Monday, May 5, 2014

"Lo tevashel g'di" - why 3 times?

Yesterday, I wrote about the comparison between "Lo tikach ha'em al habanim" (Shiluach HaKen)" and "Lo tevashel g'di bachalev imo". Quick recap:

Two different mitzvot in the Torah, that upon a simple reading would seem to be similar. They're both about the mother/offspring relationship in the animal kingdom, and about compassion or respect for that relationship.

Yet the former is a limited circumstance mitzvah, limited by the chachamim even further to precise conditions. But the latter controls half our lives as observant Jews.

A couple of commenters (on on FB and one here on the blog) mentioned that the chachamim use the fact that "lo tevashel" is repeated 3 times in the Torah as the source for all the laws of mixing meat & milk. Like so many other things gleaned from the Torah, the repetition is taken to mean that it must be understood as much more than the plain meaning. Which is, of course, true.

As those who follow me know, I don't believe in a literal Torah MiSinai, and believe it to be a composite document based on oral narratives. In that light, like so many other things in the Torah, the repetition simply indicates that it comes from differing documents.

The new thought I have today is this:

There's no question that the laws regarding meat & milk are quite ancient. So at the time of redaction, the line of "lo tevashel" may have already been understood to refer to all ruminants and to any meat & milk, not just the mother-child relationship. Therefore, the redactor(s) may have purposely left it in 3 times, to deliberately highlight the way in which it was already understood. So the traditional explanation may have some truth to it.

1 comment:

  1. Have you read the chapter on Chullin where the laws of meat and milk are explained and the way the three mentions turn into lots of the rules we have today?
    Also, read Rav Chaim Vital's explanation of the mitzvah for an additional insight.