Parshas Mishpatim - You Can't Eat Your Basar B'chalav And Plant It, Too.
This coming Sunday, 28 Shevat, marks the 7th yahrtzeit of my wife's grandfather, R' Yitzchak Yeres. The shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso, Yitzchak Chaim ben Moshe Yosef HaLevi.
This week, the mishnah yomis program began the 8th perek of Chullin – Kol habasar – which deals with mixing meat and milk. So it is fitting to explore a fascinating thought related to that topic from this week’s parsha. (The daf yomi covered the laws of zimun which also tangentially intersect with basar b’chalav when it comes to a question of whether people eating meat and milk separately can join together in a zimun.)
This week's parsha contains the first of three instances of the of the prohibition of lo sevasheil gedi bachaleiv imo (23:19), not to cook a goat in its mother's milk. This is the source for the prohibition of milk and meat. The three instances are necessary to indicate a prohibition against cooking, eating or deriving any other benefit. In this instance and in Ki Sisa, (34:26) the phrase appears right next to the mitzvah of bikurim. In Re'eih (Devarim 14:21), however, it does not. Netziv explains in Ha'ameik Davar that it is the way of the nations to mix meat and milk together and put it in the ground as a very effective fertilizer. Thus, the prohibition of the mixing of meat and milk was put next to bikurim to tell you that even for the purpose of growing nice fruit for bikurim, one may not mix meat and milk. The prohibitions of cooking and deriving benefit may be connected to this agricultural phenomenon. But the prohibition of eating may not. After all, if you've eaten it, you can't put it in the ground. As the saying goes, you can't eat your basar b'chalav and plant it, too. Therefore, it is exactly twice that lo sevasheil gedi appears next to the mitzvah of bikurim.
My Rebbe, R' Kulefsky, zt"l would often tell over this explanation of Netziv, accompanied with a rather humourous anecdote involving Rav Yonasan Eibeshitz. He was once in the bathroom and reading a secular agriculture book in order to make sure he wouldn’t think in learning. He came across this fact that putting milk and meat together in the ground helps the soil. Immediately, this fact sparked the idea in his mind to understand the pesukim as Netziv did above. Since this caused him to think about Torah, he had to run out of the bathroom right away!