Quail from the Crossley ID Guide Britain and Ireland via Wikimedia Commons

Rambam’s Response to the Inclusion of Chicken, Duck and Quail in Qaraite Cuisine


In “Waiting Six Hours for Dairy- A Rabbanite Response to Qaraism” (here) I posited that Rabbeinu Chananel initiated the practice of waiting six hours between meat and dairy in order to protect Rabbanite values. This association was inspired by Dr. Bernard Revel’s studies of  Rabbanite leaders’ efforts to counter sectarian influences during the early Middle Ages[i], as well as a shiur by Rabbi David Bar-Hayim. I then suggested that Rambam furthered this anti-Qaraite motion by including poultry into the required six-hour waiting category. Rambam’s poultry innovation was intended to protect Rabbanites from influence of their Qaraite neighbors who cooked meat and poultry with dairy. Briefly, this latter suggestion was based upon two observations:

a) The simple reading of the Talmud Chullin 104b -עוף וגבינה נאכלין באפיקורן – בלא נטילת ידים ובלא קינוח הפה- as interpreted by the Gaonim and rishonim for five centuries until Rambam, allowed poultry and dairy to be consumed consecutively without even kinuach ve’hadacha in between. Unless we imagine that Rambam possessed a secret hitherto unheard-of tradition which understood the Talmud’s words in some other fashion, we can assume that Rambam actually changed the Talmudic halacha in his Yad HaChazaka. Being the strong proponent of Rabbanite halacha and tradition that he was, Rambam surely had a compelling reason to make this drastic alteration.

b) There are many instances of anti-Qaraite creativity in Rambam’s writings and rulings. Examples include:

  • Rambam was the first rishon to disqualify a get (divorce document) written in a Qaraite court by a Qaraite scribe[ii].
  • Though the Gaonim and R. Chananel explicitly say that not eating on the three minor fast days is the individual’s choice (as per the Talmud’s ruling RH 18b- אין שמד ואין שלום – רצו – מתענין, רצו – אין מתענין), Rambam chose to overlook this detail about fast days in his halachic writings. The purpose of this intentional omission was almost certainly to separate Rabbanites from the Qaraite community who did not observe the Rabbanite fasting calendar[iii].
  • Most rishonim recognized the rabbinic origins of the Yom Kippur afflictions other than not eating or drinking. Rambam, however, led readers to believe that all five afflictions are biblically proscribed. It seems that Rambam presented the Yom Kippur restrictions in this way only to protect the halacha from the Qaraite perspective[iv].

Other examples were cited in my previous article. It is therefore reasonable to say that the required waiting period between poultry and dairy, found first in Yad HaChazaka, is one more instance of Rambam’s anti-Qaraitic halachic reformation.
An analysis of the historical development of Qaraite rules of kosher birds strongly supports my suggestion[v]. Qaraite halacha did not rely on the Rabbanite Oral Law. Therefore, the kosher signs of the Mishna Hullin 59a –

 וסימני העוף לא נאמרו אבל אמרו חכמים כל עוף הדורס טמא כל שיש לו אצבע יתירה וזפק וקורקבנו נקלף טהור ר’ אלעזר בר’ צדוק אומר כל עוף החולק את רגליו טמא

and the statement of the Talmud Hullin 63b, עוף טהור נאכל במסורת, were of little significance to Qaraites. That chicken, duck, quail and other fowl were eaten in Rabbanite tradition[vi] was unreliable evidence for these strict Scriptualists. Because the identity of most birds mentioned in the Torah was ambiguous, Qaraites had no reliable means of recognizing birds as kosher other than the pigeon and turtledove; they were confident that the correct translation of תור and יונה had been preserved. The devout Qaraite, therefore, could not partake of chicken, quail, or duck. Over time, some Qaraites communities became lenient and found legal rationale to permit these commonly eaten birds. Slowly over the 12th and 13th centuries a lenient policy was adopted by the broad Qaraite community. Because from the inception of Qaraism its scholars read the passuk, “לא תבשל גדי בחלב אמו” literally[vii], they had no hesitations against eating and cooking the newly accepted fowl and dairy together.

The Rabbanite and Qaraite communities were very much interconnected politically and socially[viii]; the divide between the parties was often blurred[ix]. Rabbanite leaders sought to protect the integrity of their tradition from sectarian influence. I demonstrated previously how R. Chananel (990 -1053) and his disciple, R. Yitchak Al-fasi[x] (1013 – 1103), created a six hour waiting requirement between meat and dairy in the early eleventh century – thereby limiting the social participation of Rabbanites with Qaraites. During the years of the legislating activity of these sages it was not common practice amongst Qaraites to eat chicken, duck, and quail, birds on the daily North African Rabbanite menu[xi]. R. Chananel and R. Al-fasi, therefore, did not see a need for demanding a wait after poultry as there was little concern that Rabbanites and Qaraites would be dining together over such fowl. Furthermore, it was difficult to reread the obvious permitting statement of the Talmud, עוף וגבינה נאכלין באפיקורן. During the century between these sages and the rise of Rambam (1135-1204) to prominence, Qaraites widely allowed themselves to eat the same fowl consumed by the Rabbanite community. Now a Qaraite-Rabbanite poultry dinner was possible and influence from the cooking practices of “the eaters of milk with meat” (the nickname for Qaraites) was real. Rambam, seeking to protect Rabbanite tradition from Qaraite values by building social barriers, creatively placed fowl alongside meat in the requirement to wait six hours before dairy:

מִי שֶׁאָכַל בָּשָׂר בַּתְּחִלָּה, בֵּין בְּשַׂר בְּהֵמָה בֵּין בְּשַׂר עוֹף–לֹא יֹאכַל אַחֲרָיו חָלָב עַד שֶׁיִּשְׁהֶה בֵּינֵיהֶן כְּדֵי שֵׁעוּר סְעוֹדָה אַחֶרֶת, וְהוּא כְּמוֹ שֵׁשׁ שָׁעוֹת:  מִפְּנֵי הַבָּשָׂר שֶׁלְּבֵין הַשִּׁנַּיִם, שְׁאֵינוּ סָר בְּקִנּוּחַ

(רמב”ם משנה תורה מאכלות אסורות פרק ט’ הלכה כז)

This addition did not go unnoticed. In the two generations following Rambam, the greatest rishonim criticized the Rambam’s reform as it reversed the ruling of the Bavli. Ramban (1194-1270) was the first to challenge Rambam’s alteration:

… אבל הרמב”ן ז”ל כתב דאגרא אפילו עוף ואחר כך גבינה שרא דלישנא הכי משמע דקאמר עוף וגבינה…(ר”ן על הרי”ף חולין דף לז’)

R. Aaron Halevi (1230-1300) also challenged Rambam’s ruling:

…ואפילו הכי שרינן בעוף בלא נטילת ידים משום דקיל דלא מיתסר אלא מדרבנן, ודאי לא שני לן בין עוף ואחר כך גבינה בין גבינה ואחר כך עוף… הוא הדין לקנוח הפה דלא בעינן אפי’ בין עוף לגבינה…. ולהוציא קצת מדברי רבי’ ז”ל (=הרמב”ם) שפרשו דההיא דאגרא דאמר עוף וגבנה נאכלין באפיקורן דוקא גבינה תחילה ואחר כך עוף… (חידושי רא”ה לחולין דף קד’)

However, within a century of the publication of Mishna Torah, creative ways of reinterpreting the words of אגרא were created to fit this new reform into the Talmud[xii]. Tur (1275-1340) YD 89 cites Rambam’s ruling on poultry as if none other exists.

Professor Daniel Frank has thoroughly examined the historical development of the laws of kosher birds in Qaraite halacha in his monograph, “May Karaites Eat Chicken? Indeterminacy in Sectarian Halakhic Exegesis”[xiii]. My chiddush is that the inclusion of chicken, duck, and quail in Qaraite cuisine in the 12th century provoked Rambam’s tightening of the poultry and dairy separation laws. Unless noted otherwise, the following sources and translations are summarized from Frank’s article:
Views of Early Qaraite Scholars
Anan ben David
In his Book of Commandments[xiv], the early learned schismatic, Anan ben David (c. 715 – c. 795) writes the following:

Now we do not find any birds were used for burnt offerings save turtledoves and pigeons, as it is written… (in lev. 1:14). The juxtaposition of the words ‘of every clean bird’ and ‘he offered burnt offerings’ thus proves that the only clean birds are turtledoves and pigeons.

Benjamin Nahawandi
One of the greatest of the Qaraite scholars of the early ninth century, Benjamin Nahawandi, states:

The only clean birds that can be eaten are the pigeon and its kind. There are many clean and unclean varieties… but they cannot be identified by means of physical criteria, since Scripture does not make these explicit. … The pigeon is (the bird) that makes the cooing noise in is throat, as it is stated: We coo like doves (Is. 59:11)…. Therefore the only clean bird that is mentioned is the pigeon and its kind[xv].

The identification of other clean birds remains uncertain because the Torah provides no physical description of the birds. Pigeons (and their turtledove subspecies) are an exception because the Scriptural verse, We coo like doves (Is. 59:11), gives a physical sign to identify the bird.

Daniel al-Qumisi
Daniel al-Qumisi (d. in Jerusalem 946), founder of the Qaraite “Mourners of Zion” movement, likewise insisted that because Biblical Hebrew is no longer the vernacular, the meaning of most of the birds of the Torah has been forgotten; “for God-fearing people, the only permitted birds are turtledoves, pigeons and wild pigeons- at least until the coming of the Righteousness”[xvi]. He attacks the Rabbanites for having invented physical criteria for identifying kosher birds- as Scripture does not supply these.

Jacob Al-Qirqisani
The early tenth century Qaraite dogmatist and exegete, Jacob Al-Qirqisani writes similarly in his Kitabal-Anwar (written in 937):

Should someone say, “The people already knew these signs via oral tradition from the prophet…” He may be answered: “As for your statement that the people used to know these signs via oral tradition from the prophet- this is (but) a claim. You have no proof of this….”[xvii]

Japeth ben Ali
The maskil ha-Golah and foremost Qariate Bible commentator, Japeth ben Ali (10th century, born in Iraq and died in Jerusalem), emphasized that pigeons and turtledoves are the only unquestionably permitted birds; all other species should be avoided.

Of all the birds, those which are demonstrably permitted are turtledove and pigeon…. As for chicken, mountain quail, partridge, duck, goose, crane, sparrow, and others- we must suspend judgement concerning them all- “until he comes and teaches righteousness” (Hos.10:12)[xviii]

Rabbanite Rishonim
The rishonim were very familiar with Qaraite claims.

R. Saadya Gaon
In response to Qaraite scholars, R. Saadya Gaon (882-942) addresses the topic of the identification of the birds of the Torah in his writings[xix], delivering anti-sectarian polemics.

Targum Psuedo-Yonathan[xx]
Dr. Bernard Revel proved in his “תרגום יונתן על התורה” (here) that the Targum Yonathan (ben Uziel) was really an early ninth century targum commissioned by the Torah sages of Eretz Yisroel. He demonstrated that this targum is filled with views of the Talmud Yerushalmi as well as interpretations aimed at countering sectarian movements. (here)

וית אלין מינייא תשקצון מן עופא דלית להון ציבעא יתירא ודלית ליה זפקתא ודקורקבניה ליתוהי מקליף לא יתאכלון (תרגום יונתן ויקרא יא:יג)

The Targum’s author included the physical criteria for kosher birds to imply that these signs are contained within the Torah itself and valid- unlike the views of early Qaraites who disregarded these signs only known by rabbinic tradition.

Mah-Yedidut [xxi]
The popular Friday night zemer, Mah-Yedidut, by Menachem (possibly ben Saruq[xxii], 920-980 Spain), highlights the differences between the Rabbanite and Qaraite Sabbath. Menachem emphasizes kavod and ’oneg Shabbos (לְבוּשׁ בִּגְדֵי חֲמוּדוֹת and עֹֽנֶג קְרָא לַשַּׁבָּת[xxiii], וְהַשֵּׁנָה מְשֻׁבַּֽחַת), kindling Sabbath lights ([xxiv]לְהַדְלִיק נֵר בִּבְרָכָה), and gives an allusion to marital relations        (כַּשּׁוֹשַׁנִּים סוּגָה[xxv], בּוֹ יָנֽוּחוּ בֵּן וּבַת וְלָנֽוּחַ בְּחִבַּת) – all points of contention between Qaraites and Rabbanites.

מַה יְּדִידוּת מְנוּחָתֵךְ, אַתְּ שַׁבָּת הַמַּלְכָּה,
בְּכֵן נָרוּץ לִקְרָאתֵךְ, בּֽוֹאִי כַלָּה נְסוּכָה,
לְבוּשׁ בִּגְדֵי חֲמוּדוֹת, לְהַדְלִיק נֵר בִּבְרָכָה,
וַתֵּֽכֶל כָּל הָעֲבוֹדוֹת, לֹא תַעֲשׂוּ מְלָאכָה.
לְהִתְעַנֵּג בְּתַעֲנוּגִים בַּרְבּוּרִים וּשְׂלָו וְדָגִים.

מֵעֶֽרֶב מַזְמִינִים, כָּל מִינֵי מַטְעַמִּים,
מִבְּעוֹד יוֹם מוּכָנִים, תַּרְנְגוֹלִים מְפֻטָּמִים,
וְלַעֲרֹךְ כַּמָּה מִינִים, שְׁתוֹת יֵינוֹת מְבֻשָּׂמִים,
וְתַפְנוּקֵי מַעֲדַנִּים, בְּכָל שָׁלֹשׁ פְּעָמִים.
לְהִתְעַנֵּג בְּתַעֲנוּגִים בַּרְבּוּרִים וּשְׂלָו וְדָגִים.

חֲפָצֶֽיךָ בּוֹ אֲסוּרִים, וְגַם לַחֲשֹׁב חֶשְׁבּוֹנוֹת,
הִרְהוּרִים מֻתָּרִים, וּלְשַׁדֵּךְ הַבָּנוֹת,
וְתִינוֹק לְלַמְּדוֹ סֵֽפֶר, לַמְנַצֵּֽחַ בִּנְגִינוֹת,
וְלַהֲגוֹת בְּאִמְרֵי שֶֽׁפֶר, בְּכָל פִּנּוֹת וּמַחֲנוֹת.
לְהִתְעַנֵּג בְּתַעֲנוּגִים בַּרְבּוּרִים וּשְׂלָו וְדָגִים.

הִלּוּכָךְ תְּהֵא בְנַֽחַת, עֹֽנֶג קְרָא לַשַּׁבָּת,
וְהַשֵּׁנָה מְשֻׁבַּֽחַת, כְּדָת נֶֽפֶשׁ מְשִׁיבַת,
בְּכֵן נַפְשִׁי לְךָ עָרְגָה, וְלָנֽוּחַ בְּחִבַּת,
כַּשּׁוֹשַׁנִּים סוּגָה, בּוֹ יָנֽוּחוּ בֵּן וּבַת.
לְהִתְעַנֵּג בְּתַעֲנוּגִים בַּרְבּוּרִים וּשְׂלָו וְדָגִים.

The poet sings of Rabbanite dishes: stuffed chicken (תַּרְנְגוֹלִים מְפֻטָּמִים), duck or goose (בַּרְבּוּרִים), and quail (שְׂלָו)[xxvi] – poultry one would not find at Qaraite meals. By mentioning these items Rabbanite tradition is strengthened and cherished.

Constantinople was a thriving center of Qaraism during much of the Middle Ages. The Byzantine Rabbanite, Tobiah ben Eliezer (late 11th – early 12th centuries), often attacks Qaraite ideas[xxvii] in his Medrash Lekach Tov (written in 1097 and revised it in 1107 or 1108). In Vayikra[xxviii], Tobiah emphasizes that “generation after generation” birds eaten by the Byzantine Rabbanites have been permitted: ועוף טהור נאכל במסורת דור אחר דור כגון האווז ואווז בר ותרנגולת. This indicates that in his lifetime Byzantine Qaraites refrained from eating the chicken, goose, and duck.

However, only half a century later, the Byzantine Qaraite scholar, Judah Hadassi, tells that many of his landsmen allowed themselves to partake of these fowl. In his Eshkol ha-Kofer (1148), Hadassi notes this transition in Qaraite law with disapproval:

Now some of the (Karaite) teachers approved those domestic fowl, which are customarily raised in their home. (They did so) because this was the choice of the entire nation, not because there are any scriptural allusions that justify or confirm (this practice). Happy is he who guards himself wholeheartedly against uncertainties so that he is stringent in all (matters pertaining) to ritual slaughter! For knowledge of the Holy Tongue has disappeared from our midst, and we no longer know the names of (the birds) so as to recognize which is permitted and which is forbidden to us. Therefore we will remain silent until (Elijah) comes and teaches us righteousness. But if we rely upon custom (minhag) and tradition, does this tradition not take away from and add to our Torah, even contradicting it in part?

Eventually, the lenient approach to the kosher status of chicken and duck became the norm and the Qaraite Nicomedian theologian, Aaron ben Elijah (1328-1369), states definitely in his Gan Eden (1354):

Since knowledge of our language has now become deficient during our exile, we do not know the clean species. All that remains in fact, is knowledge of several of the names (mentioned) in Scripture and those known via the tradition (sevel ha-yerushah[xxix]), such as pigeon, turtledove, quail, partridge, swan, chicken, and goose. For it has been transmitted, one person from the next, that these are raised domestically and that they are permitted…[xxx]

These transformations in Qaraite halacha were taking place in the Byzantine Empire during Rambam’s lifetime though geographically removed from him. The Rambam did correspond with students and scholars from France to Syria and even had knowledge of a Jewish community in India. We also see in Rambam much anti-Qaraite activity. It can be assumed that Rambam had his finger on the pulse of nuances in Qaraites halachic and cultural development. However, Rambam may have had an even more intimate knowledge of these developments. There is evidence that the Qaraite fowl ‘kosherification’ process was taking place in Rambam’s very own mother country, Spain, while Rambam was yet a young man:

R. Yehuda Halevi (1075 – 1141) writes in his Kuzari (completed around 1140):

והייתי רוצה כי ישיבו לי הקראים תשובה מספקת על זה… ועוד רוצה הייתי כי יבארו לי מה בין העוף המותר לבין העוף האסור (זולת העופות המפרסמים כיונה ותור) ומנין להם כי התרנגלת והאוז והברוז והתכי אינם מן העופות הטמאים (כוזרי ג:לה)

 I wish the Qaraites would give me a satisfactory answer to questions of this kind… I desire an explanation of the lawful and unlawful birds, excepting the common ones, such as the pigeon and turtledove. How do they know that the hen, goose, duck, and partridge are not unclean birds?” (Kuzari 3:35)

This passage indicates that by the 1130s, (note- Rambam was born in 1135), Qaraites in Spain permitted the consumption of the same fowl eaten by the Rabbanites[xxxi].

Rambam lived at the end of the Qaraite Golden Age. He observed many Rabbanites leave the fold for Qaraism and a weakened respect for the Oral Torah in the Rabbanite community[xxxii]. Witnessing Qaraites begin to consume many birds eaten by the Rabbanite community, Rambam feared that his followers would be influenced by Qaraite meat/poultry and milk cooking practices. He tightened baasar be’cholov laws – a process begun a century earlier by R. Chananel – by requiring a six hour wait for poultry as well.

Many people ask, “If the political anti-Qaraite origins of the six hour wait are correct, why was this fact not expressed by rishonim and medieval writers?” In “Waiting Six Hours for Dairy- A Rabbanite Response to Qaraism”, I cited the opinion of R. Tam and others that R. Chananel’s six hour ruling was instituted merely because בקעא מצאו וגדרו בה גדר. There was indeed some awareness of social-political causation. However, the anti-Qaraite purpose of Rambam’s poultry-wait innovation went unnoted. Rambam had discreetly inserted fowl alongside genuine meat in his Mishna Torah. Many later authorities may have assumed that Rambam, the scion of an illustrious rabbinical family, possessed an alternative method of interpreting the Talmud. The reason why R. Chananel, R. Al-fasi, and Rambam did not disclose the reasons for their halachic reforms is readily understood in light of the following passage:

…דאמר עולא כי גזרי גזירתא במערבא לא מגלו טעמא עד תריסר ירחי שתא דלמא איכא איניש דלא ס”ל ואתי לזלזולי בה (ע”ז לה ע”א)

In Eretz Yisroel when a decree was issued its purpose was not revealed for twelve months. This is because many people would not accept the meaning, and consequently would show a negative attitude toward the decree.  (Avodah Zara 35a)

The general Rabbanite populace may not have adhered to the new strict laws if they realized they were merely enacted for social-political reasons.

HaRav David Bar-Hayim of Machon Shilo has already noted in his “Meat and Milk” series (here) that Rambam was the first to require any waiting between poultry and dairy. He therefore opines that one may eat poultry and then dairy without even kinuach ve’hadacha as clear from the Talmud and Gaonim. [xxxiii].



I would like to thank Pe’er Barzilai for reading and commenting on this essay. His insights greatly improved its quality.



[i] A Torah luminary of the last century, Dr. Bernard Revel, devoted many studies to the relationship between rabbinic authorities and Qaraism. In his”פרקים בחילופי המנהגים”  (here)

and “תרגום יונתן על התורה” (here), Dr. Revel revealed how much of the rabbinic writings of the early Middle Ages were aimed at separating the Rabbanite community from sectarian influence.
Dr. Revel wrote his 1911 doctoral dissertation on the origins of Qaraite halacha- “The Karaite Halakhah and Its Relation to Sadducean, Samaritan, and Philonian Halakhah” (here). Here is a sample from Dr. Revel’s article: The Gaonim (see Beit Yosef O.C. 24) opposed holding and gazing at the tzitit during the recital of the Shema only because this was Qaraite practice in accordance with the literal understanding of וראיתם אותו. (here)

[ii] Responsa 2:628-29 http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=1731&st=&pgnum=351
See Rustow, Heresy and the Politics of Community: the Jews of the Fatimid Caliphate (2008), pg. 345.

[iii] This topic deserves a comprehensive discussion. For a preview see “R. Yitchak Al-fasi’s Anti-Qaraite Legislative Activity” here Case #3.

[iv] Rambam writes:

וכן למדו מפי השמועה, שאסור לרחוץ בו או לסוך או לנעול את הסנדל או לבעול.  ומצוה לשבות מכל אלו, כדרך ששובת מאכילה ושתייה:  שנאמר “שבת שבתון”

שבת לעניין מלאכה, ושבתון לעניינים אלו.  ואין חייבין כרת או קרבן, אלא על אכילה ושתייה בלבד; אבל אם רחץ או סך או נעל או בעל, מכין אותו מכת מרדות.

Later authorities were perplexed by Rambam’s view and much ink was spilled trying to resolve it. See Beit Yosef O.C. 611 and acharonim there.
Often Rambam precedes modern academic research by eight and a half centuries. It is unlikely that he was unaware of the late origins of the Yom Kippur laws. See Dr. Israel Drazin’s article “Yom Kippur is Not a Biblical Holiday” (here). Rambam may have lead readers to believe all five afflictions were biblical only to counter Qaraite views.
A century ago, Bernard Revel made an identical argument about Targum Pseudo-Yonathan (here). The early ninth century Targum on Lev. 15:29 mentions all five afflictions as being implicit from the Torah itself. Revel concluded that the Targum had but one purpose – to oppose the Qaraites and strengthen belief in the Oral Torah.
For a thorough analysis of what Rambam meant when he wrote למדו מפי השמועה, see Albert D. Friedberg’s “An Evaluation of Maimonides’ Enumeration of the 613 Commandments, With Special Emphasis on the Positive Commandments” pgs. 275- 281 here (-also in his recent 2014 Crafting the Commandments).
Another anti-Qaraism in Mishna Torah may be in Hilchot Chamets u-Matzah where Rambam describes how chametz is forbidden from midday of the fourteenth of Nisan:


מצות עשה מן התורה להשבית החמץ קודם זמן איסור אכילתו
שנאמר “ביום הראשון, תשביתו שאור מבתיכם” (שמות יב,טו)
מפי השמועה למדו שראשון זה, הוא יום ארבעה עשר.  וראיה לדבר זה
מה שכתוב בתורה “לא תשחט על חמץ, דם זבחי” (שמות לד,כה)
כלומר לא תשחוט הפסח והחמץ קיים; ושחיטת הפסח, הוא יום ארבעה עשר אחר חצות

(הלכות חמץ ומצה פרק ב:א)


Friedberg (pg. 282, note 53) suggests that Rambam adds the emphasis of “from Scripture” – “מן התורה” – only to polemicize with his Qaraite adversaries who held that chametz could be kept until the beginning of the first day of the festival.
Another interesting point Friedberg makes (pgs. 298-302) is that a very careful reading of Maimonides shows that he regarded tefillin and mezuza as practices which began with the lay population and were later sanctioned by the rabbis, or possibly originated by the rabbis, but were certainly not biblical. In the his conclusion to Crafting the Commandments, Friedberg explains why Rambam was so careful to conceal his view:

I conjectured further that Maimonides deliberately withheld the scriptural designation from certain commandments that had been labeled as scriptural in the ShM (=Sefer HaMitzvoth) when the plain reading of the scriptural text did not appear to provide sufficient evidence for them, even when rabbinic interpretation suggested otherwise. To this end, he chose an artful but somewhat concealed literary device to designate them as such, the participle of correct practice. This is the case with such prominent practices as the recitation of the Shema, the binding of the tefillin, the writing and placing of the mezuzah and the study of Torah.

In the heavily politicized atmosphere of Cairo, where Rabbanites were both assiduously courted and continuously attacked by sectarian groups (largely Karaites) over the role of the oral law in interpreting Scripture, Maimonides chose to keep his radical opinions hidden yet recoverable. When applied to the legal sections of the Torah, Maimonides’ peshateh di-qera hermeneutics would likely raise hackles among his own co-religionists and, worse yet, give comfort to the deniers of the oral law. His carefully planted literary cues could lead the reader who is familiar with rabbinic terminology and unburdened by popular and superficial conclusions to discover the Master’s true opinion or at the very least sense his ambivalence.

[v] I thank Sam Kahan. His comments on my previous “Waiting Six Hours for Dairy” article prompted me towards further investigation and discoveries and the writing of this article.

[vi] These birds were eaten by Jews around the Mediterranean for centuries. See Zohar Amar’s מסורת העוף  Tel Aviv (2004).

[vii] Al-Qirqisani, Kitab al-AnWar, XII, 25:4 “‘in its mother’s milk’ refers only to the milk of its mother”.

[viii] I wrote more on this here.

[ix] Marina Rustow argues in Heresy and the Politics of Community that there was more tolerance of Qaraism in Rabbanite communities outside Spain. The likelihood of influence was thus also increased.

[x] R. Al-fasi may have changed Talmudic halacha in many areas for political anti-Qaraite reasons. See many examples in “R. Yitchak Al-fasi’s Anti-Qaraite Legislative Activity” (here).

[xi] Correction:
In  “Waiting Six Hours for Dairy- A Rabbanite Response to Qaraism” I wrote the following:

This Qaraite breach of the Oral Law earned them the nickname “the eaters of meat with milk”. This transgression of the Qaraites became symbolic of the entire conflict between the Rabbanite and Qaraite camps.  Throughout this period, the two camps were very connected socially, politically, and economically. There were Rabbanite-Qaraite marriages, joint business ventures, and joint communities. The lines between the two camps were not as distinct as we may imagine. At some point in the early eleventh century, the Rabbanite rishonim devised a way to create greater division and social split between the two camps. Choosing the very topic which represented the heart of the schism, they reinterpreted Talmudic passages in a manner which requires waiting six hours between eating red meat and dairy products, further separating the Rabbanites from the Qaraites both halachically and socially. However, Rabbanites and Qaraites could still enjoy a poultry-dairy meal together during community gatherings or business meetings. It was more difficult to redefine an explicit statement in the Talmud allowing poultry and dairy together without any separation in between (אגרא’s statement). Maimonides was the first to attempt to further widen the gap by including poultry in the six-hour wait category. (Italics added)

This is a mistake. Besides for the occasional pigeon or turtledove, there were no birds which Qaraites could have eaten with Rabbanites.

[xii] See Rashba and Ritva on Hullin 104. They probably assumed that Rambam had a tradition that this was the way the Talmud is interpreted.

[xiii] Daniel Frank,“May Karaites Eat Chicken? Indeterminacy in Sectarian Halakhic Exegesis”, Jewish Biblical Interpretation and Cultural Exchange ed. Natalie B. Dohrman and David Stern, (2008) Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press pgs.124-138.

[xiv] Harkavy, Zikhron la-rishonim 67-68

[xv] Harkavy, Zikhron la-rishonim 179

[xvi] See al-Qirqisani, Kitab al-Anwar 1.16 vol I pg 57. Trans. in W. Lockwood,  Ya’qub al-Qirqisani on Jewish Sects and Christianity (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, (1984) 150. Also Karaite Anthology: Excerpts from the Early Literature  (1980) ed. By Leon Nemoy pgs 32-34.

[xvii] Al-Qirqisani, Kitabal-Anwar XII.2.3-6. Qirqisani also mentions that- “One allows chicken, another forbids it, while yet another asserts that he does not know whether it is permitted or forbidden.” (Al-Qirqisani, Kitabal-Anwar I.19.3 vol.1 pg 61). This tells that though the leading Qaraite scholars forbade most birds, there were existent alternate views and practices amongst early sectarians. These lenient views did not become the norm until much later.


[xviii] Yapheth ben Eli, Comment on Dt 14,11-20

[xix] See Frank’s article for relevant citations. An interesting passage in R. Avraham ibn Ezra’s commentary discusses R. Saadya:

שם האחד. אמר הגאון (=ר’ סעדיה) כי פישון יאור מצרים… ואין ראיה על פישון שהוא היאור, רק שתרגם החוילה כפי צרכו, כי אין לו קבלה. וכן עשה במשפחות, ובמדינות ובחיות ובעופות ובאבנים. אולי בחלום ראם. וכבר טעה במקצתם כאשר אפרש במקומו. א”כ לא נשען על חלומותיו, אולי עשה כן לכבוד השם, בעבור שתרגם התורה בלשון ישמעאל ובכתיבתם, שלא יאמרו כי יש בתורה מצות לא ידענום.

(אבן עזרא בראשית ב:יא)

R. Saadya Gaon may have fabricated translations for uncertain names of birds in the Torah only to protect Rabbanites from Qaraite ridicule. By supplying translations, Saadya saw to it that Rabbanite Torah readers would not easily sympathize with Qaraite scholars by thinking that, indeed, their Rabbanite tradition knows very little about the meaning of words in the Torah.

[xx] This source I add to Frank’s list.

[xxi] This source I add to Frank’s list.

[xxii] R. Yaakov Emden writes in his סידור בית יעקב pg 154 ובראשי הבתים חתום מנחם (אולי הוא בר מכיר). I suggest that Menachem is not Menachem ben Machir of 11th century Germany, but Menachem ben Saruq (10th century Spain) or another early Spanish poet. That this piyut, in recent times, is traditionally sung mainly in Ashkenazi homes does not disprove Sephardic anti-Qaraite origins.

[xxiii] See Judah Hadassi’s words- לאכול ולשתות די מחייתו וקיום נפש ולנוח מעט במשכבך in Haym Soloveitchik’s  Collected Essays II, pg 391.

[xxiv] The blessing said before kindling the Sabbath lights was likely initiated to strengthen this rabbinic practice in response to the Qaraite custom. See Naftali Vieder,  התגבשות נוסח התפילה במזרח ובמעריב Volume I (1998), pg. 343-346.
[xxv] From Shir HaShirim 7:3. The literal context in Shir HaShirim is erotic and sensual. Good poetry has multiple layers of meaning.

[xxvi] וְדָגִים is added merely so the “im” will rhyme with בְּתַעֲנוּגִים.

[xxvii] See here: http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=14106&st=&pgnum=129

[xxviii]Here: http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=14106&st=&pgnum=64 (Shemini pg 31). Also see Devarim Re’eh pg 44- http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=14106&st=&pgnum=335.


[xxix] Sevel ha-yerushah is a Qaraite term for ‘commonly accepted tradition.’

[xxx]  Gan Eden, “Inyan shehitah,” chapter 2, 82d

[xxxi] R. Avraham ibn Ezra (1089–1167), Halevi’s contemporary and landsman, makes an interesting comment:

הדוכיפת. אמרו הצדוקים שהיא התרנגולת, ואלה טפשי עולם, כי מי הגיד להם. (אבן עזרא ויקרא יא:יט)

These Qaraite Bible interpreters may have intended to ridicule Rabbanites by arguing that chicken is the non-kosher דוכיפת bird. It is apparent that these particular Qaraites still refrained from chicken. If so, the reality reported in Kuzari may not have yet been uniform throughout Spain. Or perhaps Ibn Ezra was recording Qaraite views he encountered along his many global travels.

[xxxii] Qaraites and Rabbanites lived in adjacent quarters in Cairo—Harat al-Yahud and Harat al-Yahud al-Qarain. (http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Karaites.aspx )

[xxxiii] Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim 3:48 writes:

אבל אסור בשר בחלב הרי עם היותו מזון גס מאוד בלי ספק, וגורם מילוי רב אין הדבר רחוק לדעתי שיש לעבודה
זרה בכך שייכות, ושמא כך היו אוכלין בעבודה מעבודותיה או באד מאדיהם
וממה שמחזק את זה לדעתי, שאסור בשר בחלב הזכירו פעמים בתחילת הציווי בו כאשר הזכיר מצוות החג, שלוש פעמים בשנה וגו וכאילו יאמר בחגכם וביאתכם לבית ה’ אלוהיך לא תבשל מה שתבשל שם בצורה פלונית כפי שהיו הם עושים, זהו המתקבל יותר לדעתי בטעם איסורו, אלא שלא ראיתי את זה כתוב במה שעיינתי מספרי ה”צאבה.

Ibn Ezra:

והנה קדמונינו ז”ל החמירו להסיר כל ספק, ואסרו בשר בחלב, והשם שנתן להם חכמה, הוא יתן משכורתם שלימה. (ר’ אברהם אבן עזרא שמות כג:יט)

Ibn Ezra’s view is that meat cooked in the milk of an animal other than its mother was only forbidden by Rabbinic law (unlike what is understood from Talmud Chullin and Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah).

Accordingly, we see a three stage development of changes in biblical law.
First, the early rabbis expanded the Torah’s prohibition against the pagan practice of cooking a kid in its mother’s milk. They said cooking milk in any meat is forbidden. Some rabbis even forbade fowl cooked with dairy. This view eventually became the normative halacha. At this early stage kinuach ve’hadacha was required between meat and dairy- though, not between poultry and dairy.

Second, in the beginning of the eleventh century, the rabbinic meat-milk prohibition was expanded by Rabbeinu Chananel to require a separation of six hours between consuming meat and dairy. About this time Qaraites had loosened their mourning customs and began eating meat; they did not hesitate to cook that meat with dairy. R. Chananel created this new law to protect and separate rabbinically-oriented Jews who accepted the concept and binding force of the Oral Torah from influence of the Qaraites.

Third, in the century following R. Chananel’s enactment, Qaraites included chicken, duck and and other birds on their kosher list and cooked these fowl with dairy. Now that Rabbanite and Qaraite Jews shared the same list of kosher birds they could eat poultry meals together. Rambam responded by requiring a six hour wait for poultry as well, to assure that the two groups would not overly socialize – so as to avoid Rabbanite Jews being drawn to and accepting Qaraite views.