The Connection between Assaf HaRofeh and Cheese-Making

In Israel, the name Assaf Harofeh (translation of Assaf the Physician but his known title – Asaph the Jew) relates to a medical center,

But who is Assaf Harofeh, and what is his connection to cheese and milk?

Assaf ben Berechiah, also known as Assaf Harofeh, lived in Tiberias in the sixth century, and as his name indicates, he practiced medicine and wrote books on the subject.

In one of his essays, the cheese-making process is presented as a sign of the distinction between kosher and non-kosher livestock.

According to this criterion, mammalian Kosher milk is handed over to the cheese-maker, whereas the milk of non-kosher animals does not curdle.

The process of cheese-making has been known to us since the dawn of human history, when man learned to make cheese and butter from cow’s, goat’s, sheep’s and buffalo’s milk.

But is Assaf HaRofeh’s theory is true?

The subject has been researched by the three: Dr. Zohar Amar, Dr. David Iluz of the Department of Land of Israel Studies at Bar-Ilan University, and Dr. Uzi Marin of the Milk Research Laboratory.

The milk was tested in two ways: one, enzyme-based cheese-making, in the traditional cheese making methods, and the other, with a measuring instrument that examines the curdle and the curd’s rigidity.

The result was surprising:

Cow, lamb, goat, donkey, red deer, ibex and giraffe (yes, you read correctly!) milk, which are kosher and allowed to be eaten according to the Torah, curdled, whereas milk from mammals defined as non-kosher and are forbidden to eat, such as pork, horse, camel, dog, and rabbit did not curdle.

It is good to see how today’s studies, using technological means, reinforce the knowledge accumulated in ancient times by the experience and wisdom of people who lived thousands of years ago.