Dror Ben Ami

Torah Metaphors: Goat’s Meat and Milk


Probably the most important theme in the Torah, as well as the Old Testament, is in regards to maintaining the purity of God’s word. In addition, probably the greatest mistranslation from the Hebrew Torah, especially as it appears in the New Testament, is the commandment regarding kosher food. The Torah does not speak of clean and un clean foods, but in fact speaks of pure food. As touched upon in previous articles, the rabbis have for centuries claimed that: “The Torah is the Bread of Life”, and we have shown thru many examples that each type of food represents a different aspect of knowledge. Another indication that this line of reasoning is correct is the name given to one of the most famous Torah commentaries:  “The Prepared Table”. Hence a table becomes a metaphor for a classroom and the food served at the table represents the different subjects being discussed. The clearest example of this would be the Passover Seder where we are actually commanded to teach the story of Exodus to the younger generation while eating the Passover meal.

Other examples of the importance of purity in Judaism would be the restrictions and regulations on intermarriage, the mixing or wool and linen in clothing and the plowing of a field with an ox and a donkey yoked together. In regards to intermarriage, contrary to what most people believe, according to the Torah intermarriage is clearly permitted and there is not one word about converts being permitted to intermarry with Israelites as equals. In short, since Moses himself married two gentile women, it is somewhat ridiculous to argue that Ezra understood the Books of Moses better than Moses understood the Books of Moses. Much more important than this, however, is the question: Since when does a minor book in the Old Testament have more authority than the Books of the Law? Furthermore, if there really were conversions being performed all the way back to Mount Sinai, then why didn’t Ezra simply convert the foreign women to Judaism? Why did he have to expel them and their children from the community and cause so much heartbreak and trauma?

Briefly, it is my personal opinion that the prohibition against weaving wool and linen together is related to the story of the rejection of the sacrifice of Cain. The Hebrew word for meat can also be translated as preachings or gospels. So, in Hebrew, “The Gospel of Mark” can actually be read as “The Meats of Mark”. In other articles we have shown that there is a connection between fruits, sons and the word of God and this is best demonstrated by the Holy Day of Shavuot which celebrates the giving of God’s word to the Israelites and is also called: The Festival of the First Fruits (The connection to children is that in Hebrew first born sons and first fruits of the field are the same word). According, this suggests that meat represents the preachings of men and plants represent the teachings of God.

Clothes represent the source of a person’s religious beliefs. Thus, in any major city of the world, one can easily distinguish various religious leaders simply by their clothing. God did not change Adam and Eve’s fig leaves for animal’s skins because they were warmer or provided better protection. The fig leaves of Adam and Eve identified them as sources of knowledge about God since the fig is described in the Book of Judges as “a good fruit” and God, of course, is good. When they were expelled from the Garden of Eden, God changed the clothing of Adam and Eve to the skins of dead animals to show that they now had become sources of knowledge with little or no understanding of God’s ways.

In the story of Samson’s riddle we are clearly given a metaphor which associates plowing with a cow as working to obtain knowledge. Probably, the clearest example of this is that when Elijah first met the future prophet Elijah he was plowing a field with twelve oxen. Since, no one plows a field with twelve oxen, this is clearly a metaphor and we have already discussed extensively in other articles that a field is a metaphor for a school.

Donkeys are usually associated with carrying wheat or bread, but there is a story where a Syrian general uses donkeys to carry the land of Israel back to his country for the purposes of prayer. Another important reference to donkeys is that a donkey will carry the messiah on its back and the story of the donkey of Balaam the prophet actually speaking to him and warning him of the presence of God’s angel. Since Balaam was sitting on the donkey at the time, all of these references suggest that the donkey represents the base of support upon which the word of God reaches mankind. Probably the best example of this is the young Saul who, when searching for “his father’s donkeys”, finds the Prophet Samuel instead.

Accordingly, it is my conclusion that the donkey and the oxen/heifer represent two difference methods of obtaining knowledge: 1) The oxen represents working and studying to obtain knowledge in our religious schools. 2) The donkey represents a source of knowledge which is provided directly from God himself. Thus, plowing a field with an oxen and a donkey yoked together, just like the clothing with two fabrics, represents the mixing of two sources of knowledge.

Therefore, the important point regarding intermarriage, which most Jews simply ignore, is that the children of a mixed couple are NOT Jewish if the father is not Jewish. Judaism does not pass thru the mother, otherwise the children of Moses would not be Jewish. Religious scholars go to great lengths to prove that the wife of Joseph was related to Dinah or that she somehow converted, even though this was done without a rabbi or without the Torah. Nevertheless, these same scholars fail to realize that NONE of the sons of Jacob married Hebrews. In fact, the Torah actually states that the mother of Judah’s son Selah was a Canaanite and Selah is clearly listed as one of the seventy souls who entered Egypt with Jacob. Try to find the name of a descendant of a Jewish woman who married a stranger listed in the Torah (don’t bother, there is none). There is a story of an Israelite woman who married a gentile, but their children are not listed.

The law clearly states that if intermarriage does take place, the children are only to be considered Israelites after the third or fourth generation, depending on the nationality of the father. There is absolutely no mention of conversion in the Torah. Not one convert is listed in the Torah and, in fact, many Hebrew authorities insist that there is not even a Hebrew word for conversion in the Torah (i.e. the Hebrew word pronounced “ger” actually means sojourner and does not refer to a convert). Furthermore, in the stories about the covenant between Abraham and God the word “descendants” appears at least ten times. Nowhere is Abraham commanded to teach God’s ways to gentiles. He is commanded to teach God’s ways to his slaves and to circumcise them, but these slaves are not considered inheritors of the covenant. The Torah tells us that Abram was quite upset when he thought that his slave Eliezer of Damascus would be the only person to claim Abram’s inheritance. Finally, not even seven of Abraham’s own children are entitled to a partial claim of Abraham’s inheritance, yet we are led to believe that some obscure rabbi in Brooklyn can convert a gentile in only twelve months and he is entitled to a full share of Abraham’s inheritance…..

Goat’s Meat and Milk

“Thou shall not seethe a kid in its mother’s milk”

In Rabbinical Judaism a system of study has developed called Gematra which is basically assigning a numerical value to each Hebrew letter and making interpretations according to the mathematical combinations which emerge from this system. Naturally, it is easy to understand how rabbis using this system would insist that each letter of the Torah is important since the changing of a single letter would change all the calculations, especially when using Bible Codes to predict the end of the world. In addition, there are those who insist that the punctuation marks surrounding the letters are also important and that without them we cannot be sure what the words mean.

Okay, fine…..So, if each letter is important, then if God used the word “kid” (i.e. baby goat) three times and he used the term “his mother’s milk” (i.e. the mother of the kid) three times, then these too must be important. Let’s repeat this, shall we?

If each letter and each punctuation mark is important, then logic would dictate, not merely suggest, but actually dictate that each word and each phrase are also extremely important. One does not need to be a rocket scientist to appreciate this point….

Thus, if God says “young goat” three times he does not mean “meat” AND if God says “his mother’s milk” three times then he does not mean “dairy products”. One needs only to turn to the story of Joseph’s interpreting Pharaoh’s dream to realize that when God repeats something it is significant. It is not open for discussion and cannot be changed. Furthermore, anyone who reads Genesis 18, even in English, can see that Abraham served milk and meat on the same “Prepared Table”.

Regardless, in the section about mixing milk and meat together there are four basic “essential ingredients” to the commandment: a) the young goat b) cooking/seething c) the mother d) the milk. Let’s examine each one of these elements separately to see if we are able to determine what exactly does this commandment mean.

The young goat: Let’s be clear: If God wanted to say “meat”, he would have said meat. God said goat, and in particular a young goat, because this image represents something specific. Nevertheless, let’s take a different example: on Yom Kippur we are commanded to send a goat into the desert/wilderness. You wouldn’t substitute a cow and send him into the desert, would you?  Then why do you substitute cow’s meat for goat’s meat in relation to this commandment?

In regards to a goat in the Torah there are three references: 1) Jacob deceives his father Isaac into thinking he is his brother Esau by using both goat’s meat and goat’s hair 2) Joseph’s brothers dip his coat into goat’s blood in order to deceive their father into thinking Joseph is dead. 3) Tamar deceives Judah by dressing up as a prostitute and demanding a goat as payment.

In all three of these stories there was no real need to use a goat (except, perhaps the goat’s hair). Rebecca did not know which animal Esau would catch; therefore she could have cooked a lamb. Joseph’s brothers could have dipped his coat in the blood of a dog and Jacob still would not have known. Judah was on his way to shear his sheep, so Tamar could have asked for any animal as a later payment.

The crucial element of each of the stories is deception and, since in each story the goat has been specifically selected, this suggests that the goat is a metaphor for deceptive teachings.

Cooking: The next aspect is cooking or seething and here we see a connection between the story of Rebecca and the goat and the story of Joseph. What most English speakers fail to realize is that, in Hebrew, Pontiphar, the Egyptian who originally buys Joseph, is not Captain of the Guards. In Hebrew he is clearly identified as a cook and this is extremely important since Joseph arrived into Egypt via a spice caravan.

We have already discussed that the word meat in Hebrew can actually mean religious preachings, therefore spices would represent something which would make those sermons more interesting. In fact, even in modern times we still say that when a speech is boring it needs to be “spiced up” a little bit. Hence, the goat’s meat which Jacob brought to his father, by itself, never would have satisfied a religious leader like Isaac. What was needed was the cooking skills of a spiritual medium like Rebecca, and the spices of her wisdom, to make the deception successful. Accordingly, as the Pharaoh’s “cook”, Pontiphar was responsible for his religious speeches and when he saw “the spice boy” Joseph, he immediately perceived that Joseph had a rich religious background and could be of value in his work with Pharaoh (perhaps, due to all the years together with his father, Joseph had developed an interesting way of speaking which impressed Pontiphar).

Mother: The third element in the phrase is mother. We have discussed in previous articles the relationship between sex and prayer and noted that, traditionally, a bed is associated with communications with God. By coincidence, this week I happened to be re-reading the famous business classic: “Think and Grow Rich” and here too the author: Napolean Hill also made a connection between prayer and sex. Mothers are metaphors for mediums, so it is very important that the goat’s milk is described as “mother’s milk”.

Milk: Finally, the fourth element is the milk itself and here the easiest example to quote comes from the former Pharisee: Paul of Tarsus, who in his writings described meat as difficult to understand spiritual teachings and milk as easy to understand spiritual teachings. In addition to this the Hebrew word for field shares the same root as the word for a female’s breast and we have already noted in other articles that in any university around the world one can hear the question: “What is your field of study?” Thus, the land of milk and honey is a reference to easy to understand teachings from a religious school. Furthermore, the Hebrew word for breast also shares the same root as the word for spirit; hence “a mother’s breast” is a source of spiritual teachings.

In the introduction to this article we spoke of the importance of maintaining the purity of God’s word. In my opinion, the law specifically refers to goat’s meat and to goat’s milk. This law is repeated three times and thus the law should not be expanded to include all meat and dairy products; especially when the Torah explicitly forbids expanding upon the law. Furthermore, it is extremely important that the law speaks about the meat being cooked and today’s interpretations also banned un-cooked food which further suggests these interpretations are wrong.

The message behind this specific law of goat’s meat and goat’s milk has to do with forbidding the attempt to enhance the acceptability of deceptive teachings by making them more appetizing through “cooking” and mixing them with spiritual teachings received via a medium. The law about not seething a kid in its mother’s milk has to do with making deceptive teachings more acceptable to the people and has nothing what so ever to do with eating a cheeseburger at Mac Donald’s. In fact, even in modern times, we use the expression “cook the books” to refer to deceptive business practices. The entire law is a reference to deceptive religious teachings in regards to the Books of the Law and has nothing to do with recipes found in Julia Child’s cook books.

Dror Ben Ami is the author of the book: THE MISUNDERSTANDING: An Introduction to Metaphors, Images and Symbols Found in the Old and New Testaments.


About the Author
Dror Ben Ami has studied English and Comparative Literature at Georgetown University, George Washington University and the University of Haifa. Building on research begun almost forty years ago, Mr. Ben Ami has written a complete commentary on Biblical Law (i.e. the Hebrew Torah) and is currently working on a complete commentary of the four gospels. Living in Israel since 1980, Mr. Ben Ami brings a unique perspective to scripture, answering many questions that few people have the background, or the knowledge, to even ask....