty of restrictions to observe as Jews already and should never look for ways to add more. In this spirit I am at a loss to understand why rabbis have ruled that chicken (and other kosher fowl) cannot be mixed with cow milk. The explanation that I have seen is that this was a rabbinic imposed restriction created to avoid confusion between beef and chicken and accidentally mixing them up. If this is the reason, then why do we allow: 1. Mixing of beef with non-dairy cheese. It is far easier to get confused between non-dairy and dairy cheese than between chicken and beef in my opinion. 2. Eating cakes on Passover made from Matza meal meant to resemble ordinary cakes. Again, far easier to get confused in this case. 3. Chocolate made with milk substitutes after a beef dish. Again, much easier to accidentally eat chocolate made from milk versus chocolate made from say soy. So why don’t we also forbid the eating of pareve chocolate? The restriction of fowl and cow milk in light of many other allowances (such as the 3 examples provided) seems arbitrary and excessive, and not commanded as such by G-d. Ok, here is my question. If I decide to stop mixing beef and milk in my diet but continue to mix chicken and milk, am I breaking a commandment if I never accidentally use beef instead of chicken? Thanks in advance for putting up with my crankiness. Jason (Elan)
The prohibition of eating chicken with milk is indeed a rabbinic prohibition. One should not be lenient with this at all, as it says "You shall not divert from the word they tell you, either right or left" (Deuteronomy 17, 11). Rabbinic prohibitions were ruled and implemented during the Mishnah and Talmudic periods, until the completion of the Talmud. They were accepted by all Israel and obligate all of Israel. Since the completion of the Talmud there are no more new rabbinic prohibitions which obligate all. The sages and Rabbis in every generation and every country rule Laws and Customs as needed (see Rambam in his introduction to Mishneh Torah). It is not possible to cancel rabbinic prohibitions, even if it seems to us that nowadays the reason for the prohibition no longer exists, because no Beth Din has the power to nullify the words [ruling] of another Beth Din unless it is superior to it in learning and number (Mishnah Eduyot 1,5. Talmud Moed Kattan 3b). This obviously does not apply today due to the spiritual deterioration of the generations. In addition, one should not be lenient in regard to rabbinic prohibitions because of other hidden underlying reasons which are unknown to us (The Vilna Gaon, and Ran, in Meshech Chochmah Hashalem, published by Mori VeRabi Rabbi Shmuel Chaim Domb Shlita, Shemot p. 94 on Chapter 12 verse 2, and in Mekor Hachochmah 16). There are things which Halachah rules one should be punctilious on, due to Marit Ayin (the appearance of the eye) such as when cooking meat in almond milk one is obligated to put almonds near the milk (Rema Yore Deah 87, 3). It seems the reason that today we do not prohibit things which apparently are Marit Ayin or fear of erring and transgressing the prohibition of meat in milk is because there are so many meat, milk and cheese substitutes on the market, and everyone knows that, so there is no issue of Marit Ayin. We do not decree due to fear of erring and transgressing the prohibition of meat in milk, because most things come in sealed containers and packages with a Kosher seal. Kashrut authorities highlight the differences between parve and dairy, and between leavened food and kosher for Passover. And indeed products that are sold without packaging such as baked goods, the dairy products are baked differently in order to highlight the difference, such as dairy Burekas (filled pastry) that is triangle shaped, unlike the parve Burekas which is a square shape. The source to this is the Halacha that one is required to bake dairy bread in a different shape so people should not mistakenly eat it with meat (See Sefer Hakashrut 10, 15 and notes).