Milk, Meat and Firstfruits

Exodus 23:19, 34:26

“The first-fruit of your land shall you bring to the house of the Lord your God; Do not cook a kid in its mother’s milk”

What is the connection between these two commandments? What does cooking a kid in its mother’s milk have to do with the bringing of first-fruits to the Temple?

When we turn to the passage that describes the bringing of the first-fruits (Deuteronomy 26:1-11), we see that the farmer praises God, not only for the first-fruits of the land but also for all of the history of Israel. The farmer goes back to Jacob and describes how God brought us out of Egypt and gave us this beautiful land. “And now” the farmer declares “I have brought the first-fruits of the land”.

Let’s get a reality check. For all we know this farmer may be an elderly man who has been bringing his first-fruits to the Temple every year. His father and grandfather before him may have been doing the same – as well as his grandfather’s grandfather. How does appreciation for the exodus relate to the yearly routine of bringing first-fruit to the Temple?

The answer is that in service of God there is no such thing as “routine”. Every day is a fresh start in service of God. All of the past, including the exodus from Egypt, was just a preparation for this moment. When the farmer brings his basket of first-fruits, he doesn’t see a monotonous repetition of “more of the same”. Instead he looks at a bright new future for which all of the past only serves as a preparation and a lead-up.

The mother’s milk represents the past. The kid represents the fresh new future. How often do we destroy the freshness of the moment by “cooking it” in the milk of the past? The Torah is teaching us a life-lesson. The past is here to nourish and to sustain the future – but not to “cook” it. The future is its own entity with its own flavor – don’t stifle it with the past.

This lesson is especially pertinent to our relationship with our children. Each child is its own world – the experience of the parents are here to give life-sustaining nourishment and guidance – but not to stifle the individuality of the child.

This lesson spills over into our every-day lives. Don’t let the pain/dreariness/failures of yesterday destroy today. Today will always be the most important day in your life – live it to its fullest.

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Yisroel C. Blumenthal

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4 Responses to Milk, Meat and Firstfruits

  1. naaria says:

    And the kid is nourished by the best of the past and passes that on to the future generations. Raise them right and they won’t stray. The female kid will one day produce her own milk, but the same as her mother’s was. And that nourishment must be sustained (almost) ever day, so that there will always be more “first fruits”. An increase returned to God, as one also increases.

  2. naaria says:

    I say that everyday is another New Year. But, not all that is new is new or good; it is not all gold that glitters. If they stray from the flock and survive the wolves, there a few ways that they may return. They return because of the fundamental truths that nourished them in the past. And often times, it is those who have returned who have the greater appreciation for the mother, the flock, the community. Which is new “milk for the kids”. “Fresh first fruits” returned to God which brings about an increase, an overflowing abundance.

  3. Naaria
    I really appreciate your midrash – Thank You!

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