CHEESE, mentioned in the Bible only once by the term gevinah (Job 10:10) and once as ḥariẓei ḥalav (I Sam. 17:18), a kind of cottage cheese. In the Talmud, cheese is much more frequently mentioned. Apparently in the period of the Second Temple the cheesemakers formed a guild and their name has been preserved in the Tyropoeon valley (Gr. Τυροποὲων, of the "cheesemakers") mentioned by Josephus (Wars, 5:140) Cheese is most prominently mentioned in the Talmud with regard to the prohibition of eating cheese made by Gentiles. According to the Jerusalem Talmud (Shab. 1: 4, 3c), it was one of the 18 injunctions enacted by the sages in the upper rooms of Hananiah b. Guryon (the parallel passage in the Babylonian Talmud (13b) does not mention cheese). The Mishnah (Av. Zar 2:5) gives two reasons for the prohibition – one that the milk was curdled with rennet from the stomach of animals which had not been slaughtered according to the requirements of the dietary laws ; and the other, that rennet was used from animals sacrificed for idolatry. The Halakhah followed this talmudic injunction, applying it rigidly even if the rennet used by the Gentile cheesemaker was otherwise permissible, as when derived from vegetarian sources (Sh. Ar., YD 115:2). However, in later centuries, the law became more lenient, permitting a Jew to produce cheese in vessels of Gentile cheesemakers (ibid., 105:12) and allowing the consumption of cheese made by Gentiles, if a Jew was present during its manufacture (Isserles to 115:2). The prohibition, however, does not extend to soft cheese of the cottage type, since rennet is not used. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: ET, 5 (1953), 84–91; Eisenstein, Dinim, 68. (Louis Isaac Rabinowitz)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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