It says in the Torah not to eat milk and meat together. But why in the world do the rabbis require us to have separate dishes!?
Three times in the Torah we read "Do not boil a kid in its mother's milk." (Exodus 23:19, 34:26, and Deuteronomy 14:21) Rashi explains that the verse is brought three times to teach us three things regarding milk and meat:
OK, so far I still see no need for separate dishes.
I own a pottery Kiddush cup that we use for Havdalah. Each week, we fill it with grape juice or wine which sits in it for about five minutes while we say Havdalah. Then the kids drink it. We've owned this cup for about ten years. The inside of this cup is permanently purple from the juice and wine — I've run the cup through the dishwasher, but the purple doesn't come out completely.
Similarly, I once stored pasta with tomato sauce in a Tupperware. The Tupperware remains reddish to this day. I don't know, but it is not unreasonable to assume that a little bit of flavor from the sauce or grape from the cup comes out each time these vessels are used.
If either of these vessels were permeated with milk and the vessel were used with meat, that milk taste that came out would mix with the meat.
But that's plastic and pottery, both of which are porous materials. So maybe you can make an argument about china. But what about my metal pots? Surely they don't absorb tastes like this!?
I agree, metal likely absorbs less. But I have owned plenty of frying pans that have been discolored by absorbed foods, and iron-clad pots work best after several uses — this allows them to become permeated with oil to create a natural non-stick surface. So no matter what the material, we need separate vessels and utensils for milk and meat. Otherwise the transfer of tastes could result in an inadvertent mixing of milk and meat during cooking or eating, either of which is explicitly forbidden in the Torah.
Questions to ponder:
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