ויקח חמאה וחלב ובן הבקר אשר עשה ויתן לפניהם ... ויאכלו
He took cream and milk and the calf which he made and placed it before them ... and they ate (Bereishit 18:8)

QUESTION: What forbidden food did the angels eat in Avraham’s home that caused them to lose the Torah?

ANSWER: According to the Jerusalem Talmud, when Moshe came up to Heaven to receive the Torah the angels objected and argued “Bestow Your glory on the Heavens.” Hashem said to the protesting angels, “When a child arrives home from yeshivah he is given a glass of milk. Afterwards, when meat is placed before him, he washes his hands (etc.) and he eats. When you were at the home of Avraham you ate meat with milk.” (See Rit Algazi, Bechorot 1:2, Midrash Shochar Tov, 8)


How Did This Force Angels to Retract their Claim?

QUESTION: Rabbi Moshe Sofer of Pressburg (Chatam Sofer) asks why did Hashem accuse them of violating the laws of meat and milk, when the Torah states succinctly that Avraham gave them [first] cream and milk, and [afterwards] the calf which he made?

ANSWER: According to Kabbalah teachings, the prohibition against mixing meat and milk is because they are two diverse energies. Milk is white and it represents chesed — kindness. Meat is red and it represents gevurah and din — severity and judgment.

(עי' תורת שמואל לאדמו"ר מהר"ש ספר תרל"ד ע' 31)

Accordingly, the reason as to why (after an interval of one hour) meat may be eaten after milk and it is forbidden to eat dairy (for six hours) after meat is the following:

There is a discussion in the Gemara (Pesachim 76a) regarding a case in which a hot piece of meat falls on cold dairy or vice versa. Do we say, tata’ah gavar — the lower ones dominates or ila’ah gavar — the upper one dominates. That is, if we say the upper one dominates, then the hot food which is on top heats up the lower food before the lower food can cool it off. If we say the lower one dominates, the hot meat falling in is cooled by the lower cold dairy before any absorption can take place. The halachah is that, tata’ah gavar — the lower one dominates.

Hence, when one eats first milk and then meat, in his stomach the lower food (milk) dominates over the upper food (meat) and thus, chesed dominates over gevurah, which is the desirable phenomena. On the other hand, if one eats meat and follows it up with milk, the meat which is now the lower one dominates over the upper. This creates a situation where the gevurah (meat) is dominating over chesed (milk), which is not the way things should be.

Since the angels argued that the Torah belongs to those on high in the heavens, rather than to the mortals below on earth, obviously, they held that ila’ah gavar — the upper one dominates. Thus, according to them it would be permissible to eat meat followed by milk because the dairy which represents chesed would dominate over the meat which corresponds to gevurah. Conversely, according to them, dairy followed by meat would be forbidden since the gevurah would dominate over chesed.

Hashem knew very well that the angels conducted themselves as every child does. They first ate the milk and afterwards the meat. Nevertheless, when they made their request that Torah remain in Heaven, Hashem told them. “When you were in the home of Avraham you violated the prohibition of not eating meat and milk. Since according to your theory that ila’ah gavar, when you first ate milk products and afterwards meat, the upper one (meat) — gevurah — dominated over the lower one (milk) chesed.

In light of this, the angels withdrew their claim and agreed that Torah should be given to the Jewish people on earth rather than to the angels on the heavens. Thus, they accepted the theory that tata’ah gavar — and consequently, they did not violate any halachah when they ate dairy followed by meat in Avraham’s home.

(פרדס יוסף בשם היהודי הקדוש זצ"ל מפשיסחא)

The Angels Ate Meat Cooked with Milk

Alternatively, according to the Daat Zekeinim MiBa’alei Hatosafot, Avraham served them meat cooked together with milk and they ate it. Hence, when Moshe came up to heaven to receive the Torah and the angels objected and argued “Bestow Your glory on the Heavens,” Hashem said to the protesting angels, in the Torah it is written “You shall not cook a kid in his mother’s milk, and when you came down to visit Avraham you ate meat with milk.” Immediately, they conceded to Hashem and agreed that Torah be given to the Jews on earth.

This is substantiated from the juxtaposition of the pesukim “You shall not cook a kid in its mother’s milk” and “Hashem said to Moshe, write for yourself these words (the Ten Commandments) “ki al pi hadevarim ha’eilah” for according to these words I entered a covenant with you and with Israel” (Shemot 34:26-27)

According to the Da’at Zekeinim, Hashem’s saying “ki al pi hadevarim ha’eilah” — “for according to these words” — was His reasoning for choosing the Jewish people to receive the Ten Commandments. Hashem began by saying “you shall not cook a kid in its mother’s milk.” Then he told Moshe “write these words (the Ten Commandments) for according to these words (“you shall not cook a kid in its mother’s milk” — which the angels violated) I entered a covenant with you and Israel” (and gave you the Torah and not the angels).

(The Da’at Zekeinim notes that this Midrash is in contrast with the Midrash that Avraham observed Eiruv Tavshilim (lit. not to mix items while cooking) i.e. not to cook meat and milk together in one pot, and neither did he eat dairy after meat. He did however, eat meat after dairy and this is what he served the angels (as also explained by Rashi).)


Did Avraham Violate “You Shall Not Cook Meat With Dairy”?

QUESTION: The law of cooking meat with milk is mentioned three times in the Torah. The Gemara (Chullin 115b) says that there are three prohibitions. 1) Bishul — cooking — meat and milk together is forbidden. 2) Achilah — it may not be eaten 3) Hana’ah — deriving pleasure of it is forbidden. According to the abovementioned Midrash that they ate meat cooked with dairy, why did Avraham permit the prohibition of “lo tevashel” — “you shall not cook meat with dairy” — to be violated in his home.

ANSWER: The Torah relates that “Avraham ran to the cattle, took a calf and gave it to the youth (Yishmael) and vayemaheir la’asot oto — [the youth] hurried to prepare it.” Then it says, “He took cream and milk and the calf asher asah — which he prepared and placed it before them and he [Avraham] stood over them and they ate.” There is an apparent difficulty 1) “la’asot” literally means “to make” if the meaning here is “to prepare” it should have said “lehachin oto”? 2) When we are told he brought the ben habakar — the calf — why does it repeat asher asah” — “which he prepared” — isn’t this superfluous?

Therefore, some say, that the original calf which Avraham brought from the field and gave to the youth ran away. Not to keep the guests waiting, Avraham quickly made (created) another calf by reciting certain Holy Names and verses which are mentioned in Sefer Yetzirah, a book whose authorship is accredited to Avraham. Such an animal may be cooked together with milk. The Torah says he took cream and milk and the calf which he made — i.e. created — to emphasize that no transgression occurred in the preparation of the meal on the part of Avraham or his household.

(מלבי"ם)


What Was the Angels Guilt?

QUESTION: According to the above, the angels did not violate the edict of eating meat cooked with milk. If so, how did Hashem use this episode as His justification to deny them the Torah and give it to the Jewish people?

ANSWER: A pasuk regarding a woman who made a vow and violated it not knowing that her husband had already revoked it states, “Her husband had revoked [her vows] and Hashem will forgive” (Bamidbar 30:13). The Gemara (Kiddushin 81b) derives from this that if a person intended to eat pork (non-kosher meat) but by mistake he ate lamb (kosher meat) he requires atonement and forgiveness.

Technically what the angels ate was not the sort of meat and milk which is prohibited to eat when cooked together. Nevertheless, they ate meat cooked with milk unaware of the technical loophole. This is considered an iniquity and requires atonement

Hence, for Hashem this was sufficient justification to deny the angels the Torah and give it to His beloved Jewish people.