Milking Cows on Shabbat - Part II by Rabbi Chaim Jachter


              In honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of Medinat Yisrael we are reviewing an issue which has for decades posed a great challenge for religious Zionists, the question of milking cows on Shabbat.  Last week we discussed that a non-Jew may be hired to do the milking and that the cow may be milked if the milk goes to directly to waste.  This week we will explore other options.                              

Milking into Foods

              The Gemara (Shabbat 144b) teaches that "one may milk a goat into a pot [filled with solid food] but not into an [empty] plate."   Rashi explains that it is speaking of squeezing the milk into a pot to improve its taste.  This explains that this is permitted "since one does not need the milk as a liquid per se, rather as food (a component of a solid food), this is not the manner of /598 and is similar to separating food from food."  In other words, /598 only applies when one creates a liquid.

              It appears from Rashi that this leniency applies both on Shabbat as well as Yom Tov since squeezing of milk into food is not defined as an act of /598.  However, Rabbeinu Tam (see Tosafot s.v. (&-") believes that permission to milk into food applies only on Yom Tov.  Only on Yom Tov can one who milks directly into food be defined as merely separating food from food.  This is because only on Yom Tov is an animal regarded as food, because we are permitted to slaughter an animal for food on Yom Tov but not on Shabbat.  However, since a live animal is not even potentially fit to eat on Shabbat, reasons Rabbeinu Tam, it is not food.  Thus one who milks an animal even into food on Shabbat is viewed as separating food from 52&-; (something inedible).

              The Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 305:20 and 505) rules in accordance with the strict ruling of Rabbeinu Tam.  The Shulchan Aruch also emphasizes that the permission to milk into

food applies only when most of the food absorbs the milk.  It certainly does not apply if one squeezes a large volume of milk on a few crumbs of bread.  Obviously, milking into food is not a viable halachic or practical option for dairy farmers.

Milking to Waste - -!*"&$ - With Milking Machines

              As we mentioned last week, the most viable option in the earlier part of the century was to milk -!*"&$.  Another option presented itself when milking machines were introduced to dairies in Israel.  The question arose as to the permissibility of first setting up the machine and attaching it to the animal to milk -!*"&$  and subsequently to transfer the milk to flow to storage.  Theoretically, this seems to be entirely permissible.  The act of milking the cow is done -*!"&$  and only after the milking has started (and some of the milk has gone to waste, see Shmirat Shabbat Kehilchita 27:note 159) is the machine adjusted so that the milk does not go to waste.

              However, the Chazon Ish (O.C. 38:4) found this procedure objectionable.  He draws an analogy between the situation and the issue of &"-"$ :-! *(-*51& that appears on Shabbat 8b.  The Gemara there states that one may carry on Shabbat from a Reshut Harabim (public domain) to a Makom Petur (neutral domain) and from a Reshut Hayachid (private domain) to a Makom Petur.  One may not however carry from a Reshut Hayachid to a Reshut Harabim or visa versa.  Nevertheless, the Gemara forbids (the loophole) of carrying from a Reshut Harabim to a Reshut Hayachid via a Makom Petur.  Thus, even though each step is permissible, (i.e. carrying from a Reshut Hayachid via a Makom Petur and then from the Makom Petur to a Reshut Harabim) since the result of the actions is caring from a Reshut Harabim to a Reshut Hayachid, the Rabbis forbade such action.

              Similarly, the Chazon Ish reasons, one may not first set up the milking machine to milk to waste and subsequently later adjust the machine to flow the milk into storage containers.  It is surprising, though, to read in the Shmirat Shabbat Kehilchata (published in 1979, 27: note 159) that it is common practice in even the most scrupulous religious farm settlements to engage in this practice.  Moreover, prominent rabbis report that none other than the Chazon Ish sanctioned this practice in case of great loss (presumably this means that the economic survival of the Kibbutz depends on not losing the milk, see Techumin 7:172 note 15).

              How can one reconcile the contradiction between the ruling of the Chazon Ish and the oral ruling he gave religious farmers?  One may suggest that even the Chazon Ish would concede that /3*89 %$*0 (essentially) this action of switching from -!*"&$ to storage containers is permissible.  Despite the cogency of his analogy it seems to contradict two axiomatic rules regarding post- Talmudic rabbinic rulings.  The first is the one cannot necessarily extrapolate one rabbinic prohibition or permission from one area to another (see Tosafot Chullin 104a s.v. &/1!).  The second rule is assertion of the Rosh (Shabbat 2:15) is that one may not add new rabbinic prohibition after the period of the Amoraim.  Thus, the Chazon Ish's ruling essentially was a (&/9! (stringency) which could be waived in case of great need.

1980's Solution- Change !*"&$ to storage Containers by Grama.

              During the mid 1980's the Tzomet Institute (an important Torah institute in Alon Shevut, Gush Etzion comprised of Rabbis and engineers who seek to find technological solutions to modern halachic problems) developed the idea and machinery to reduce the seriousness of this problem.  This involved changing the milk machine from !*"&$ to storage receptacles indirectly.  This involves employing rule of the #9/!.

              The Gemara (Shabbat 120b) teaches a central rule regarding Hilchot Shabbat.  The Torah teaches -! ;3:% /-!,% thou shalt not do work on Shabbat.  The Gemara adds that 3:**%  %&! $!29 #9/! :9* doing a Melacha directly is forbidden, but doing it indirectly is permitted.

              The following are examples of #9/! include the following cases.  The Mishna (Shabbat 120a) describes how one may indirectly extinguish a fire on Shabbat.  One may put barrels of water in the path of fire, so that the fire should eventually reach the barrels, cause them to explode, have the barrels' content spill out and extinguish the fire.  The Gemara (Sanhedrin 77a) describes a classic #9/! situation commonly referred to as "the 2&4 (/% -"! case".  One ties another in the desert at night and the sun which appears the next day kills the tied up individual by sunstroke.  Rashi explains that one who kills in this fashion can't be given the death penalty as he killed indirectly, #9/! %&!.  This is because the killing agent (the sun) is not present at the time of the killer's actions.  The Rema (O.C. 334:22) rules that we may engaged in a #9/! action on Shabbat only in case of great economic loss.

              Many of the #9/! products of the Tzomet Institute such as its famed Shabbat phone are based on the 2&4 (/% -"! model.  The person will turn on or off a switch which will yield no immediate result.  In a few seconds an electronic "eye" appears and detects the change and that causes the desired result to come about (see for example Techumin 1:515- 524).  The analogy to the 2&4 (/% -"! case is simple.  When one does the action of turning the switch,no action results from it.  The electronic eye which does bring about the desired action isn't present at the time of the flick of the switch.  The electronic eye is the 2&4 (/% -"! as it consists a of an electric impulse which at regular intervals (6 to 12 seconds) checks to see if the switch has been moved and reacts accordingly.

              Machon Tzomet applies this principle to changing milk from !*"&$ to storage containers through #9/!, specifically, the  2&4 (/% -"! model.  This does not involve moving the machinery from waste to storage.  Rather an electric pulse discovers that a faucet has been opened.  After a number of seconds pass, an electric eye notices that the faucet has moved, and switches the milking from !*"&$ to storage.

              Even though the aforementioned Rema permits Grama only in case of great financial need, here grama is being utilized routinely.  This is permitted since the Grama is employed merely to accommodate a concern (&"-"$ :-! *(-*51&) which even according to the Chazon Ish is a "mere stringency".  For a much more detailed discussion of this works both from a halachic and engineering perspective, approach see Techumin 7:144- 173.

              Next week we will discuss the "1990's method" of solving this problem.

 Milking Cows on Shabbat Part III by Rabbi Chaim Jachter

 Must American Jews Make Aliyah? by Rabbi Chaim Jachter