Dash (Part 4) Milking on Shabbat

  • Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon



By Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon

 Translated by Rav Yoseif Bloch


In loving memory of Channa Schreiber (Channa Rivka bat Yosef v' Yocheved) z"l,
with wishes for consolation and comfort to her dear children
Yossi and Mona, Yitzchak and Carmit, and their families,
along with all who mourn for Tzion and Yerushalayim.



Shiur #12: DASH (Part 4)


 VII) Milking on Shabbat



Under what conditions may one milk cows on Shabbat?

Is it permissible for a nursing woman to squeeze milk into a vessel?


The Prohibition to Milk


The Gemara (95a) lists a number of actions whose violation on Shabbat is a matter of dispute.  Rabbi Eliezer rules that their performance violates a Torah prohibition, while the Chakhamim (the other rabbis) maintain that their performance violates a rabbinic prohibition:


Our Rabbis taught: "One who milks, sets milk [for curdling] or makes cheese – [any of these at] the size of a dried fig; one who sweeps [the dirt floor], settles the dust [by sprinkling water] or removes loaves of honey – [regarding all of these] unwittingly on Shabbat, one is liable to bring a sin-offering...  This is Rabbi Eliezer's view; however, the Chakhamim say that in both cases it is only prohibited rabbinically.


Note that milking appears on this list.  As such, it would appear that the Chakhamim rule that milking is forbidden rabbinically.  Indeed, Rav Hai Gaon (cited in the Rashba ibid.) and the Ramban (ibid.) rule accordingly. 


However, most Rishonim understand that the Chakhamim argue only about the second part of the list (the housecleaning activities), while the melakhot which are mentioned in the beginning of the list (the dairy-production activities) are forbidden by the Torah according to all views.  According to this, milking is forbidden by the Torah.


While the Rishonim dispute the reason for this prohibition, the accepted understanding is the view expressed by Tosafot (73b, s.v. Mefarek, in the name of the Ri) and the Rambam (8:10), that milking is forbidden because of mefarek (extracting), a subcategory of dash.[1]  As we have seen, the basis of the melakha of dash is the removal of an absorbed substance from its natural place.  Thus, milking is forbidden because of mefarek, because one removes the milk from its natural place of growth.[2]  


Milking by a Non-Jew


Despite the prohibition of milking, a non-Jew is allowed to milk a Jew's cow because of the concern of animal pain (tza’ar ba’alei chayim).  The Shulchan Arukh (305:20) rules:


It is permissible to tell a non-Jew to milk [a Jew's] animal due to tza’ar ba’alei chayim, because the milk causes it pain; however, the milk may not be used on that day.


This ruling was widely practiced among Jewish communities worldwide for many generations.  However, with the renewal of Jewish settlement in Israel, this solution has become very difficult to apply, whether because of the desire for Jewish labor or because of security issues and the like.  Rav Kook, then Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of British Mandatory Palestine, was asked about this in 1925 (Orach Mishpat, OC, Ch. 64).  His response is quite strong and unequivocal: one must utilize the services of a non-Jew to milk on Shabbat.


Milking on the holy Shabbat by a Jew is totally prohibited and a terrible desecration of Shabbat, and Heaven forbid that one take a lenient view of this.  There is no other way of milking on Shabbat aside from having it done by a non-Jew.


Milking to Waste


Notwithstanding this firm stance, in cases where there is no alternative, Rav Kook does not object to a Jew milking on Shabbat in a way that the milk will go to waste (le-ibbud).[3]  The cows on Jewish farms at the time were Dutch dairy cows, which needed to be milked daily because of their copious milk production.  This is one of the reasons that Rav Kook ultimately does not prevent those who permit milking le-ibbud.  However, he sanctions this only in cases where there is no alternative, and only if the milk will actually go le-ibbud, "but Heaven forbid and forfend that one expand this dispensation any further."  Indeed, the dispensation to milk le-ibbud is not based only on the fact that this is a melakha she-einah tzerikha le-gufah — one which is performed without any interest in its essence, but for the sake of an incidental result — but also on the view of Rishonim that we saw in our previous shiurim that when one is not interested at all in the mashkeh (liquid) being squeezed out, this is not considered to be a case of mefarek at all.


This ruling of Rav Kook created great difficulties for many agricultural settlements; the residents wanted to adhere to his ruling, but they found this application to be impracticable and that it led to an unbearable financial loss.  Rav Uziel (then Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, later Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel) felt that there was a possibility of allowing a Jew to milk the cows and keep the milk, because of the tremendous loss and the interest of settling the Land of Israel (Mishpetei Uziel, Vol. I, OC, Ch. 10); however most rabbis opposed this, and Rav Kook (Orach Mishpat, ibid.) rejected it conclusively.  The problem of milking on Shabbat, which was very difficult for Jewish agricultural settlements throughout Israel, aroused much debate and major controversy.[4]  Among other issues, it begged the question: can Jewish settlement exist without non-Jews?!  (To our distress, nowadays there is a very widespread use of and reliance upon foreign workers, notwithstanding the ready availability of numerous modern halakhic solutions and other ways to solve this and other legal issues.)


Milking into Food


Rav Shaul Yisraeli (Ammud Ha-ymini, Ch. 24), who was the rabbi of Kefar Ha-ro'eh, later issued a ruling permitting milking on Shabbat into food (based on the principle that one is permitted to squeeze a mashkeh directly into food, which we saw in our previous shiur).  This is the practice of many kibbutzim; they milk on Shabbat into bread (although the only commercial use available for this milk is to use it for cheese production, cutting profits in half). 


The Chazon Ish (56:4) rules that one must exert effort to recruit a non-Jew for milking, but if this is not possible, one may milk le-ibbud.


Milking by Machine


In reality, none of the abovementioned solutions provided a fully satisfactory solution for the Jewish farms of the time.  A satisfactory solution to the problem of milking on Shabbat emerged in the first decade of the State of Israel, with the electric milking machine.  This solution is based on the fact that the first milking goes le-ibbud, and the rest of the milk is produced "on its own", as it were, by the machine.  This method of milking was first applied in Kibbutz Chafetz Chayim with the consent of the Chazon Ish.[5]


In recent decades, this solution has been further improved halakhically by adding the element of gerama (causation), so that the machine does not start operating immediately when the cups are attached to the cow's teats, but rather after some delay (also, a small part of the first milk to be pumped goes le-ibbud).  This method is mentioned by the Chazon Ish (38:4) and Rav Yisraeli (Ammud Ha-ymini, Ch. 25) as being preferable.[6]


These methods of milking by machine le-ibbud or via gerama are employed by many Shabbat-observant farms in our days, so that we have an elegant halakhic solution, giving a realistic response to the need to milk on Shabbat by a Jew without causing financial losses.


Milk Produced on Shabbat


Any milk produced on Shabbat, even if it was milked in a permissible way, may not be drunk on Shabbat itself (OC 305:20), because the Sages banned liquids produced on Shabbat, as we will see in our next shiur.  If the milk was produced in a forbidden way, at times it is prohibited to drink it even on a weekday.  This depends on the law of maaseh Shabbat (OC 318:1), a product of a melakha, which we will not deal with at length now.[7]




Nursing a baby in the normal way is permissible, and there is no question of any prohibition at all (OC 328:35).  This is not considered mefarek, but rather derekh akhila, the way of eating.  The mother can even help the baby by pressing on her breast (Rav S.Z. Auerbach, cited by Megillat Sefer 7:5). 


However, pumping breast milk into a vessel is forbidden.  The Bei'ur Halakha (328:34) writes in the name of the Peri Megadim that this action is forbidden by the Torah because of mefarek.


A woman who is in pain due to the extra milk in her breasts or who wants to pump the milk in order to maintain her ability to nurse (see the words of Rav S.Z. Auerbach, cited in Me’or Ha-shabbat, Vol. I, pp. 504-505) is allowed to pump milk le-ibbud (OC 330:8) — e.g., pumping the milk directly into the sink or into a vessel which contains some sort of substance that ruins the milk's taste (e.g., soap).  She may also use a breast pump (either a manual pump, or an electric pump which is turned on before Shabbat or by a timer), if there is an unpalatable substance in the receptacle as above. 


A nursing woman may not pump milk into a vessel with the intent that her baby will drink it later, unless this baby is incapable of nursing and cannot consume milk substitutes.  Clearly, the mother may not do this on Shabbat in order that she may involve herself in other pursuits during the week — indeed, there is a Torah prohibition to do so!




In conclusion, milking on Shabbat violates a Torah prohibition according to most halakhic authorities because of the prohibition of mefarek, which is a subcategory of dash.  The original custom of kibbutzim and agricultural settlements was to employ a non-Jew to take care of the milking on Shabbat.  When this was impossible, the halakhic authorities allowed one to milk le-ibbud.  There are those who wanted to allow milking by a Jew, but this has not been the accepted practice.  Another solution, adopted in Kefar Ha-ro'eh, was to milk onto bread.  This issue has inspired many debates and controversies, and made things quite difficult for Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel. 


After the establishment of the State of Israel, a revolution began with the use of the electric milking machine.  Using this method, they would first milk le-ibbud, and after that the machine would operate on its own.  This was the practice in Kibbutz Chafetz Chayim, in accordance with the view of the Chazon Ish. 


Nowadays, there is another solution, using gerama.  These solutions allow one to observe Shabbat in the best way and also employ Jews to do the milking without causing major financial losses. 


There is no problem of nursing a baby.  However, pumping breast milk into an empty vessel constitutes the violation of a Torah prohibition in the view of many halakhic authorities.  If the mother is in pain due to extra milk, she may pump le-ibbud.  If the baby is unable to nurse or consume milk substitutes, she is allowed to pump the milk for the baby to drink (though it is preferable to consult a rabbi in these situations).  In other circumstances, it is absolutely forbidden.





VIII) The Prohibition of Mashkim She-zavu


May one consume the juice which is squeezed out of a grapefruit as one eats the fruit with a spoon?

What is the status of the juice at the bottom of a fruit cup?


The mishna (143b) cites a dispute about liquids which come out of produce on their own on Shabbat:


One may not squeeze produce to remove liquids from it, and if they come out on their own, they are forbidden.  Rabbi Yehuda says: "That which is food, whatever emerges from it is permissible; that which is drink, whatever emerges from it is forbidden." 


The Chakhamim forbid all liquids which come out, while Rabbi Yehuda allows the liquids when the produces is destined to be eaten, rather than for sechita (squeezing).  This rabbinic prohibition of mashkim she-zavu (literally, liquids which have flowed) is explained by the Gemara (Beitza 3a) as being based on the Sages' concern that if one were allowed to drink liquids which flow out of produce of their own accord, one might come to squeeze produce actively, by hand.  The Chakhamim in this mishna apply this prohibition to all produce, while Rabbi Yehuda believes that if the produce is designated to be eaten as food, one is actually displeased by its secreting liquid, so that there is no concern that one might come to squeeze it actively.


Returning to Shabbat 143b, the Gemara explains that Rabbi Yehuda concedes to the Chakhamim when it comes to olives and grapes: one should prohibit the juice which comes out even if they are designated to be eaten, since generally these species are used for their juices, so that we must be concerned that the person may actually be pleased by the liquids which come out, discard the original plan to eat them and decide to squeeze them by hand.[8]


The Shulchan Arukh (320:1) rules in accordance with Rabbi Yehuda's view:


Olives and grapes may not be squeezed, and their juice is forbidden if it comes out on its own — even if they were only designated for eating.  Berries and pomegranates may not be squeezed, and if their juice comes out on its own, it is permitted if they were designated for eating, but forbidden if they were designated for drinking. 


Juice from Eating a Grapefruit


In light of this, if one eats a grapefruit with a spoon and some juice squirts out, this juice may be drunk, since the grapefruit is designated for eating, not for sechita, and the eater has no intent to juice the grapefruit, but merely to eat it.  Thus, the prohibition of mashkim she-zavu should not be applicable to such a case.


As for the status of eating grapefruit with a spoon, Rav S.Z. Auerbach (cited in Shemirat Shabbat Ke-hilkhatah, Ch. 5, n. 42) argues that although there is a pesik reisha (an inevitable, unintentional result) in this case that some juice will be squeezed out, since this juice is not removed from the fruit, but remains mixed in with it, there is no problem.[9]


Juice from a Fruit Cup


Similarly, one may drink the liquid left at the bottom of a fruit salad, since the fruits are designated for eating, not for drinking.  Aside from this, the juice has been originally mixed in with the fruit, not flowing out into another vessel, and therefore it is considered part of the food.  According to this, one may allow the liquid even if grapes are among the fruits in the salad.[10]

 Translated by Rav Yoseif Bloch

[1] It should be noted that there is a distinction between the views of the Ri and the Rambam.  The Rishonim ask: how can it be that milking is forbidden by the Torah because of dash, when the Gemara (75a) says that disha (threshing) is only applicable to things which grow from the ground (giddulei karka).  According to the Ri, disha applies even to non-giddulei karka, with the halakha rejecting the conclusion of that Gemara.  The Rambam, on the other hand, accepts the ruling of the Gemara that disha applies only to giddulei karka.  Yet, he writes (in the same law) that a milker violates a Torah prohibition of mefarek, a subcategory of dash.  The Maggid Mishneh explains that the Rambam understands that animals are considered giddulei karka for these purposes.  However Rabbi Avraham ben Ha-Rambam explains (Birkat Avraham, Ch. 18), that the primary melakha of disha only applies to giddulei karka, since in the Mishkan (Tabernacle), disha was specifically performed on giddulei karka. However, he claims, only the primary melakha need to be similar to what was done in the Mishkan, while the subcategories do not need to be totally similar to the activities in the Mishkan.  Therefore, only actual disha is limited to giddulei karka, while milking, which is a subcategory of dash (because of mefarek), is forbidden by the Torah even for non-giddulei karka.

[2] Among the Rishonim, there are other views regarding the underlying prohibition of milking.  We will enumerate them briefly:

1.             Dash (abovementioned Ri and Rambam)

2.             Smoothing — one is smoothing the udder (Rabbeinu Tam, cited by Tosafot, 73b, s.v. Mefarek)

3.             Harvesting (Yerushalmi 7:3)

4.             Selecting (Rashba, 144b, in the name of Rabbeinu Tam)

5.             Grinding (Yere'im, Ch. 274, 141a)

6.             Shearing (Rash bar Avraham, cited by the Rashba, Ketubbot 60a)

7.             Rabbinical prohibition (abovementioned Rav Hai Gaon and Ramban)

[3] It should be noted that Rav Kook does not permit this; he simply turns a blind eye and does not protest it: "It suffices us to turn a blind eye to those who are lenient to milk upon the ground, and also this it is not appropriate that an explicit ruling should issue forth in the name of a scholar who is an established authority...  I have already said to the honorable Torah scholar that I myself have no desire to issue such a ruling, so that it will not become the common practice, but one may not protest the actions of those who are accustomed to permit this."

[4] A historical survey of the developments and discussions of this issue appears in the article by Dr. Chaim Peles, Barkai 2, pp. 108-132.

[5] See Rav Kalman Kahana's book Ha-ish Ve-chazono, pp. 56-57, 70-71.

[6] For more on this, see Techumin 7, pp. 144-156 (Rav U. Dasberg); ibid. pp. 157-173 (Rav S. David); Techumin 11, pp. 170-175 (Rav S. Rosenfeld); Techumin 15, pp. 393-400 (Rav U. Dasberg); ibid. pp. 401-410 (Rav Z. Weitman), et al.

[7] We should note that when there is a suspicion that that the milk has been produced on Shabbat in a forbidden manner, there will not be mehadrin certification on the item.

[8] In the Gemara, there is another view — that Rabbi Yehuda argues about olives and grapes as well — but on this interpretation, the halakha does not follow his view, but rather the view of the Chakhamim.

[9] Rav S.Z. Auerbach adds that this is a pesik reisha regarding a prohibition which is only rabbinic on two counts (regarding which the law is that it is permitted; see Shaar Ha-tziyun 316:18), because the sechita of other fruits is prohibited rabbinically, and sechita with a spoon is considered an alteration (however, above we saw that it may be that the sechita of citrus fruits in our times is forbidden by the Torah, since we are accustomed to squeeze them).

[10] Similarly, the Shulchan Arukh (320:2) rules that if grapes are found in wine and liquid is flowing out of them into the wine, the liquid is not prohibited because of the mashkim she-zavu decree, since this liquid is nullified by the wine.  It is even permissible to put grapes into wine on Shabbat with the intent that they split open and spill their liquid into it (Mishna Berura, ibid. 14).