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May fish be consumed with dairy?

May fish be consumed with dairy?

Is lox and cream cheese kosher?

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Believe it or not, there is indeed discussion whether this innocuous-seeming staple of Sunday morning post-prayer brunches is ok for consumption under the kosher dietary laws.

Now, there is nothing inherently un-kosher in either lox or cream cheese (as long as no non-kosher ingredients were used in their manufacture). The issue at hand is if they can be eaten together.

Fish is pareve. This means that as far as the kosher laws of meat and milk are concerned, it is a neutral zone. It is neither a meat dish nor a milk dish and can be eaten with either. However, the Talmud1 warns us not to eat fish with meat, asserting that the combination is unhealthy. This is mentioned in the Code of Jewish Law2 with the admonition that health concerns are to be treated with even greater gravity than ritual laws.3 So the accepted practice is to change dishes and rinse one's mouth between fish and meat courses.

So far, our precious lox and cream cheese is safe. But Rabbi Yosef Karo (1488-1575)4 mentions a health restriction concerning eating fish and milk as well. The subsequent commentaries, including Rabbi Moshe Isserles (1520-1572),5 argue that this statement of Rabbi Yosef Karo must be an error, because there is neither Talmudic basis nor any other rabbinical precedent for prohibiting milk and fish.

Nevertheless, since Rabbi Yosef Karo wrote that milk and fish should not be mixed, there are those who do not mix them. The Chabad custom is that we do not eat fish together with milk, but we do eat fish with milk products. Even adding a touch of butter or cream to the milk is sufficient to permit mixing it with fish.6 Certainly then, lox and cream cheese can come together onto any Chabad table.

Yours truly,

Rabbi Menachem Posner

Footnotes
1.

Pesachim 76b.

2.

O.C. 173:2.

3.

Chullin 10a.

4.

Bet Yosef Y.D. 87.

5.

Darkei Moshe ad loc.

6.

Reshimos of the Rebbe, vol. 185, quoting Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch, known as the Tzemach Tzedek.

Rabbi Menachem Posner serves as staff editor for Chabad.org.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
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Menachem Posner June 15, 2016

As you can read in the article, there is no health risk of fish and milk. The health risk is only regarding fish and meat. We do not eat fish and dairy out of deference for the words as they are found in the Code of Jewish Law. However, since this teaching does not seem to have strong basis, we comply only to the letter of the law, which was regarding (pure) milk and fish. Reply

Emil Friedman Hillside, NJ June 10, 2016

adding a little butter would not remove the risk. And on what basis did the Rabbis of the Talmud assert a health risk regarding fish and meat? Did they cite any experimental evidence? If not, it seems likely that they simply accepted the ignorant "science" of the Greeks or Romans.

We keep the laws of Kashrut because Hashem commanded us to do so. That's a lot better than "health" explanations. Once we realize a health explanation (eg meat and fish) has no basis, the rule becomes nonsense. Reply

S.T. Haaby Western NY November 15, 2014

I consider myself a faithful Jew. But I am also a chef. I am very interested in the argument about GMOs and chemicals in food, but to enter this discussion is a slippery slope for us. His Law is divine, but do our modern times call for a new interpretation? Do we use our modern knowledge in the following of His Laws, or do we stick to the book and dash science and modern life against the rocks? I for one follow the laws in my home, and refuse to question, but in my working capacity I cook whats ordered and am required to taste everything. Kosher or not. This leaves room for alot of questions, but when I clock out I defer to Divine Law. I don't eat fish, so I don't concern myself much with the pairing between seafood and dairy, but it is a very interesting debate. Reply

kyle June 29, 2014

if health concerns are to be treated with more stringency than ritual laws how come there hasn't been any halachic discussion on the implication of gmos and pesticides ( especially Glyphosate, the chemical found in roundup)? Reply

ROBERTA Fredman Buffalo, NY October 3, 2011

I don't grill my fish with butter. I USE OLIVE OIL. This is very healthy. I serve it with a green salad and brown rice. The dog likes the rice and fish - hold the salad! LOL. Reply

Anonymous February 8, 2009

the omega-3 oil in fish is healthful, but the saturated fat in milk is unhealthful. Thus fish with milk poses a greater health risk than fish alone. But since cream, butter, and cheese all have much MORE saturated fat than plain milk does, fish with cream, butter, or cheese is even WORSE for one's health than fish plus milk.

(If one man subsists on chowder made from fish and milk, while his brother subsists on chowder made from fish and cream, which of them do you suppose will be the first to have a heart attack?) Reply

Anonymous Yerushalayim January 30, 2009

As far as I know. this is the opinion of ALL the achronim. with the exception of Aruch Hashulchan (who says the opposite), See lso Piskei Tshuvos volume one (not in front of me now).
The guy Reply

gershon mcgreevy January 29, 2009

"the achronim" is quite a broad way of describing SOME achronim.

If you want to follow them, go ahead and be my guest, or rather don't because i am serving lox and cream cheese. Reply

Anonymous Yerushalayim, Eretz Yisroel January 29, 2009

the Achronim (Pischei Tshuva + others) in Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 87, state that cheese and fish are NOT to be eaten together even according to those who permit MILK and fish. Reply

another bocher January 23, 2009

There was no real source in chabad customs of how exactly where we to follow
only after gimmel tammuz was it revealed how the rebbeim hold in this issue Reply

Chayim January 22, 2009

There never was any "minhag chabad" not to eat milk products with fish. Anyone who said there was, was simply misinformed. R. Zalman Shimon Dworkin a"h (who passed away more than 20 years ago) was asked about this and he said that in Lubavitch the custom was that anything other than plain milk can be eaten with fish. He would personally have a coffee with milk with his herring (don't try this at home). Reply

A Bochur January 22, 2009

There was no unified custom since there was no written directive in either direction. I heard that the Rabbi Dworkin, "the rov of Lubavitch" was once seen munching on herring whilst sipping a dairy coffee (yuck!). Some did and some did not.

This directive is found in the Rebbe's private notes which were not publised until the mid/late nineties. Reply

Elisheva Brooklyn, NY January 22, 2009

Let me get this straight. While the Rebbe was alive, the Chabad custom was NOT to mix ANY milk products with fish. I was told not to add a dab of butter when grilling fish. But only after Gimel Tammuz, the Tzemach Tzedek's ruling was unveiled? Therefore, we do eat milk PRODUCTS with fish?
If I got it right, not too many people in Chabad know about this. In any home devoted to Chabad customs, I have never seen or heard that they use milk products with fish. Why is this psak a "secret" Reply

Tzvi Freeman, Ask the Rabbi January 21, 2009

The last lines have been edited for clarity. Reply

A Bachur January 21, 2009

The thing is that this directive of the Tzemach Tzedek as recorded by the Rebbe was not widely known until after the Rebbe’s passing. For this reason, until then there was no unified Chabad practice. Some people were more stringent, and others were less.

However, now that it has been publicized, it is safe to say that the Chabad tradition has no compunctions with fish and cheese. Reply

Avram MD January 21, 2009

Yossi,
The Torah prohibition is to not "cook a kid in its mother's milk." The halachos we have regarding mixing meat and dairy are all based on this prohibition rather than on a blanket definition of meat as the flesh of any animal. Therefore, for example, the primary reason we do not mix dairy products with chicken (which do not produce milk) is out of a concern that chicken can be confused with other meats, not because the basic mitzvah specifically forbids us from cooking dairy and poultry. Smothering chicken and beef with BBQ sauce will show this concern to be true. As for fish, the smell and texture are so different from things like beef, lamb, even chicken, that it's highly unlikely that fish will be confused for other meat. Therefore, fish is pareve. Reply

Chanoch Sufrin Brisbane, Australia January 21, 2009

As the author mentions in the footnote the Rebbe in his notes (Reshimos) quotes a particular ruling by Rabbi MM Schneerson - Tzemach Tzedek (third Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch movement) - that the concern mentioned with Rabbi Yosef Karo is only with fish and MILK. Fish and milk products, such as cheese etc. are absolutely fine. The Tzemach Tzedek takes this a step further and confirms that even milk with a drop of butter or cream is not longer considered pure milk and therefore may be used and eaten with fish.
In conclusion, the Chabad customs allow the eating and enjoyment of cheese and lox (as long as the intention of eating is to energise yourself to do positive things). Reply

Lazer Margolis Los Angeles, CA January 21, 2009

This last sentence seems a typo or some kind of mistake. Reply

Yossi January 20, 2009

Fish are animals with hearts, eyes, stomachs, etc... They have bones and *meat* on their bones. It really, really blows my mind that fish is still considered parve.

Yes, they do not milk but I was under the understanding that the halichah was not to mix any meat with dairy. The last time I checked, fish had meat on their bones, not vegetables. Reply

Moishele Fort Dix, NJ January 20, 2009

Read that last line again, carefully. Reply