Welcome to the seventh session of the JUICE course: BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVES ON CHILD DEVELOPMENT. After having considered the foundations of development, the biblical perspectives on conception and birth, the traditions involving welcoming the newborn and the care of the infant and child, we will round out the first half of the course with a review of the Biblical perspective on nutrition and the laws of kashrut. We will see that the Biblical perspective on nutrition greatly enriches our capacity to guide the child's growth to its maximum potential. As we study the varying precepts, concepts and laws, we must bear in mind at all times that the Bible views proper nutrition as a cornerstone for healthy physical development which in turn is the foundation for the strength of the spiritual faculties enhanced by Judaism.


The child's rate of growth and development depend to a great extent on nutrition. The younger the child, the greater are his nutritional needs during the stage of rapidly building cells, tissues, and organs in the process of growth. Recent research has revealed that in addition to its effects on physical growth, nutrition is also connected with mental development. The importance of proper nutrition is a basic element in Judaism, for it is known to "promote health and prevent disease." (Eruvin 83b). The role of nutrition in building and sustaining life is marked in the Bible and recognized in Judaism through the framework of the laws of "Kashrut", halakhic (legal) regulations on preparing and selecting food. The laws of Kashrut are based on the commandments concerning the types of animals and fish permitted for human consumption according to Torah law (Lev. 11:1-47) and the commandment "Thou shalt not seethe a kid in its mother's milk" (Deut. 14:21). Meat and poultry chosen for the kosher kitchen must be ritually clean, and must be slaughtered and prepared according to ritual laws. "Kashering" meat and poultry involves drawing out the blood before cooking. Separate dishes, cutlery, and cooking utensils are required for meat and dairy dishes In the kosher home. (Separate meat and dairy dishes are also required for Passover.) It is customary to wait six hours after a meat meal before eating dairy, whereas, after eating dairy, one must only rinse the mouth and clean one's hands before eating meat or poultry, (after eating yellow cheese one must wait six hours before eating meat). Although fish need not be kashered, one must take care to serve only those fish which have fins and scales according to Torah law. Fish as well as other foods, such as grains, eggs, and beans, are parve (neither dairy nor meat) and may be eaten with either. Care must be taken to discard any eggs in which blood is found on the yolk. The goal of these laws is to unite the Jewish people in their eating habits by adhering to a diet based on cleanliness and purity. By abstaining from nonkosher food and eating habits, the Jewish people are singled out to achieve a level of holiness exemplified by the Almighty. (Eliyahu Kitov, "Man and His Home," J-m, Yad Eliyahu Kitov, 1977, ch.20)

Yet the laws of Kashrut are based not only on spiritual elements but also on considerations of human physical and mental development. Jewish sages note that an improper diet, in this case, eating meat which is not ritually clean, causes man himself to become ritually unclean and makes him " dull." ( Leviticus 11) In addition to the spiritual and physical effects of nutrition, improper eating habits may bring about a deficiency in intellectual functioning. For complete details on the laws of Kashrut, consult the "Code of Jewish Law", section A, chapters 35-47.


Members of the medical profession today recognize that the individual's health depends on nutritional foundations initiated during prenatal life.(American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, "Obstetrics and Gynecology, Dec. 1972) The same conclusion was reached thousands of years ago by the talmudic sages, who laid down guidelines for the diet of the pregnant and lactating mother, on the theory that the mother's eating habits would affect the child's physical and emotional development.(Kettubot 61)

According to some sources, the baby's first source of nutrition after birth should be mother's milk, for artificial milk is not considered good for the average infant. The benefits of mother's milk over goat's milk or cow's milk are so important that Halakhah makes all the required provisions to assure that the infant receives what is actually best for him. Thus, the law that a widow who is nursing may not marry until the child is weaned is specific in its purpose. The Talmud states that although it is technically possible for the mother to wean the child earlier and feed him/her eggs and milk, this should not be done and the proper time limit must be adhered to (Yevamot 42)


The term "weaning" designates the period during which the mother begins giving the baby other foods in addition to breast milk and finally ceases nursing altogether. The normal age for weaning was set by some sages as twenty-four months, (Kettubot 60, Responsa Noda BeYehuda 142:20), however, others maintained that the infant was ready for solid foods at fifteen months.(Responsa Iggerot Moshe 2:6) As such long periods of nursing are not practiced in modern times, (since it is considered dangerous for the baby to go without solid foods for so long, a fact confirmed by Rabbi Feinstein, z"l), it is the practice for mothers to follow the advice given by the talmudic sage Samuel: the baby should nurse as long as he wants to. (Kettubot 60) If the child becomes ill at any point after weaning, it is the mother's responsibility to continue nursing it. This will help relieve the baby's illness.(Kettubot 60)

In biblical times, it was the custom to make a joyous feast on the occasion of weaning the child to give thanks to the Almighty that the child had survived the most perilous stage of infancy..This is learned from the feast prepared by Abraham on the occasion of his son's weaning. (Genesis 21:8) In talmudic times, it was the custom to celebrate the child's weaning any time from eighteen months to five years. (According to the school of Hillel, the child is weaned at eighteen months; according to Rabbi Eliezer, the child may nurse up to twenty-four months; according to Rabbi Joshua, a child should be allowed to nurse up to the age of five! (Kettubot 60)

Accordingly, we note that Samuel was weaned at the age of three, after which he was admitted into the services of the Temple.(I Samuel 1:24)


The first solid food given to a baby is milk and eggs (Deut 32:14, Yevamot 42b) The milk was usually goat's or sheep's milk (Deut. 32:14, Proverbs 7:27) Milk (as well as all liquids) must be covered at night to prevent contamination.(Bava Batra 98b) Milk is recognized as a basic nutrient required for sustenance.(Leviticus Rabba 12) Drinking milk assures that the teeth will be white and healthy.(Genesis 49:12) The benefit of milk and dairy products for healthy development and beauty is acknowledged, so that if a parent wished his/her daughter to develop as a fair maiden, he/she was advised to feed her milk in her childhood. (Kettubot 60) Milk was considered to have a rather bland taste and the addition of honey rendered it more tasty (Song of Songs Rabbah 1)

Honey was thought by some to be good for babies,(Yoma 78) but Maimonides maintained that it was not.(Rambam, "Hilkhot Deot", Chapter 4) The controversy continues today as well. Nevertheless, children themselves were known to show a preference for honey and butter, as was pointed out by Isaiah.(Isaiah 7:15) In fact, it is said that the manna tasted like honey to little children.Yoma 75)

The second nutrient group given to children was grains. It is noted that a child does not know how to call out " mother" or "father" until he tastes grain. (Berakhot 40) This observation implies that by the time the child was given cereal and other grains to eat, he/she was at the stage of primary language development. In biblical times this would correspond to about two years of age, while today a child often begins to utter his/her first words at the age of eleven to thirteen months-just about the time he/she begins to receive solid foods. Maimonides recommends whole grains rather than refined flour.(Rambam, "Hilkhot Deot , Chapter 4) The third group of nutrients important for development consists of fruits and vegetables. Vegetables are considered an essential addition to meals throughout the year, while fruits are known to be essential for healthy development.(Berakhot 40a-44b) The Talmud warns that one should not live in a town in which there are no vegetable gardens and orchards (or an insufficient water supply).(Sanhedrin 55) Rav Chisda notes that vegetables arouse the appetite, while fruit brighten the eyes.(Bava Batra 91a, Kettubot 61a, Sanhedrin 17b, Shabbat 140) Maimonides especially recommends eating figs, grapes, and almonds.(Rambam, "Hilkhot Deot , Ch 4) Squash is considered to be good for the digestion. (Avodah Zarah 11) The fourth essential nutrient group consists of meat, fish, and eggs (which supply protein). Fish is easily digested and nutritious; the meat of an ox, roasted meat, fat, fried eggs, nuts, cheese, and liver are digested less easily. (Berakhot 44b) Meat and eggs are known to have the same nutritive value, and both have six times the nutritive value of flour. (Berakhot 44b)

Water is the most beneficial beverage for bodily functions. Although it does not build any body tissue, the body requires it for sustenance.(Chullin 84a, Pesachim 108b) It is beneficial to drink water after every meal. (Berakhot 40a; Niddah 65; Jerusalem Talmud, Eruvin 111:1) (It is known today that a growing child requires 100-135 grams of water per kilogram of weight.) (UNESCO, "The Child From Birth to Six Years": (Paris, 1976)

The amount of food eaten is an important factor in healthy development. Each person should eat the amount of food required for his size. This is learned from the manna, which was supplied according to each person's size; thus, for an infant a suitable portion was added to the mother's measure, and as the child grew, his portion was increased accordingly. (Chatam Sofer 5:12) Talmudic scholars add that a person should eat the amount of food warranted by climate, season, occupation, age, sex, body weight, and state of health. (Pessachim 112a, Taanit 11a)

The amount one eats is important; the talmudic scholars warned against overeating, because more people die from eating too much than from eating too little.(Shabbat 33a, Gitting 70a) They note especially that eating too much meat is unhealthy (Shekalim 14:15) Maimonides declares that overeating and eating the wrong foods are like poisoning the body and are the main cause of illness. (Rambam, "Hilkhot Deot, Chapter 4) This declaration is based on the verse "He who guards his mouth guards his soul against troubles," which is defined by Maimonides as meaning that he who guards against eating bad foods and overeating - prevents illness. (Rambam, "Hilkhot Deot", Ch 4)

The sages recommended plain foods (Ecclesiastes Rabbah 1:18) and that one should eat slowly and chew the food well, for this prolongs life. (Berakhot 54b) This is excellent advice for young children, who should be taught the proper eating habits from the very beginning.

It is recommended that the type of food served vary with the season. Thus, certain foods, such as garlic, radish, and cabbage, should be eaten during the rainy winter season, while other foods, such as pumpkin, are more suitable for the warm season. In addition, the amount eaten during the warm season should be two-thirds of that served during the winter season. (Rambam, "Hilkhot Deot" Ch. 4) Thus, in spring and summer children should be offered light foods with smaller portions, while in autumn and winter, heavier meals may be served with larger portions for each child.

The sages provided general guidelines for hygiene in the preparation and serving of food. In accordance with the principles of hygiene and Kashrut, food should be fresh and stored in a proper and sanitary way.(Bava Batra 55a) Food must be kept in clean dishes and covered to prevent foreign matter from spoiling it.(Kettubot 110b) Food which is old and not stored properly and unripe food may cause illness.(Pessachim 42a, Sanhedrin 94a) Smoked and salted fish, cheese, and old meat, as well as mushrooms and any food which has a bad odor, are considered to be very bad for human consumption at all times.(Rambam, Hilkhot Deot, ch. 4) Beef must be thoroughly cooked to kill the parasites it may contain. (Shabbat 109b) Finally, a person should not eat food which his system cannot digest.(Shabbat 109b) This is a basic guideline for young and growing children, for care must be taken to suit foods served to accommodate the to the digestive ability of the child.


A child must be fed any food he requires for his health, even if the food is forbidden by the sages (but a child may not be given food forbidden by Biblical law (Mishnah Berurah sec. 343). As this applies to any food necessary for health, it is permitted to feed a child milk from an animal which is not kosher if no other is available.Chazon Ish 60:59, Responsa Rab bi Azriel, Yud, 172, Responsa Har Tzvi 60, Responsa Rashba 1:92) In all such cases a Rabbi should be consulted.

Children may be fed before prayers and before hearing the Kiddush on the Sabbath, if this is necessary for their well-being. This regulation applies even though the tradition requires to wait until after prayers and Kiddush for partaking of the meals.(Kitzur Shulkhan Arukh 165:4)

If a young child requires milk for his well-being, he may be given milk one hour after eating meat, even though the adult is required to wait a period of six hours. A child who is old enough to say the blessing after the meal should do so and be given the milk afterwards. A younger child should have his/her hands washed of the meat and the meat dishes removed from the table, before being served milk. (Responsa Chelkhat Yaakov 11: 88-89, Responsa Yabiya Omer, Yud, sec. 3, Darcei Teshuva 89:15)


Athough it is not permitted to mash uncooked fruit and vegetables on the Sabbath, these may be chopped finely for older children and mashed for young babies if necessary for health. This must be done immediately before the meal. (Mishna Brura 45, Beur Halakha 321:12) Other foods, such as cooked eggs, fish, or meat, may be mashed even with a fork. (Chazon Ish 58:9) (On holidays, it is permitted to mash fruit and vegetables in any case) It is permitted to squeeze lemon, orange or grapefruit juice onto solid foods and to blend them for the baby, if this is done in a different manner than regularly (i.e., the lemon should be squeezed on the side and blended differently than on weekdays. This is the case for all dry foods which are prepared for the baby by adding a liquid.(Neubirt 8:14) The same applies to crumbling biscuits and mixing the crumbs with white cheese or adding juice to such a mixture.(Neubirt, 8:15)

It is forbidden to squeeze the juice of any fruit into an empty container or into another liquid, whether this is done by hand or in a utensil. However, the juice may be squeezed by hand into a solid food, if this is done to improve the taste a dish such as salad. It is forbidden to liquefy grapes even onto a solid food, but if' this is for the sake of a baby's health, it is permitted. (On holidays, it is permitted in any case.) (Neubirt, ch. 5) As children are considered to have the same status as a sick person not in mortal danger, it is permitted to measure food to be prepared for the baby (but, if possible, estimate the amount) Similarly, a child may be weighed before or after meals if this is necessary for his/her health. (Rema 323:1, 306:7, Mishna Berurah 36)


Food for a child may be placed near a fire or on a warming tray or a gentile may be asked to cook or warm food for the baby if necessary. The Jew must not do anything to help him and the adult is not permitted to eat what has been warmed for the baby.

It is permitted to use a food-warming plate in which boiling water is placed under the food to warm it up. Boiling water may be poured over a bottle in a dish to warm the milk as long as the water does not cover the bottle. The use of an electric warming apparatus for milk bottles is not permitted on the Sabbath.(Neubirt 1:44,50)


Sterilizing is f'orbidden on the Sabbath (so that all bottles must be prepared before the Sabbath) unless it is a matter of "pikuach nefesh"-saving a child's life. (On holidays, bottles may be sterilized with water prepared in advance.) (Tehillah Le-David 318:17 and 32; Neubirt 12:4,13) Bottles may be washed on the Sabbath and on holidays treated with antiseptic. (Neubirt 12:6, 15) The same applies to nipples, but it is not permitted to enlarge or create a hole in the nipple on the Sabbath. (Neubirt 9:19)


Children are not permitted to eat chametz (leavened foods) during Passover. While it is the Ashkenazi custom to refrain from cornflour and rice during Passover, these food items are permitted in the Sephardic tradition, and they may be cooked for babies in an Ashkenazi household during Passover if necessary. In such cases, the water should be boiled first and special utensils should be set aside for these items.(Neubirt 60:80)


Boys under twelve years are not permitted to fast an entire day (at the age of twelve they may do so if they are robust and healthy). It is permitted for a child to carry food on Yom Kippur and for the parent to feed a child and to wash one's hands when serving the food. (It is said that Shammai did not wish to wash his hands when feeding a child on Yom Kippur, but the talmudic sages concluded that both hands must be washed to feed the child.) It is advisable to prepare a holiday meal for the child in celebration of the holiday.(Sefer ha-Yashar, Chelek Ha-Teshuvot, siman 52; Yomna 77b, 78b, 82a; Shabbat 139a; Eruvin 40b; Orchot Haim 18:12)


Jewish law acknowledges the relevance of medically approved methods for healthy digestion of food as most important for good health. (Kitzur Shulkhan Arukh 32:2-3) Thus, it is advised to walk or work to build up an appetite (as stated in the psalm: "Thou shalt eat bread with the sweat of thy palms") During meals, one should sit upright or lean to the left. After meals it is advised not to move around much or to take a walk, not to sleep for two hours, and not to take a bath immediately, for this hampers proper digestion. (Kitzur Shulkhan Arukh 32:6)

One should eat only when hungry and drink only when thirsty (Kitzur Shulkhan Arukh 32:19)

Breakfast is considered a most important meal: (Kitzur Shulkhan Arukh 32:11)

" Thirteen things were said concerning bread eaten in the morning: it is an antidote against the heat, cold, winds, and demons; it makes the simple wise, and it causes one to win in a lawsuit; it aids one in learning and teaching Torah; it causes one's words to be heeded and helps maintain the scholar's excellence; it helps one to love his wife and not lust after another; it destroys tapeworms and, some say, it drives away envy and causes love to enter." (Baba Metzia 107b)

Thus mothers are encouraged to serve a hearty breakfast to young, growing children at all ages of development.

When serving various types of food, care should be taken to serve the lighter foods first (such as chicken before beef) and leave foods which are more difficult to digest for last.(Kitzur Shulkhan Arukh 32:32, 13)

One must take care to chew food properly, for this is the beginning of digestion (a most important bit of advice for children) (Kitzur Shulkhan Arukh 32)

One should not drink before meals, and very little during meals, in order not to hamper digestion. The proper time to drink is after meals, when the digestive process has begun (Kitzur Shulkhan Arukh, 32:17)


For the sake of proper digestion and good health, Maimonides advised that the following food items should be avoided: old smoked fish and old salted cheese, mushrooms, old salted meat, wine made from unripe grapes, cooked food which has spoiled, any food with a bad odor or a bitter taste (Rambam, Hilkhot Deot , Chapter 4, Kitzur Shulkhan Arukh 32:14) (This passage may be a reference to food treated with nitrites and food spoiled by bacteria, which has been verified scientifically to be harmful to health)

Certain food items should be eaten only rarely, such as large fish, dairy products which were left to stand one day after milking, meat of large oxen and goats, certain beans and lentils, chickpeas and barley bread, matzot, cabbage, leeks and onions, garlic, mustard, and radishes. Such foods should be eaten mostly during the rainy season and not at all on hot days (Rambam, Hilkhot Deot, Chap. 4)

Other food items, such as ducklings, pigeons, dates, bread kneaded with oil, and refined semolina should be eaten only in small quantities. Fish should not be served with meat. A piece of bread should be eaten or a beverage served between the two if one follows the other in a meal.(Kitzur Shulkhan Arukh 33:1-2)

Unripe fruits are very bad for the digestive system. Carobs are considered hard to digest. Sour fruit should be eaten sparingly, on hot days. (Rambam, Hilkhot De'ot 4: Kitzur Shulkhan Arukh 32:16)

The Code of Jewish Law stipulates that as a general rule, one should eat foods suited to one's temperament. Thus, an overactive child should not be given spices and sugar, but rather foods which are cool and sour; a withdrawn child should be given foods with some spices; an average child should be given foods which are neutral in this sense. (These rules preceeded modern research which has verified the scientific basis for the guidelines. In all cases, the foods served should suit the climate and season. On hot days, one should eat cool and refreshing foods, such as young chickens and some sour foods, and on wintry days, hot, robust foods. (Kitzur Shulkhan Arukh, chapter 32)


From biblical times through the talmudic era to the contemporary responsa, we find that Judaism assigns an important role to proper nutrition as an essential factor in promoting health and preventing disease. Indeed, it appears that Judaism is a forerunner of natural medicine and the prevention of disease through the proper diet. The laws of Kashrut with their emphasis on cleanliness and purity in preparing and selecting foods are intended to help man fulfill his role as a Jew. By maintaining a healthy body, one is enabled to learn the ways of the Lord and to function accordingly. The foods served to a growing child must be chosen with care, for his/her nutritional needs are greater than those of an adult. This is a basic fact recognized by Jewish law. (Kitzur Shulkhan Arukh, 32:4) The foods served to children should be selected in accordance with their temperament and size, and also should be suited to the season, (portions should be smaller in the summer). Feeding a child the wrong food and overfeeding are dangerous for health. Children should not be forced to eat food they dislike; in fact, Jewish law forbids eating food that one considers distasteful. (Kitzur Shulkhan Arukh 33:9) It is advisable for children to build up an appetite by playing or taking a walk before meals. Children should not be fed when they are nervous or upset. (Kitzur Shulkhan Arukh 32:1, commentary "Metzudat David") A child should be trained to eat a nutritious breakfast every day.(Bava Metzia 107b)

The Judaic prescriptions for proper nutrition are all-encompassing. Although they precede modern science by hundreds of years, they are in perfect accord with the advice given by pediatricians and nutritionists today and are intended to assure the child's proper physical as well as spiritual development.


1. Collect the various books on nutrition for children you may have at home, or compile a list from your local (or internet bookstore).

a) Compare contemporary nutritional guidelines for infants and children with the Biblical guidelines on nutrition.

b) What are the similarities?

c) In what ways do the contemporary guidelines differ from the Biblical guidelines?

***An informative and unusual internet site on nutrition for children is www. healthtouch.com. It has some excellent advice on feeding newborns, infant feeding 5-8, children's nutrition, month-by-month feeding plan for baby's first year, your baby's development etc. Compare these guidelines to the biblical guidelines on nutrition.

I look forward to hear your comments and feedback.

The insight we have gained from the preceding sessions and has given us the foundation to proceed to the second half of the course, as we being to discover the Biblical Perspective on Child Behavior.




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28 Aug 2005 / 23 Av 5765 0