This topic is not relevant to most people, except those of you who live on a dairy farm. In fact, I did not see the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch or Rav Cohen’s sefer deal with it directly. Nevertheless, I would like to present a brief coverage of the topic, since: 1) It’s fascinating to see how basic principles play themselves out in specific cases, and 2) We want to learn something on every siman, if at all possible, b’ezras Hashem!
Question: What are the halachic issues with milking an animal on Yom Tov?
Answer: We must first clarify the purpose of the milking.
We will touch upon two possibilities:
a) To drink the milk or mix it into a dish of solid food
b) To alleviate the mother from the pain of full udders.
Let us analyze these issues, one purpose at a time:
1. To drink or eat the milk.
Here are the main considerations:
(a) Is milking an animal considered to be a melacha-activity?
(b) If it is, is it one of those that are permissible under the category of ‘ochel nefesh’ (i.e. the melachos that relate to food preparation)?
(c) Is milk that came out of the animal on Yom Tov considered to be muktzah? (Note: If it is muktzah, then even if a Jew did not actually milk the animal, but it dripped out by itself or was milked by a non-Jew, the milk would be forbidden for use!)
In response to our inquiries:
(a) Most authorities say that milking an animal is a melacha-act. It is called ‘mefareik’/extracting and is a ‘tolada’ (sub-category) of the av-malecha (main category) ‘dush’/threshing (i.e. detaching the kernel of grain from its stalk.) Is ‘dush’ one of the permissible melachos for ‘ochel nefesh’? NO, because it is typically done well in advance of consumption and in large quantities – not satisfying either of the two criteria of ‘ochel nefesh’. (See last lesson for a quote from “MBY Archives” – Siman 495.)
(b) Simply stated, since the av-melacha does not qualify for the ‘ochel nefesh’ permit, neither does its ‘tolada’. (Note: This is a very interesting point, because, while clearly the av-melacha ‘dush’ does not meet the ‘ochel nefesh’ criteria, this particular ‘tolada’ of ‘dush’ seemingly does! Please see the end of this lesson for a more lenient opinion.)
(c) With respect to the question of muktzah, that is complex as well. You may recall that the Shulchan Aruch and Rama differ as to whether certain kinds of muktzah which are permissible on Shabbos are prohibited on Yom Tov. Freshly-extracted milk - at best - falls into this category. However, many authorities maintain that fresh milk is stricter than ordinary muktzah – it is ‘nolad’, “(i.e. where an object undergoes some kind of physical transformation on Shabbos or Yom Tov.) There are various opinions as to whether this category is prohibited on Shabbos or not. All agree, however, that on Yom Tov, ‘nolad’ is prohibited.” (MBY Archives 495)
In sum, there are several complex issues at work here, and there are different opinions about all of them. (You’re not surprised, are you?) In practice, the Shulchan Aruch rules that an designated for milking should not be milked by a Jew on Shabbos. (Ed. See there for a discussion about milking an animal designated for slaughter, regarding both the melacha and the muktzah issues.) The Mishnah Berura 505:4, however, writes that since there are other, more lenient opinions – both on the melacha and the muktzah issues - one may rely on them to permit milking and usage of the milk if a person would otherwise not have with what to enjoy Yom Tov.
2. To alleviate the pain of the mother.
a) Is a Jew permitted to violate a Torah or Rabbinic prohibition for the sake of ‘tza’ar ba’alei chaim’– lit. “(Alleviating) the pain of an animal” – which, according to many opinions, is a Torah precept (Heb. ‘d’oraisa’)?
b) If a Jew is not permitted to violate, is he permitted to ask a non-Jew to do it for him?
To address these questions, we can reference Hilchos Shabbos, as the same halachos apply here. We excerpt from MBY Archives 305:18-20 Allowing one’s animal to rest (part 3) – Hey, that’s a (black) hat trick!
“The solution is to milk in such a way that only a rabbinically-forbidden act is done, which will be overridden by the principle of ‘tza’ar ba’alei chaim d’oaraisa’. Here are the options for doing that, in order of halachic preference:
a) Have a non-Jew express the milk to go to waste or to go directly from the animal into a solid food. (Note: The former is not a Torah-prohibited act, because the intended purpose of ‘mefareik’ – i.e. extracting the milk for its consumption - is not realized; the latter is not technically the melacha of ‘mefareik’ either, because, since the liquid is transferred directly back into a solid, the act of “extracting liquid from solid” is not accomplished.) In this way, only a ‘shvus d’shvus’ – i.e. one rabbinic prohibition, namely instructing a non-Jew to do another rabbinic prohibition (non-melacha milking) is being done!
b) The Jew himself may express the milk in one of the rabbinically-prohibited methods mentioned above. As stated above, when necessary, a rabbinic law may be overridden for the sake of ‘tza’ar ba’alei chaim’. c) Have a non-Jew milk the animal in the normal way – i.e. collecting the liquid milk in a container. Although the milking method is a melacha, having the non-Jew doing it (which is a rabbinic prohibition) is permissible for the sake of ‘tza’ar ba’alei chaim’.
It think we have “milked this topic for all it’s worth”. Please let me know if you have any “udder” questions about it!