Dairy Bread

  • Rav David Brofsky




In previous shiurim, we examined two types of precautionary proscriptions enacted by Chazal in order to prevent the consumption of meat with milk.  One related to the time period one must wait in between eating meat and milk, and the other, to the physical proximity of meat to milk during a meal. 


This week, we shall learn about a third type of gezeira -  the prohibition against making and eating dairy bread. 


The gemara (Pesachim 36b) states:


"… One should not knead dough with milk, and if he did, the entire loaf is prohibited, because of 'hergel aveira' (the likeliness of habitual behavior leading to sin)… like an ox's eye (is permitted)."


When approaching this halakha, we must ask ourselves, what is the nature of this prohibition? Are there exceptions? What is the scope of this issur?


Exceptions – "Like an Ox's Eye"


After introducing this prohibition against baking or eating dairy bread, lest one mistakenly eat it with meat, the gemara comments that if the bread is "ke-en tura" ('like an ox's eye'), it is permitted.


The rishonim debate the meaning of the term, "ke-en tura" (like an ox's eye).


The Rif (Chulin 30a) explains that if "one changes the shape and makes it like an ox's eye, then it is permitted."  In other words, dairy bread is permitted if its shape is noticeably different than normal, which will serve as a reminder not to eat it with meat.  According to this interpretation, we might wonder whether or not bagels or Thomas' English Muffins qualify as "ke-en tura."


Rashi (Pesachim 36a) explains that an "ox's eye" is "small… and is eaten in one sitting ('be-vat achat'), and one does not leave it over such that he would forget that it was kneaded with milk."  Rashi requires that this dairy bread be small so that one will finish eating it before he forgets that it was prepared with milk and possibly eat it with meat.


One might ask whether Rashi and the Rif actually disagree, or if they simply mention different qualities of the bread described by the gemara as "ke-en tura." The Tur (Y.D. 97) felt that Rashi and Rif do not, in fact, dispute one another's view, and hence he cites both definitions.


Similarly, the Shulchan Arukh (Y.D. 97) rules:


"One should not knead dough with milk lest he come to eat it with meat; if one did, the bread it prohibited… However, if the bread is small enough to eat in one sitting ('be-vat achat'), OR if one changes the shape of the bread such that it is apparent that it should not be eaten with meat, then the bread is permitted."


Based on this ruling, the Rema writes:


"Therefore, it is the custom to knead bread with milk for Shavuot or with meat fat for Shabbat, because this is considered 'small' and its shape also differs from that of other breads…"


The Shulchan Arukh clearly rules in accordance with BOTH the Rif and Rashi.  Interestingly, based on this ruling, the Orthodox Union certifies Thomas' English Muffins as kosher, despite the fact that they are dairy.


However, I would like to suggest an alternative explanation of this debate, according to which it relates to a fundamental question regarding the nature of this entire prohibition.  Let us first analyze a number of basic questions concerning the prohibition of dairy bread, and then we will return to this debate.


Nature of the Prohibition


What type of prohibition did Chazal legislate when they forbade the consumption of dairy bread?  Is this an "issur gavra," i.e. a prohibition directed towards the person, to prevent him from eating meat with milk?  If so, one might suggest that the prohibition was not enacted where the reason for the prohibition is not applicable.


Alternatively, one might propose that the prohibition against eating dairy bread constitutes an "issur cheftza," meaning, that once the dough is kneaded with milk, it becomes a prohibited substance, regardless of the circumstances.


(Incidentally, in upcoming shiurim, we will ask a similar question regarding the prohibitions of chalav akum, pat akum, and bishul akum.)


The Pitchei Teshuva (Y.D. 97:3) cites a number of questions relevant to our discussion.


For example, may one make a large loaf of dairy bread, and then cut it into small pieces and distribute them to many people? In other words, does it matter that the bread was not initially baked as small loafs, but was rather later cut into smaller pieces?


The Chavat Da'at rules that the bread does not become permitted after one slices it into small pieces.  Seemingly, he understands the prohibition of dairy bread as an "issur cheftza," and the prohibition therefore cannot be lifted once the forbidden bread has been made. 


Others (see Chokhamat Adam 50:5 and Arukh Ha-Shulchan 97:9) disagree, at least be-diavad, and write that if a loaf of bread accidentally became "fleishig," one may slice it and divide it among several families, relying upon Rashi's interpretation of "ke-en tura."  Clearly, these authorities view the prohibition of dairy bread as an "issur gavra," which may be remedied by the proper conditions.


Similarly, the poskim disagree regarding a "heker achar afiya," meaning, whether one may change the shape of, or even simply mark, a loaf of dairy bread after it has already been baked. 


The Chavat Da'at (consistent with his opinion cited above) writes that once the dairy bread is baked, it cannot be transformed into permissible bread.  The aforementioned Chokhmat Adam and Arukh Ha-Shulchan, however, write that a "siman" added to bread accidentally made "fleishig" may solve the problem.  Once again, these authorities seem to debate the nature of the prohibition of dairy bread.


Rav Soloveitchik zt"l (see Nefesh Ha-Rav, page 153) ruled in accordance with his father, Rav Moshe Soloveitchik zt"l, who permitted dairy bread that is marked or labeled even after it was baked.  Until recently, many kashrut organizations relied upon this ruling and certified dairy bread as long as the package indicated that it was dairy.  However, as this practice apparently led to much confusion, most kashrut organizations have ceased to certify dairy bread as kosher.


Rif vs. Rashi – Another Explanation


We mentioned earlier that the Tur (and subsequently the Shulchan Arukh) believed that the Rif and Rashi do not argue, but rather offer two different yet equally acceptable solutions. As we briefly alluded to, however, their debate still requires further elucidation. 


Firstly, even if the Rif and Rashi agree, to what do they agree? To which explanation of the prohibition of dairy bread do they subscribe? And secondly, might we suggest that they actually disagree, and if so, how?


One could suggest, perhaps, that both the Rif and Rashi recommend ways to alleviate the "issur gavra," by removing the concern that one will eat meat with this bread.  Alternatively, one may suggest that by changing the shape, or "cheftza," in a fashion noticeable to the consumer, the prohibition will not affect THIS bread.  Once the shape of the bread is distorted, THIS is not the type of bread included in the prohibition.


However, it seems reasonable to suggest that the Rif and Rashi are in fact engaged in a fundamental debate.


According to the Rif, by changing the shape of the bread, or by changing the "cheftza," one removes this food from the category of "dairy bread," he turns them into something like cookies and cakes, and thereby avoids the creation of the issur.


Rashi, by contrast, does not require one to alter the shape or status of the bread, but rather to create a situation in which this "gavra" will not accidentally eat this bread with meat.  Therefore, by baking small pieces of bread, such that a person will recall that they are dairy and refrain from eating them with meat – dairy bread may be baked.


According to this understanding, the issues mentioned earlier - regarding a large dairy loaf baked and then cut into pieces, and a symbol placed on the bread after baking - should hinge on this debate between the Rif and Rashi. 


In any event, as we noted above, the Shulchan Arukh rules in accordance with BOTH explanations. 


The Scope of the Prohibition: Spice Mills, Cookies and Cakes


The Taz (Y.D. 97:1) rules that if a pareve spice grinder used for both besari and chalavi becomes "fleishig," one may not use it to grind pareve spices (i.e. 'devarim charifim' which will become besari from the grinder), lest one come to eat those spices with milk. 


In other words, the Taz extends the rationale of the prohibition of dairy bread to any scenario in which one might mistakenly assume a meat food is pareve, and eat that food with dairy.  The acharonim (see Chokhmat Adam 50:7 and Arukh Ha-Shulchan Y.D. 97:2), reject the Taz's stringency, and restrict the prohibition of dairy bread to only bread. 


Even within this lenient position, however, one might question whether this issur should apply to cookies and cakes. The Pitchei Teshuva (Y.D. 97:3) cites the Maharit who rules that the prohibition of dairy bread applies only to those bread products that will be eaten WITH meat. Therefore, cookies and cakes, which one generally eats as a dessert, AFTER meat, may be dairy.  However, crackers that are often eaten together with meat should, according to the Maharit, not be dairy. 


While most acharonim (see Chokhmat Adam 50:3 and Arukh Ha-Shulchan Y.D. 97:5-6) side with the Maharit, some "mehadrin" kashrut organizations in Israel demand that cheese burekas be made in a different shape (triangular) than potato burekas (rectangular).  Similarly, Rav Soloveitchik zt"l (cited in Nefesh Ha-Rav pg. 153) apparently disagreed, in principle, with the Maharit and prohibited dairy cakes which are not clearly chalavi (such as cheesecake).




May vegetarians prepare and eat dairy bread, given that they have little reason for concern that they might eat this bread with meat?


On the one hand, one might argue that if we view the prohibition of dairy bread as an "issur cheftza," then certainly preparing dairy bread for consumption in a vegetarian household in no way eliminates the issur.  If, however, we are to understand the prohibition as an "issur gavra," then we might propose that just as a "heker achar afiyya" serves as an effective heter, similarly, the context of a vegetarian restaurant or house may suffice. 


On the other hand, one might still insist that the bread itself be DISTINGUISHABLE as dairy, and that the context alone is not sufficient.  Some poskim, for example, suggest that the "shinuy" must be understood by all, and not just by the members of the household (see Pitchei Teshuva Y.D. 97:3).


Furthermore, see http://www.koltorah.org/ravj/Dairy%20Bread.htm, where Rabbi Howard Jachter notes that Rav Hershel Schachter does NOT allow vegetarians to eat dairy bread, citing as proof the Gemara in Masekhet Pesachim 37a.  There the gemara prohibits making matzot in specific shapes, lest one take too long to shape the dough and thereby allow the dough to rise and become chametz.  And even if there are those, like the Beitos family, who have perfected a method of shaping matzot quickly, without any fear of delay, the gemara insists that the prohibition remains in force nonetheless, since we might confuse the matzot of Beitos and those of other bakers. 


In other words, often the halakha demands a "lo pelug," in which we do not distinguish between cases in order to avoid confusion.  Therefore, Rav Schachter argues, we cannot make an exception and allow a vegetarian to eat dairy bread, lest one confuse the dairy bread of a vegetarian with the bread of others. 


Having concluded our study of the relevant laws of basar be-chalav, next week we will learn about the foods that Chazal prohibited because they were produced by non-Jews, such as chalav akum, pat akum, and bishul akum.