Thursday, November 13, 2003

Vayera #2: Did Avraham serve the malachim בשר בחלב?

In this week's parsha, 3 angels come in human guise to visit Avraham, and he serves them a meal. The pasuk (Bereishit 18:8) states:

וַיִּקַּח חֶמְאָה וְחָלָב, וּבֶן-הַבָּקָר אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה, וַיִּתֵּן, לִפְנֵיהֶם; וְהוּא-עֹמֵד עֲלֵיהֶם תַּחַת הָעֵץ, וַיֹּאכֵלוּ.
"And he took curd, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat."

Rashi explains that אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה means אשר תקן, "which he prepared."

The previous pasuk states:
וְאֶל-הַבָּקָר רָץ אַבְרָהָם וַיִּקַּח בֶּן-בָּקָר רַךְ וָטוֹב וַיִּתֵּן אֶל-הַנַּעַר וַיְמַהֵר לַעֲשׂוֹת אֹתוֹ.
"And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetched a calf tender and good, and gave it unto the servant; and he hastened to dress it."

So that would be a description of the making=preparing of the calf.

Rashi further mentions that he brought it out first things first, in other words as each was prepared he brought it before them. Siftei Chachamim has an explanation of Rashi's motivation within the text - which words would have made you think that he brought it out all at once, and whence Rashi derives that he brought it out one at a time.

I like Daat Zekenim MiBaalei HaTosafot's explanation more. First he cites the midrash that when Hashem was about to give the Torah to the Benei Yisrael, the angels protested that Hashem should keep it in heaven and the angels would keep it. Hashem points out that when they went to visit Avraham, they ate Basar BeChalav.
However, Daat Zekenim is troubles by the question how Avraham would serve Basar BeChalav. After all, a midrash states that Avraham kept the entire Torah (presumably in addition to the Code of Hammurabi -- see below ;) ) even unto Eruv Tavshilin. He takes Eruv Tavshilin not to be the simple meaning of making an eruv tavshilin in order to be able to cook from one day of yom tov to the next, but rather that in terms of his tavshilin, prepared foods, he would not be mearev = mix milk and meat.

If so, how could Avraham serve on his table milk and meat?! He answers that this is what Rashi is saying, he brought them out one by one, in the order of the pasuk:

וַיִּקַּח חֶמְאָה וְחָלָב, וּבֶן-הַבָּקָר אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה, וַיִּתֵּן, לִפְנֵיהֶם; וְהוּא-עֹמֵד עֲלֵיהֶם תַּחַת הָעֵץ, וַיֹּאכֵלוּ.

So, the milk came first, and then the meat.

This reminds me of a dvar torah I heard I think in 6th grade from Rabbi Elefant said over in someone's name (don't remeber who). Rashi notes on וַיֹּאכֵלוּ that the made it appear as if they were eating. If so, what problem would Hashem have with the angels, if they did not actually eat?

I would say that we have a group of conflicting midrashim, and they actually argue on on the other. (Especially within Daat Zekenim if Avraham did not serve Basar BeChalac, then Hashem would have no complaint against the malachim.) You cannot always say Elu VeElu Divrei Elokim Chaim in terms of actual fact, and here the facts of the two midrashim conflict, and any attempt at harmonization actually does damage to both of the midrashim.

At any rate, the solution offered in all seriousness was as follows: The malachim did not eat, but brought the food to their lips and the food was burnt and vaporized (for malachim are entirely of fire). Thus, what could be Hashem's complaint if they did not really eat? The answer is that the prohibition is to cook milk and meat together, from which we also get eating milk and meat which was cooked together (and from there to prohibitions such as placing milk and meat on the same eating-table). Thus, when they brought it to their lips and burnt it, they were violating *cooking* milk and meat together.

It is a charming and clever answer. Just realize it is not truth, and is a great illustration of my statement above that you should not always try to harmonize midrashim.

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