Mitzvot 244 – 245, 548 – 551 / Prohibited Mixtures



שלא להרביע בהמה מין עם שאינו מינו – שלא להרביע בהמה כלאים, כלומר שלא נרכיב הזכר על שום מין בהמה או חיה שאינו מינו, שנאמר (ויקרא יט יט) בהמתך לא תרביע כלאים. ובבאור אמרו זכרונם לברכה (ב”מ צא א), שאין החיוב עד שיכניס כמכחול בשפופרת ואז ילקה.

To not mate a beast, a specie with not its specie: To not mate a beast [in a] forbidden mixture – meaning to say that we not graft a male with any specie of [domesticated] beast or [wild] animal which is not its specie – as it is stated (Leviticus 19:19), “your beast shall you not mate [in a] forbidden mixture.”

It is from the roots of the commandment that God, blessed be He, created His world with wisdom, with understanding and with knowledge, and [so] He made and formed all of the forms according to that which it was fitting for its matter to be, to be designed [according to] the design of the world – and blessed is He that knows [this]. And this is what is stated about the story of creation (Genesis 1:31), “And God saw everything that He had done, and behold, it was very good.” And His seeing, blessed be He, is His knowledge and contemplation about things; as He, blessed be He, does not need seeing things with the eye after the act, due to His great level; since everything is revealed and known and apparent in front of Him before the act, [just] like after the act. … And in that God knew that everything He made was designed perfectly for its matter that it needed in His world, He commanded to each and every specie to make its ‘fruit’ for its specie – as it is written in the Order of Bereshit – and that the species not mix, lest it will take away from their perfection and He [therefore] not command His blessing upon them. And according to what it seems in our thoughts, it is from this root that we were prevented from mating beasts [in a] forbidden mixture. And likewise from this reason were we warned about this, combined with another reason that we already wrote about species of seeds and trees (Sefer HaChinukh 62).


שלא לזרע כלאי זרעים ולא נרכיב אילן בשום מקום בארץ – שלא לזרע שני מיני זרעים כגון חטה ושעורה או פול ועדשה ביחד בארץ ישראל דוקא, שנאמר (ויקוא יט יט) שדך לא תזרע כלאים. ובא הפרוש עליו (קידושין לט א) שבשדה שיהיה לנו בארץ הכתוב מדבר (מצוה סב).

To not sow seeds of forbidden mixtures and not graft in any place in the Land: To not sow two species of seed, such as wheat and barley or fava beans and peas, together – only in the Land of Israel – as it is stated (Leviticus 19:19), “your field shall you not sow [with] a forbidden mixture.”


שלא לזרע כלאים בכרם – שלא לזרע מיני התבואה בכרם ולא קנבוס ולוף, וזה המין מן הכלאים יקרא כלאי הכרם, ועל זה נאמר (דברים כב ט) לא תזרע כרמך כלאים, ואמרו זכרונם לברכה (ספרי כאן) מה אני צריך, והלא כבר נאמר שדך לא תזרע כלאים (ויקרא יט, יט)? מלמד שכל המקיים כלאים בכרם עובר בשני לאוין. וכלאי הכרם פרשו זכרונם לברכה (קדושין לט א), שהם שני מיני זרעים של תבואה עם גרעיני הענבים, וזהו שאמר רבי יאשיה אינו חייב עד שיזרע חטה ושעורה וחרצן במפולת יד, דהכי משמע להו כרמך כלאים, כלומר, דבעינן כלאים לבד מכרמך.

To not plant forbidden mixtures in a vineyard: To not plant types of grain in a vineyard. And this type of forbidden mixtures is called forbidden mixtures of the vineyard (kilayei hakerem). And about this is it stated (Deuteronomy 22:9), “Do not plant your vineyard a forbidden mixture.” And they, may their memory be blessed, said (Sifrei on this verse), “[Why] do I need this, is it not stated (Leviticus 19:19), ‘your field you shall not plant a forbidden mixture?’ It teaches that anyone who keeps a forbidden mixture in his vineyard transgresses two negative commandments.”

I have written regarding the commandment of cross-breeding in the Order of Kedoshim Tihiyu (Sefer HaChinukh 244) from the roots of the commandment of forbidden mixtures from the angle of its simple meaning (peshat) as is my custom, and take if from there. And we still need to speak here [about] what the reason is for the new [aspect] of the prohibition, that we need for it a forbidden mixture besides the vineyard. And maybe we shall say that it is from the vineyard being a very important thing and having a very strong nature.

The matter is known that in all of the commandments of the Torah, God distances us form a thing according to [the degree] of the stumbling found in it. And there is no doubt that the planting of a vineyard is the cause of wine, which [brings] several stumbling blocks to people. … And since it is only permitted for a great need, the verse obligated us that if also the start of its planting or its seeding will be in such a way that there is an angle of iniquity and sin in it, that we not keep it and that we should not benefit from it at all, but [rather] that it should all be burnt and destroyed from the world. Are all of the stumbling blocks that come out from at it after the end of its ripening not enough for us? [Hence,] it is not good for also its beginning to be in sin, but [rather] all of it should be incinerated – the fruit and the chaff and the wood and everything that is in it.


To not eat forbidden mixtures of the vineyard: That we are forbidden from eating forbidden mixtures of the vineyard only.


שלא לעשות מלאכה בשני מיני בהמות – שלא לחרש בשור ובחמור יחדו, והוא הדין לכל שני מיני בהמה שהאחת היא טהורה והאחת היא טמאה, ולאו דוקא חרישה לבד אסורה, אלא הוא הדין לכל מלאכה מהמלאכות, כגון דישה או למשוך עגלה וכל שאר מלאכות, ועל זה נאמר (דברים כב י) לא תחרש בשור ובחמור יחדו.

To not do work with two species of animals: To not plow with an ox and a donkey together. And the same is the case with any two species of animals, when one is pure and the other one is impure. And it is not specifically plowing that is forbidden, but rather the same is true for all types of work – for example, threshing or pulling a wagon [or] any of the types of work. And about this is it stated (Deuteronomy 22:10), “You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together.”

And I say that from the explanations of this commandment is the matter of [causing] pain to animals, which is a prohibition of the Torah. And it is known that for species of animals and fowl, there is great anguish in dwelling with those that are not its species and – all the more so – to do work with them. And [it is] as we see with our eyes with the ones that are not under our hands (undomesticated species) that every bird dwells with its species; and all animals and other species also always cling to their [own] species. And any wise-hearted person will [learn] proper conduct from this, to never put together two people whose natures are different from one another and different in their behavior in any matter – like a righteous person and an evildoer [or] a slight person and an honorable one. Since if the Torah was exacting about the pain that there is to animals – that are not intelligent creatures – from this, all the more so [is this the case] with people that have an intelligent soul, in order to know their Maker.

… And so [too,] if one [person] was sitting in the wagon and one was leading [them] – both of them are lashed, because his sitting in the wagon [also] causes the animal to pull. And even if a hundred [people] led together, all of them are lashed. And [about] that which they said that it is permissible to do all work with a person and an animal, as it states, “with an ox and a donkey” – and not with a person and a donkey or a person and an ox the explanation of the matter is according to the root that we mentioned. As the joining of an animal is not distressing for a person, since there is no connection with it at all. And behold, it is like he is doing work with a tree or a stone.


שלא ללבש שעטנז – שלא נלבש בגד המחבר מצמר ופשתים, וזהו נקרא שעטנז, ועל זה נאמר (דברים כב יא) לא תלבש שעטנז צמר ופשתים יחדו.

To not wear shaatnez: To not wear clothing that is composed of wool and flax (linen), and that is what is called, shaatnez. And about this is it stated (Deuteronomy 22:11), “You shall not wear shaatnez, wool and flax together.”

I wrote a hint about the roots of the commandment in the Order of Mishpatim about the matter of “do not keep a witch alive” (Sefer HaChinukh 62).


ת”ר (ויקרא יח, ד) את משפטי תעשו דברים שאלמלא (לא) נכתבו דין הוא שיכתבו ואלו הן עבודת כוכבים וגלוי עריות ושפיכות דמים וגזל וברכת השם

The Gemara cites another baraita related to the scapegoat. The Sages taught with regard to the verse: “You shall do My ordinances, and you shall keep My statutes to follow them, I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 18:4), that the phrase: My ordinances, is a reference to matters that, even had they not been written, it would have been logical that they be written. They are the prohibitions against idol worship, prohibited sexual relations, bloodshed, theft, and cursing the Name of God.

את חוקותי תשמרו דברים שהשטן משיב עליהן ואלו הן אכילת חזיר ולבישת שעטנז וחליצת יבמה וטהרת מצורע ושעיר המשתלח ושמא תאמר מעשה תוהו הם ת”ל (ויקרא יח, ל) אני ה’ אני ה’ חקקתיו ואין לך רשות להרהר בהן

The phrase: And you shall keep my statutes, is a reference to matters that Satan and the nations of the world challenge because the reason for these mitzvot are not known. They are: The prohibitions against eating pork; wearing garments that are made from diverse kinds of material, i.e., wool and linen; performing the ḥalitza ceremony with a yevama, a widow who must participate in a levirate marriage or ḥalitza; the purification ceremony of the leper; and the scapegoat. And lest you say these have no reason and are meaningless acts, therefore the verse states: “I am the Lord” (Leviticus 18:4), to indicate: I am the Lord, I decreed these statutes and you have no right to doubt them.


One of the foremost ways in which to demonstrate our fear/reverence of the Lord is not by observing commandments which we find reasonable and useful, but by observing those commandments which we fail to understand, or worse, which run counter too what our intelligence dictates to our mind as being useful. Hence the Torah urges: את חוקותי תשמורו, you must make a special point of meticulously observing G’d’s statutes. The motivation for doing so must not be merely fear of punishment, but blanket recognition that “Father knows best,” that the fact it was G’d Who legislated these statutes proves that they are intelligent and beneficial for us even if we fail to understand this. It is interesting that the Torah enumerates examples of such chukkim in areas which have nothing to do with “religion” as such, but with the most mundane of our activities. Examples are: the efforts to produce better strains of domesticated animals, better strains of agricultural products, etc. In each of these situations, even though scientific research may lead us to conclusions other than the ones indicated by the Torah, we must ignore such results of our own research.


1)           You shall keep my statutes. But our Rabbis only mentioned that the reason is hidden and that the evil inclination and the idolaters question them about the wearing of shatnez, and not about forbidden mixtures of animals. And the intention about them is not that there be any decree of the King of the kings of kings in any place without a reason, since ‘every word of God is pure’ (see Proverbs 30:5). Rather, statutes are decrees of a king who imprints it with his authority without revealing their purpose to the people; such that the people do not benefit from them but rather question them in their hearts. Yet they accept them out of fear of the monarchy.  So too, the statutes of the Holy One, blessed be He, are secrets that He has in the Torah that the people do not benefit from, according to their thoughts. But all [of His laws] have a correct reason and a perfect purpose.

2)           And the reason for forbidden mixtures is that God created species in the world – in all of those with spirits, in plants and in animate beings – and gave them the ability to reproduce, such that the species survive with them forever, so long as He, may He be blessed, wants the world to exist. So He commanded that they be able to produce according to their species, and that they never ever change; as it is stated about all of them, “according to its species” (Genesis 1). And this is the reason that we breed animals one with the other; for the continuation of the species – just as men have conjugal relations with women in order to be fruitful and multiply. And one who crosses two species together, changes and denies [God’s] act of creation, as if he is thinking that the Holy One, blessed be He, did not perfect His world completely, and he wants to help with His creation of the world [by] adding creatures to it. [Moreover,] species of animals will not give birth when one specie is crossed with another. And even those that are close enough in nature so as to give birth – such as mules [that are born from crossing horses and mules]; their seed will be excised, as [the resultant mixed-breeds] will not give birth. And behold, on account of these two things, the act of mixing species has already been rejected and abandoned. And the fruits of plants that have been mixed from two species also do not grow afterwards; such that both of the reasons mentioned exist in their prohibition. And this is the reason for “you shall not seed forbidden mixtures” – which is grafting, according to the opinion of our Rabbis. And it also prohibited planting forbidden mixtures; because when they derive sustenance one from the other, it changes their nature, as well as their form. And it is as if each seed is grafted from two species. And the prohibition of plowing with an ox and a donkey is because it is the way of all those that work the land to bring the pair from the same barn, such that they would come to mixing [them].


It is doubtless that they all tend to save man from the error of idolatry and the evil practices connected with it; e.g., observing the times, enchantment, witchcraft, incantation, consulting with familiar spirits, and the like. When you read the books which I mentioned to you. you will find that witchcraft, which will be described to you, is part of the customs of the Sabeans, Kasdim, Chaldeans, and to a higher degree of the Egyptians and Canaanites. They caused others to believe, or they themselves believed, that by means of these arts they would perform wonderful things in reference to an individual person, or to the inhabitants of a whole country, although no analogy and no reasoning can discover any relation between these performances of the witches and the promised result.

We have explained in our large work that it is prohibited to round the corners of the head, and to mar the corners of the beard, because it was the custom of idolatrous priests. For the same reason, the wearing of garments made of linen and wool is prohibited: the heathen priests adorned themselves with garments containing vegetable and animal material, whilst they held in their hand a seal made of a mineral. This you find written in their books. The same is also the reason of the precept, “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man” (Deut. 22:5). You find it in the book Tomtom, that a male person should wear colored woman’s dress when he stands before Venus, and a female, when standing before Mars, should wear a buckler and other armor.


From the roots of the commandment are that it is known that magic is a very bad thing and causes many mishaps to people. I do not have to write at length about it, as the things are well-known. And therefore we were commanded to put away from the world someone who makes efforts with this, as he is coming against the will of God, as He desires [the world’s] settlement and that everything should be administered in a natural way. As nature was at the beginning of creation and this one wants to change everything. And according to my opinion, the matter of magic is that at the beginning of creation, God, blessed be He, placed for each and every thing in the world a nature [through which] to accomplish its action well and straight, for the good of the creatures of the world that He created; and He commanded each one to act according to its species, as it is written about all the creatures, in Parshat Bereshit (Genesis 1:12), “according to its species.”… And the illustration of this is that it is just like that which you see with the grafting of one specie with a different one, that a new third specie is created. It comes out that the grafting negates the power of both of them. And so we have been prevented from bringing up to our minds to switch the perfect acts of God, even if something that appears to be pleasing comes out in our hand.


If anyone sows seed on top of seed, they shalal place his neck on a plow. They shall hitch up teams of oxen; and they shall turn the face of one in the one direction and the face of the other in the other direction.  The man will be put to death, and the oxen will be put to death.


The reason for mentioning Do not interbreed different kinds of animals after the previous commandments, is to say to us: Just as the requirement to be holy implies that you must not do violence to other human beings, so also it implies that you must not do anything to animals which alters the work of God. This is why Scripture says, Preserve My decrees: you must preserve each species, and not interbreed one species with another.

Not to intermingle even a field or a garment serves as a reminder. There are many commandments that are primarily reminders: e.g., the Festivals; wearing tzitzit; hearing the shofar; affixing a mezuza ; and wearing tefillin. I shall now reveal a little-known principle: Whoever is complete in his intellectual understanding is necessarily also complete in his religious observance.

PIRKEI D’REBBE ELIEZER 21:6 Rabbi Joshua ben Ḳorchah said: The Holy One, blessed be He, said: Heaven forbid ! Never let the offerings of Cain and Abel be mixed up (with one another), even in the weaving of a garment, as it is said, “Thou shalt not wear a mingled stuff, wool and linen together” (Deut. 22:11). And even if it be combined let it not come upon thee, as it is said, “Neither shall there come upon thee a garment of two kinds of stuff mingled together”