Kashrut Wiki - Institute for Basic Judaism

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, and edited by Rabbi Plavin
Kashrut (‫ )תּורְׁ שַּכ‬is the set of Jewish religious dietary laws. Food that may be
consumed according to halakha (Jewish law) is termed kosher in English, from
the Ashkenazi pronunciation of the Hebrew term kashér (‫)תֵׁרָּ ש‬, meaning "fit" (in
this context, fit for consumption).
Among the numerous laws that form part of kashrut are the prohibitions on the
consumption of unclean animals (such as pork, shellfish and most insects, with
the exception of certain species of kosher locusts), mixtures of meat and milk,
and the commandment to slaughter mammals and birds according to a process
known as shechita. There are also laws regarding agricultural produce that might
impact on the suitability of food for consumption.
Most of the basic laws of kashrut are derived from the Torah's Books
of Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Their details and practical application, however,
are set down in the oral law(eventually codified in the Mishnah and Talmud) and
elaborated on in the later rabbinical literature. While the Torah does not state the
rationale for most kashrut laws, many reasons have been suggested, including
philosophical, practical and hygienic.
Over the past century, there have developed numerous rabbinical organizations
that certify products, manufacturers, and restaurants as kosher, usually using a
symbol (called ahechsher) to indicate their support. Presently, about a sixth
of American Jews or 0.3% of the American population fully keep kosher, and
many more abstain from some non-kosher foods, especially pork.
Philosophical explanations[edit]
Jewish philosophy divides the 613 mitzvot into three groups—laws that have a
rational explanation and would probably be enacted by most orderly societies
(mishpatim), laws that are understood after being explained but would not be
legislated without the Torah's command (edot), and laws that do not have a
rational explanation (chukim). Some Jewish scholars say that kashrut should be
categorized as laws for which there is no particular explanation, since the human
mind is not always capable of understanding divine intentions. In this line of
thinking, the dietary laws were given as a demonstration of God's authority, and
man must obey without asking why.[1] However, Maimonides believed that Jews
were permitted to seek out reasons for the laws of the Torah.[2]
Some theologians have said that the laws of kashrut are symbolic in character:
Kosher animals represent virtues, while non-kosher animals represent vices. The
1st century BCE Letter of Aristeas argues that the laws "have been given ... to
awake pious thoughts and to form the character".[3] This view reappears in the
work of the 19th century Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch.[4]
The Torah prohibits "seething the kid (goat, sheep, calf) in its mother's milk".
While the Bible does not provide a reason, it has been suggested that the
practice was perceived as cruel and insensitive.[5][6]
Health explanations[edit]
There have been attempts to provide empirical support for the view that Jewish
food laws have an overarching health benefit or purpose, one of the earliest
being from Maimonides in his Guide for the Perplexed. Scholar Lester L. Grabbe,
writing in the Oxford Bible Commentary on Leviticus, states that "[a]n explanation
now almost universally rejected is that the laws in this section [Leviticus 11-15]
have hygiene as their basis. Although some of the laws of ritual purity roughly
correspond to modern ideas of physical cleanliness, many of them have little to
do with hygiene. For example, there is no evidence that the 'unclean' animals are
intrinsically bad to eat or to be avoided in a Mediterranean climate, as is
sometimes asserted."[14]
Prohibited foods
The laws of kashrut can be classified according to the origin of the prohibition
(Biblical or rabbinical) and whether the prohibition concerns the food itself or a
mixture of foods.[15]
Biblically prohibited foods include:[15]
Non-kosher animals and birds (based on Leviticus 11:3–8 and Deuteronomy
14:3–21): mammals require certain identifying characteristics (cloven
hooves and being ruminants), while birds require a tradition that they can be
consumed. Fish require scales and fins (thus excluding catfish, for instance).
All invertebrates are non-kosher apart from certain types of locust, on which
most communities lack a clear tradition. No reptiles or amphibians are
Carrion (nevelah): meat from a kosher animal that has not been slaughtered
according to the laws of shechita.
Injured (terefah): an animal with a significant defect or injury, such as a
fractured bone or particular types of lung adhesions.
Blood (dam): blood of kosher mammals and fowl is removed through salting,
with special procedures for the liver, which is very rich in blood.
Particular fats (chelev): particular parts of the abdominal fat of cattle, goats
and sheep must be removed by a process called nikkur.
The twisted nerve (gid hanasheh): the sciatic nerve, as according to Genesis
32:32 the patriarch Jacob's was damaged when he fought with an angel,
cannot be eaten and is removed by nikkur.
Limb of a living animal (ever min ha-chai): in Genesis 9:4, God forbade Noah
and his descendants to consume a limb torn from a live animal. Hence,
Jewish law considers this prohibition applicable even to non-Jews,[16] and
therefore, a Jew may not give or sell such meat to a non-Jew.
Wine of libation (yayin nesekh): wine that may have been dedicated to
idolatrous practices.
Biblically prohibited mixtures include:[15]
Mixtures of meat and milk (basar be-chalav): this law derives from the broad
interpretation of the commandment not to "cook a kid in its mother's milk"
(Exodus 23:19, Exodus 34:26, and Deuteronomy 14:21);
Rabbinically prohibited foods include:[15]
Non-Jewish cheese (gevinat akum): cheese that may have been produced
with non-kosher rennet.
Non-Jewish wine (stam yeinam): wine that while not produced for idolatrous
purposes may otherwise have been poured for such a purpose or
alternatively when consumed will lead to intermarriage.
Permitted and forbidden animals
Only meat from particular species is permissible. Mammals that both chew
their cud (ruminate) and have cloven hooves can be kosher. Animals with
one characteristic but not the other (the camel, the hyrax, and
the hare because they have no cloven hooves, and the pig because it
does not ruminate) are specifically excluded (Leviticus 11:3–8).[18][19]
Non-kosher birds are listed outright (Deuteronomy 14:12–18).
Fish must have fins and scales to be kosher (Leviticus 11:9–
12). Shellfish and other non-fish water fauna are not kosher.[26] Here is a
list of kosher species of fish. Insects are not kosher except for certain
species of kosher locust.[27] Generally any animal that eats other animals,
whether they kill their food or eat carrion (Leviticus 11:13–31), is not
kosher, as well as any animal that was partially eaten by other animals
(Exodus 22:30-31).
Forbidden kinds
Carnivores; animals that do not chew the cud (e.g. the pig);
animals that do not have cloven hooves (e.g., thecamel,
the hyrax, the hare)
Reptiles and
Water animals
Birds of prey; scavengers
Those that do not have both fins and scales
All, except a particular type of locust that, according to most,
cannot be identified today
Separation of meat and milk
Meat and milk (or derivatives) cannot be mixed (Deuteronomy 14:21 in the sense
that meat and dairy products are not served at the same meal, served or cooked
in the same utensils, or stored together. Observant Jews have separate sets of
dishes for meat and milk, and wait anywhere between one and six hours after
eating meat before consuming milk products.[28] The milchig and fleishig utensils
and dishes are the commonly referred to Yiddish delineations
between dairy and meat (lit. milky and meaty) utensils and dishes respectively.[29]
Kosher slaughter
Main article: Shechita
Mammals and fowl must be slaughtered by a trained individual (a shochet) using
a special method of slaughter, shechita (Deuteronomy 12:21)
21. If the place the Lord, your God, chooses to put His Name there, will be distant
from you, you may slaughter of your cattle and of your sheep, which the Lord has
given you, as I have commanded you, and you may eat in your cities, according to
every desire of your soul.
Rashi: you may slaughter… as I have commanded you: We learn [from here] that there is a
commandment regarding slaughtering, how one must slaughter. [Since this commandment is not written in
the Torah we deduce that] these are the laws of ritual slaughtering given orally to Moses on [Mount] Sinai.
— [Sifrei ; Chul. 28a]
Among other features, shechita slaughter severs the jugular vein, carotid
artery, esophagus, and trachea in a single continuous cutting movement with an
unserrated, sharp knife. Failure of any of these criteria renders the meat of the
animal unsuitable. The body must be checked after slaughter to confirm that the
animal had no medical condition or defect that would have caused it to die of its
own accord within a year, which would make the meat unsuitable.[30] It is
forbidden to consume certain parts of the animal, such as certain fats (chelev)
and the sciatic nerves from the legs. As much blood as possible must be
removed (Leviticus 17:10) through the kashering process; this is usually done
through soaking and salting the meat, but the liver, as it is rich in blood, is grilled
over an open flame.[31] Fish (and kosher locusts, for those follow the traditions
permitting them) must be killed before being eaten, but no particular method has
been specified in Jewish law.[32][33]
Kosher utensils
Utensils used for non-kosher foods become non-kosher, and make even
otherwise kosher food prepared with them non-kosher. Some such utensils,
depending on the material they are made from, can be made suitable for
preparing kosher food again by immersion in boiling water or by the application of
a blowtorch.
Product labeling standards
Although reading the label of food products can identify obviously non-kosher
ingredients, some countries allow manufacturers to omit identification of certain
ingredients. Such "hidden" ingredients may include lubricants and flavorings,
among other additives; in some cases, for instance, the use of natural flavorings,
these ingredients are more likely to be derived from non-kosher
substances.[50] Furthermore, certain products, such as fish, have a high rate of
mislabeling, which may result in a non-kosher fish being sold in a package
labeled as a species of kosher fish.[51]
Producers of foods and food additives can contact Jewish religious authorities to
have their products certified as kosher: This involves a visit to the manufacturing
facilities by an individual rabbi or a committee from a rabbinic organization, who
will inspect the production methods and contents, and if everything is
sufficiently kosher a certificate would be issued.[52]
Manufacturers sometimes identify the products that have received such
certification by adding particular graphical symbols to the label. These symbols
are known in Judaism as hechsherim.[53] The certification marks of the various
rabbis and organizations are too numerous to list, but one of the most commonly
used in the United States of America is that of the Union of Orthodox
Congregations, who use a U inside a circle, symbolizing the initials of Orthodox
Union. A single K is sometimes used as a symbol for kosher, but since many
countries do not allow letters to be trademarked (the method by which other
symbols are protected from misuse), it only indicates that the company producing
the product claims that it is kosher.[55]
Many of the certification symbols are accompanied by additional letters or words
to indicate the category of the product, according to Jewish law;[55] the
categorization may conflict with legal classifications, especially in the case of
food that Jewish law regards as dairy, but legal classification does not.
DE—Dairy equipment
M—Meat, including poultry
Pareve—Food that is neither meat nor dairy
P—Passover-related (P is not used for Pareve)
In many cases constant supervision is required because, for various reasons,
such as changes in manufacturing processes, products that once were kosher
may cease to be so. For example, a kosher lubricating oil may be replaced by
one containing tallow, which many rabbinic authorities view as non-kosher.
Products labeled kosher-style are non-kosher products that have characteristics
of kosher foods, such as all-beef hot dogs,[57] or are flavored or prepared in a
manner consistent with Ashkenazi practices, like dill pickles.[58] The designation
usually refers to delicatessen items.