Kil'ayim (prohibition)

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Halakhic texts relating to this article
Torah:Leviticus 19:19 and Deuteronomy 22:9-11
Jerusalem Talmud:Tractate Kilayim
Mishneh Torah:Hilchot Kilayim
Shulchan Aruch:Yoreh De'ah, 295-304

Kil'ayim (or Klayim) (Hebrew: כלאים, lit. "Mixture," or "Diverse kinds") are the prohibitions in Jewish law about planting certain mixtures of seeds, grafting, mixtures of plants in vineyards, crossbreeding animals, working a team of different kinds of animals together, and mixing wool and linen in garments.

The prohibitions are derived from the Torah in Lev. 19:9 and Deuteronomy 22:9-11, and the Mishnah in tractate Kilayim, which has a Gemara in the Jerusalem Talmud, further elaborates on the applicable circumstances.

There is a debate whether GMO food is kil'ayim or permissible.[1]


The Torah (Leviticus 19:19; Deuteronomy 22:9-11) lists several different examples of mixtures that are prohibited as mixed species. The halakha classifies the prohibitions under the following categories:[2]

  • interbreeding of animals of different species
  • planting mixed seeds
  • grafting of different species of trees
  • shatnez - mixing wool and linen in garments
  • planting grain or seed-crop in a vineyard
  • ploughing or doing other work with two different species of animal.

Permissive and forbidden instances[edit]

In fabrics[edit]

Although Torah law forbids Kil'ayim (shatnez) – "intertying" sheep wool and linen together, the two exceptions are garments of kohanim and tzitzit (the fringes worn on a ceremonial prayer shawl). Concerning tzitzit, the Sages of Israel permit using wool and linen strings in tandem only when genuine blue dye tchelet is available, whereas kabbalist sources take it a step further by encouraging its practice.[3] The Torah forbids only wool and linen to be worn together.[4] Camel's wool, Cashmere wool, Yak fiber, and the like of such fibres, are not prohibited to be worn with linen.[5]

According to Maimonides, if a Jewish person had purchased an all-woollen product from a Gentile and wanted to ascertain whether or not it was, indeed, pure wool – without the admixture of flax-linen, its fabric could be tested by dyeing. A dye-solution applied to the fabric would reveal whether or not it was of pure wool, as wool and linen products do not retain the same shades in a dye solution.[6]

In plantings[edit]

The Mishnah (Kil'ayim 1:5) explicitly prohibits planting together seeds of White mustard (Sinapis alba) (Hebrew: חרדל) with Charlock mustard (Sinapis arvensis) (Hebrew: לפסן), although they are similar in appearance.[7] However, seeds of White mustard (Sinapis alba) and of "Egyptian mustard" (Brassica nigra), although two different species, they are not heterogeneous to each other and may be planted together.[8]

Cucumbers (Hebrew: קשות) and muskmelons (Hebrew: מלפפון),[9] although two different species, are not considered "diverse kinds" with respect to each other and may be planted together.[10] Rabbi Yehudah, disputing, says that they are considered "diverse kinds" with respect to each other and cannot be planted together.

Although two different species, the Mishnah (Kil'ayim 1:3) permits planting together turnips (Brassica rapa subsp. rapa) (Hebrew: לפת) with rape (Brassica napus) (Hebrew: נפוס).[11] Likewise, cauliflower (Brassica oleracea botrytis) (Hebrew: תרובתור) and kohlrabi (Brassica var. caulorapa) (Hebrew: כרוב), although different species, are permitted to be planted together.[12] Maimonides, in his commentary on the same Mishnah, explained the word karūb as having the Judeo-Arabic connotation of כרנב, meaning either cabbage (Brassica oleracea) or kale (Brassica oleracea var. acephala).[13]

The prohibition of grafting of trees is treated on in the Mishnah (Kil'ayim 1:4).[14] Among trees, while it is permissible to grow two different kinds of trees in close proximity to each other, it is forbidden for an Israelite to graft the branch (scion) of one tree onto the stump of another tree to produce thereby a hybrid fruit if the trees are not one and the same kind. Quinces (Cydonia oblonga) (Hebrew: פרישין) are named as an exception, for if a branch taken from it were grafted onto a stump belonging to hawthorns (Crataegus azarolus) (Hebrew: עוזררין), although they are two different species, it is permitted unto Israel to benefit therefrom, since they are considered related.[15][16] Likewise, to graft the branch of Krustemelin (said to be the "Calaprice pears")[17] onto the rootstock of an ordinary pear (Pyrus communis) is permitted. However, apple trees (Malus domestica) (Hebrew: תפוח) grafted onto medlars (Mespilus germanica) (Hebrew: חֻזרַד),[18] or peach trees (Prunus persica) (Hebrew: פרסקין) grafted onto almond trees (Prunus dulcis) (Hebrew: שקדים), or jujubes (Ziziphus jujuba) (Hebrew: שזפין) grafted onto Christ's thorn jujubes (Ziziphus spina-christi) (Hebrew: רימין), although similar in appearance, are "diverse kinds" and cannot be utilized by Israel when the bud of one tree is grafted onto the rootstock of the other.[19]

Under the same proscriptions, it is not permitted to plant or maintain a vineyard while the vineyard is in close proximity to seed-crop (e.g. mustard seeds, chickpeas, etc.). The result of doing so would be to cause its owner to forfeit the seed-crop together with the increase of the vineyard thereof.[20] Therefore, the rabbis made it incumbent upon husbandmen and vine-dressers to distance their seed-crop from a vineyard. According to Maimonides, if a trellised vine of at least five plantings was made alongside a fence or a wall, even if the stumps of the grape-vines were distant from the wall one cubit, the planter of seed is only permitted to sow seed 4 cubits beyond the wall or fence, since the grape-vine is prone to spread itself as far as the wall, and there must always be at least 4 cubits from a vineyard and the seed-crop.[21] Certain plants that grow of themselves in a vineyard, such as lianas (Cissus spp.),[22] bindweed (Convolvulus spp.),[23] Sweet clover (Melilotus), and the anemone (Anemone coronaria), do not account as "diverse kinds" to cause its owner to forfeit the crop of the vineyard altogether.[24] Had a person transgressed and grew a seed-crop within his vineyard, not only is the produce forbidden to be eaten, but also had he sold the produce, the proceeds accruing from the sale of such produce are also forbidden.[25][4]

If thorn bushes, such as camelthorn (Alhagi maurorum) (Hebrew: ההגין), and box-thorn (Lycium shawii) (Hebrew: אטדין), grew within a vineyard, they are not accounted as a seed-crop and may be sustained in a vineyard, the rabbis giving to them the classification of trees amongst trees.[26] However, in places where thorn bushes are used as fodder for camels and the owner of the vineyard is content to have the thorn bushes grow in his vineyard to that end, the thorns bushes, if maintained, would render the entire vineyard forbidden.[27]

In animals[edit]

In modern classification of animals, the genus Canis is used to include dogs, wolves, coyotes, and jackals. Even so, the crossbreeding of dogs and wolves is forbidden. Similarly, crossbreeding a horse and mule is forbidden.[28]

Though a Jew is forbidden to crossbreed a horse and a donkey (producing a hinny or mule), had a gentile bred them, it is permitted for a Jew to make use of them.


  1. ^ Marlene-Aviva Grunpeter (October 8, 2013). "GMOs, A Global Debate: Israel a Center for Study, Kosher Concerns". Epoch Times. Retrieved March 1, 2017.
  2. ^ Wald, Stephen (2007)
  3. ^ "Tzitzit made of klayim?". Retrieved 2015-02-17.
  4. ^ a b Kiara, S. (1987), Hil. Kil'ayim (p. 390)
  5. ^ Nathan ben Abraham (1955), vol. 1, s.v. Tractate Kil'ayim, chapter 8
  6. ^ Maimonides (1974), vol. 4, s.v. Hil. Kil'ayim 10:27–28
  7. ^ Amar, Z. (2015), p. 109, explaining Maimonides' commentary on Mishnah Kil'ayim 1:5.
  8. ^ Amar, Z. (2015), pp. 86-87, explaining Maimonides' commentary on Mishnah Kil'ayim 1:2.
  9. ^ On the definition of this last word, melephephon, see Mishnah Commentary by Pinchas Kehati (1977), ninth edition, vol. 1 (Zera'im), s.v. Kil'ayim 1:2, who explains this fruit as "melon." The 11th-century Mishnah exegete, Nathan ben Abraham I, also explained melephephon as having the Judeo-Arabic connotation of אלכ'רבז (muskmelon), saying that it was “one of the kinds of watermelon whose smell is sweet.” The Jerusalem Talmud (Kil'ayim 1:2) relates an ancient belief that if one were to take a seed from a watermelon and a seed from an apple, and then place them together in an impression made in the earth, the two seeds would fuse together and become diverse kinds. "It is for this reason," says the narrator of the Talmud, "that they call it (i.e. the fruit) by its Greek name, melephephon. The old Greek word for "melon" was actually μήλο = mêlo(n) apple + πεπόν = pépōn melon, meaning literally "apple-shaped melon" (see: Random House Webster's College Dictionary, s.v. melon). This fruit, muskmelon (Cucumis melo), was thought to be a cross-breed between a watermelon and an apple. Maimonides, however, calls "melephephon" in Mishnah Kil'ayim 1:2 and Terumah 8:6 by the Arabic name, al-khiyyār, meaning "cucumbers" (Cucumis sativus) – far from being anything related to apples and watermelons. Talmudic exegete, Rabbi Solomon Sirilio (1485–1554), disputed Maimonides' view in his commentary on the Jerusalem Talmud (Kil'ayim 1:2, s.v. קישות), saying that Maimonides explained "melephephon" to mean in Spanish "pepinos" = cucumbers (Cucumis sativus), which, in the opinion of an early Mishnaic exegete, Rabbi Isaac of Siponto (c. 1090–1160), was really to be identified as “small, round melons” (Cucumis melo), since Rabbi Yehudah in our Mishnah holds that it is a diverse kind in relation to kishūt (a type of cucumber). Nevertheless, today, in Modern Hebrew, the word melephephon is now used to denote "cucumbers," based on Maimonides' identification.
  10. ^ Mishnah Kil'ayim 1:2
  11. ^ Although the vegetable known as nefos was called by Maimonides by its idiom, "Syrian radish," it was actually not a radish at all, since it is listed in Mishnah Kil'ayim 1:5 as being a diverse-kind (kil'ayim) in relation to the true radish (Heb. צנון). Zohar Amar suggests that it may have actually been Brassica napus; see Amar, Z. (2015), p. 113. One is to bear in mind that Brassica napus has roots resembling those of parsnips and carrots, for which reason medieval Hebraists and philologists would have classified the vegetable as a parsnip / carrot (Judeo-Arabic: אלג'זר), as did Rabbi Nathan ben Abraham in his commentary of the Mishnah. It is to be noted, furthermore, that in foliage, Brassica napus and turnip (Brassica rapa) have similar leaves, for which reason they are not considered diverse-kinds with respect to each other.
  12. ^ The Hebrew word karūb being explained by Mishnaic exegete, Rabbi Nathan ben Abraham, as having the connotation of the Judeo-Arabic word אלכלם, meaning, "kohlrabi." By this definition, the word karūb is not to be confused with the Modern Hebrew word by the same name, now used for "cabbage" (cultivars of Brassica oleracea). See: Amar, Z.; Kapah, E. (2011), vol. 2, p. 19.
  13. ^ Amar, Z. (2015), pp. 100, 172, explaining Maimonides' commentary on Mishnah Kil'ayim 1:3.
  14. ^ Maimonides (1974), vol. 4, Hil. Kil'ayim 1:6, who wrote: "Among trees, there is no such thing as kil'ayim except with respect to grafting." Cf. Kessar, Ḥayim (1988), vol. 2, p. 344, s.v. on Mishneh Torah, Hil. Kil'ayim 3:4. Rabbi Ḥayim Kessar writes there: "Such is the case with trees, where there are two trees similar in appearance to each other, etc. Mishnah ibid., and it is plain that it refers to a tree with respect to grafting, as I shall explain in what follows" (END QUOTE). The matter of tree grafting is evinced also by the Jerusalem Talmud (Kil'ayim 1:4), in a discussion on the same Mishnah, where after citing cases of grafting of two different kinds of trees named in the Mishnah, the trees were then cut down. The Talmud also brings down examples of hybrid fruit caused by grafting two dissimilar trees together.
  15. ^ Mishnah (Kil'ayim 1:4).
  16. ^ On the definitions of these words, see: Amar, Z. (2015), pp. 132-133, 118
  17. ^ Thus explained by Isaac ben Melchizedek's Mishnah Commentary (1975:79), s.v. Kila'yim 1:4. On this fruit, see Pere calaprice.
  18. ^ Definition here follows that of Maimonides. However, Rabbi Nathan ben Abraham explains חֻזרַד as being a cultivar of pear.
  19. ^ Mishnah (Kil'ayim 1:4). On the definitions of these words, see: Amar, Z. (2015), pp. 76, 150, 157. In Modern Hebrew, the word shezīf (Heb. שזיף) now means "plum" (Prunus domestica subsp. insititia, or simply known by the synonym Prunus insititia), although in today's meaning, it is not to be confused with the Mishnaic meaning.
  20. ^ As explained by the words of the Torah (Deuteronomy 22:9): "Lest all should be forfeited together with the increase of the vineyard."
  21. ^ Mishnah (Kil'ayim 6:1). Cf. Maimonides (1974), vol. 4, s.v. Hil. Kil'ayim 8:3.
  22. ^ Amar, Z.; Kapah, E. (2011), vol. 2, p. 14 (s.v. אירוס)
  23. ^ The Hebrew word described here is קסוס, and which, according to Zohar Amar, may also refer to the common ivy (Hedera helix) and the lablab bean (Dolichos lablab). See: Amar, Z. (2015), pp. 143–144. Mishnaic exegete, Rabbi Nathan ben Abraham, explains קסוס as having the Judeo-Arabic connotation of אללבלאר (= Bindweed).
  24. ^ Mishnah (Kil'ayim 5:8). Cf. the definition of these words in Rabbi Nathan ben Abraham's commentary of the Mishnah;
  25. ^ Nathan ben Abraham (1955), vol. 1, s.v. Tractate Kil'ayim
  26. ^ Tosefta (Kil'ayim 3:15)
  27. ^ Ishtori Haparchi (1999). Avraham Yosef Havatzelet (ed.). Sefer Kaftor Ve'ferah (in Hebrew). 3 (chapter 58). Jerusalem: Bet ha-midrash la-halakhah ba-hityashvut. pp. 285–286. OCLC 32307172.
  28. ^ Mishnah, Kil'ayim 1:6


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