Dairy Bread by Rabbi Chaim Jachter



It is customary for many Rabbanim to discuss on Shavuot issues pertaining to the laws of milk and meat.  Accordingly, we shall devote our discussion this week to the laws pertaining to dairy bread.  Chazal (Pesachim 36a) decreed that bread must be Pareve lest we eat dairy bread with meat or meat bread with dairy.  We will discuss the parameters of this prohibition and its application to the modern context.

The Prohibition and its Exceptions

The Gemara in Pesachim 36a writes, “One may not knead dough with milk and if he did this, he is forbidden to eat the bread lest he come to sin.”  However, the Gemara records that if one bakes the bread “K’ein Turah” then the prohibition does not apply.  The Rishonim offer two explanations for this phrase.  Rashi (ad.loc. s.v.  K’ein Turah) translates the phrase to mean “like the eye of an ox,” which is an example of something that is small.  Rashi explains that one may bake a small amount of bread that is not Pareve.  The reason for this exception is that since the small amount of bread will not linger in the house for a considerable amount of time, one will not forget that it is dairy or meat.  On the other hand, the Rif (Chullin 38a) and the Rambam (Hilchot Maachalot Asurot 9:22) translate the phrase “K’ein Tura,” similar to an ox.  This means that one shapes the bread in an unusual form, such as like an ox, to indicate that the bread is meat (it was kneaded with meat gravy).  The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 97:1) rules leniently in accordance with both interpretations.  Thus, one may bake dairy (or meat) bread if either one bakes a small amount or he bakes the bread in an unusual manner. 

The Rama (ibid) thus explains the common practice in his area to bake dairy bread for Shavuot and bread kneaded in meat gravy for Shabbat.  He explains that these breads are baked differently than conventional bread and are considered a small amount of bread.  Rav Menachem Genack stated (in a Shiur delivered at Yeshiva University in 1988) that it is for these reasons that the Orthodox Union certifies English Muffins as Kosher, despite the fact that they are dairy.  He explains that their form differs from standard bread and that each portion is eaten at one sitting (in contrast to a loaf of bread).

The Acharonim, debate the parameters of these exceptions.  For example, the Shulchan Aruch (ibid) rules that a small amount refers to an amount of bread that one eats in one sitting.  The Rama (ibid), on the other hand, rules that it refers to the amount of bread that one eats in one day.  The Aruch Hashulchan (Y.D. 97:4) clarifies that this refers to a full twenty-four hour period.  Another debate is how different the bread must be shaped to qualify for an exemption from this prohibition.  The Darkei Teshuva (97:19) writes that the classic Poskim do not discuss whether there must be a drastic difference or a slight difference in the appearance of the bread.  He concludes with a quote from Zeir Zahav that the difference should be pronounced to the extent that even visitors to the area notice that the bread is different.  Rav Hershel Schachter told me that it must be a “dead giveaway” that the bread is different from all other breads in order to qualify for an exemption.

The Pitchei Teshuva (Y.D. 97:3) cites from the Teshuvot Maharit that if the type of bread is never eaten together with meat, one may knead the bread with dairy.  The Pri Chadash (Y.D. 97:1), Chochmat Adam (50:3), Aruch Hashulchan (Y.D. 97:7), and Badei Hashulchan (97:2) all rule in accordance with the Maharit.  Accordingly, reputable Kashrut organizations certify dairy doughnuts and croissants as kosher.  The Aruch Hashulchan (Y.D. 97:7-8) adds that when something is well known that it is meat or dairy, this prohibition does not apply since there is no serious concern for a mistake.  Rav Ovadia Yosef (Yalkut Yosef p.845) rules that cheese burekas are a contemporary example of this. 

Parameters of the Prohibition

The Taz (Y.D. 97:1) applies this prohibition to any type of situation when there is serious concern for a mistake.  For example, the Taz rules that a spice mill that one uses to grind spices for use with both meat and milk meals, may not be used if the mill accidentally became either meat or dairy.  One might forget that the mill has become meat, for instance, and use the spices ground in the mill, with dairy.  The Pri Chadash and Chavat Daat reject the Taz because we are not authorized to expand the rabbinical prohibition beyond the specific item mentioned in the Gemara - bread.  The Chochmat Adam (50:3), the Aruch Hashulchan (Y.D. 97:2), and the Badei Hashulchan (97:1) rule that this prohibition is limited specifically to bread.

The Acharonim debate whether the prohibition of Ein Mevatlin Issur Lechatchila (we may not intentionally nullify a forbidden food) applies to this issue.  In general, we are forbidden to add even a miniscule amount of non-kosher food to our food, even if the tiny amount will be nullified by the kosher food.  Thus, we may not add a tiny bit of bacon to tomato soup, even if there is sixty times more tomato soup than bacon.  This rule applies even to a rabbinically forbidden mixture.  Thus, we are forbidden to add a miniscule amount of milk to a serving of chicken. 

Acharonim debate whether one may add a tiny amount of milk to bread, when the bread will nullify the little drop of added milk.  The Gilyon Maharsha (97:1) rules strictly as he reasons that since Chazal forbade kneading dough with milk, adding milk to dough constitutes the Halachic equivalent to adding milk to chicken.  Just as one is forbidden to add a drop of milk to chicken, so too he may not add a tiny drop of milk to dough.  On the other hand, the Nachalat Tzvi (97:1) rules leniently.  He argues that there is a fundamental distinction between the prohibition of eating milk and chicken the prohibition of adding milk to dough.  Milk and chicken are forbidden without exceptions.  Adding milk to dough is forbidden only when there is concern that a forbidden mixture will result.  However, Chazal made some exceptions to this rule, such as when the bread is baked in an unconventional size or form.  Accordingly, the prohibition does not apply in a case when there is no concern for a result of a forbidden mixture of meat and milk.  Thus, when one adds only a miniscule amount of milk to the bread the prohibition does not apply, in the Nachalat Tzvi’s opinion, since the bread nullifies the bit of milk.  This disagreement may be described (using “Brisker” terminology) as a dispute whether mixing milk and dough constitutes an “Issur Cheftza of Maachalot Asurot” (a forbidden food item) similar to a mixture of milk and chicken or merely a prohibition imposed on the Gavra (individual) to place himself in spiritual danger.  Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik (cited by Rav Menachem Genack in a Shiur delivered at Yeshiva University in 1988) cites his father Rav Moshe Soloveitchik who rules in accordance with the lenient view of the Nachalat Tzvi.  The Badei Hashulchan (97:6), however, follows the strict opinion of the Gilyon Maharsha.

The Leniency of Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik

The Pitchei Teshuva (Y.D. 97:3) cites the opinion of the Chavat Daat that introducing a sign in dairy bread after it is baked does not obviate the prohibition.  Once the item is forbidden it cannot be rendered permissible, even if one subsequently eliminates the concern for mixtures.  Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik notes that the opinion of the Chavat Daat is conceptually identical to the aforementioned opinion of the Gilyon Maharsha regarding the question of Ein Mimevatlin Issur Lechatchilah.  Both the Chavat Daat and the Gilyon Maharsha define this prohibition as an “Issur Cheftza of Maachalot Asurot.”  On the other hand, Rav Yonatan Eibuschetz (Kreiti Uleiti 97:2), Chochmat Adam (50:5), and Aruch Hashulchan (Y.D. 97:8) rule that if bread unintentionally became dairy or meat because of a spill, then one may split the bread into small sections and distribute them to a number of families (in a case where there is concern for serious financial loss).  The distribution renders the bread permissible because each family receives only a small amount of dairy/meat bread that they will finish in less than a day.  These authorities dispute the Chavat Daat’s ruling.  They permit the bread even though the concern for a milk-meat mixture was eliminated after the bread was baked. 

Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik follows his father’s ruling as well as the ruling of the Chochmat Adam and Aruch Hashulchan and rules (reported by Rav Hershel Schachter and Rav Menachem Genack) that a sign on the packaging of bread indicating that it is dairy is a sufficient reminder that the bread should not be used with meat.  A few decades ago, many of the finest Kashrut organizations relied on Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik’s ruling.  Today, however, reputable Kashrut organizations stopped certifying dairy bread based on this leniency.  A rabbinical coordinator at one of the leading Kashrut organizations told me that the reversal resulted from a troubling event when an eminent Rav accidentally ate meat sandwiched in dairy bread.  The Rebbetzin did not realize that the bread she used to make the sandwich was dairy.  Rabbanim realized that stamping the word dairy on the wrapping of the bread is ineffective in preventing milk-meat mixtures.  Although Rav Soloveitchik’s logic is impeccable, his ruling is problematic on a practical level.  In addition, Rav Ovadia Yosef (Yalkut Yosef p.845) rejects the lenient ruling of the Kreiti Upleiti, Aruch Hashulchan, and Chochmat Adam.


A number of vegetarians have asked whether this prohibition applies to them, since the concern for forbidden milk and meat mixtures is not relevant for them.  I posed this question to Rav Hershel Schachter who responded that there is no blanket exception granted to vegetarians.  He felt the situation is analogous to the following case in the Gemara (Pesachim 37a).  The Gemara in Pesachim 37a records the prohibition to bake Matza with designs during Pesach.  The reason is that one might take too long in shaping the dough and the dough will become Chametz in the process of preparation.  A baker named Beitus the son of Zonin asked his rabbis whether he is permitted to make Matza with designs, since he owns molds that can shape the Matza quickly and eliminate concern that the dough will become Chametz.  The rabbis responded, “People will say everyone’s Matza with designs are forbidden and Beitus’ Matza with designs is permitted?!”  Rashi (ad. loc. s.v.  Yomru) explains that the concern is that most bakers did not have access to these molds.  Extending an exception to the rule to Beitus because of his unique circumstances, serves to weaken the general prohibition (also see Chullin 107b where the Gemara extends this reasoning to the context of the prohibition to have one person eating milk and his friend eating meat on the same table).  Rav Schachter rules, that vegetarians must observe this prohibition, as people will say, “Dairy bread is forbidden to everyone but is permissible to vegetarians?!”  The exceptions to the prohibition of baking dairy bread apply  the bread is different from conventional breads in size or form.  However, Poskim never say that the prohibition does not apply to a specific group of people because of their unique circumstances.                 


Chazal enacted innumerable prohibitions to safeguard the prohibition to eat meat and milk together.  It was highly prudent to forbid eating non-Pareve bread, as bread in most cultures constitutes the main feature of both a meat and dairy meal.  Poskim apply this prohibition with the goal of protecting one of the defining characteristics of a Jewish home, the separation of milk and meat. 

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