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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The circled U indicates that this product is certified as kosher by the Orthodox Union (OU).  The word "Pareve" indicates that this product contains neither milk- nor meat-derived ingredients.
The circled U indicates that this product is certified as kosher by the Orthodox Union (OU). The word "Pareve" indicates that this product contains neither milk- nor meat-derived ingredients.

Kashrut or Kashruth, Kashrus (Hebrew: כַּשְרוּת, kašrûṯ) or "keeping kosher" (Hebrew: כָּשֵר, kāšēr) is the name of the Jewish dietary laws. Food in accord with halakha (Jewish law) is termed kosher in English, from the Hebrew term kashér, meaning "fit" (in this context, fit for consumption by observant Jews).

Food not in accord with Jewish law is termed treifah, trafe, or tareif (טְרֵפָה ṭərēp̄āh) ("torn"); the term originally referred to animals (from a kosher species such as cattle or sheep) which had been either incorrectly slaughtered or mortally wounded by wild beasts and therefore were not fit for human consumption. Among Sephardim, it typically only refers to meat that is not kosher. Sometimes, nonkosher food in general may be dismissed with the colloquial term chazerei, which literally would mean "pig-stuff", the pig having become perhaps the most notable symbol of the nonkosher animal.

The basic laws of kashrut are in the Torah's Book of Leviticus, with their details set down in the oral law (the Mishnah and the Talmud) and codified by the Shulkhan Arukh and later rabbinical authorities. Many varied reasons have been offered for these laws, ranging from philosophical and ritualistic, to practical and hygienic; see below for examples and explanations.

The word kosher has been borrowed by many languages, including English. In its strictest meaning it means only "suitable according to Jewish law", but as slang it generally means legitimate, acceptable, permissible, genuine or authentic in a broader sense.


There are many rules and details of Kashrut, not all of which can be detailed in an article. In addition, not only does Orthodox Judaism generally observe a stricter set of rules than Conservative Judaism, but there are differences of detail and nuance among different branches and communities of Orthodox Judaism as well.

Key principles common to Orthodox Judaism and Conservative Judaism are:

  • Restrictions on permissible foods (See Kosher foods):
    • Land animals must be mammals which chew their cud and have cloven hoofs.
    • Birds of prey are prohibited
    • Fish must have fins and scales (non-fish seafood is prohibited)
    • Meat and milk (and anything made with dairy and meat products) cannot be served in the same meal, or cooked using the same dishes or utensils, or stored in a way that could cause them to intermingle. Observant Jews have separate dishes for meat and milk.
  • Kosher slaughter of animals and birds. Kashrut requires all animals (and birds) to be slaughtered by a trained individual (a Shochet) using a special method of slaughter, shechita. Among other features, shechita slaughter severs the jugular vein, carotid artery, oesophagus and trachea in a single cut with a smooth, sharp knife.
  • Blood must be thoroughly removed from all meat, using one of several methods such as soaking and salting, or broiling.
  • Utensils (and whole kitchens) which are used with non-kosher foods are generally considered to have been rendered non-kosher, and will transfer that non-kosher status to kosher foods. Alternatively, such utensils may be made kosher again by one of several methods appropriate to the utensil and circumstances. These methods include immersing in boiling water, heating, and other methods.
  • Food cannot have been prepared by Jews in a manner breaking the Shabbat (Sabbath).
  • Special rules on Passover to prevent leavening, including prohibitions on certain grains susceptible to leavening, products derived from them, similar products, and utensils used in preparing and serving them. Observant Jews traditionally have separate (meat and dairy) dishes and utensils for Passover.

Orthodox Judaism has a number of additional strictures, some of which are not universally observed or represent strictures more common in Haredi Judaism:

  • Certain foods must have been prepared in whole or in part by Jews, including:
    • Wine (Kosher wine)
    • Certain cooked foods (Bishul Yisrael)
    • Bread (under certain circumstances)
    • Certain dairy products (Cholov Yisroel)
  • Utensils purchased from non-Jews must be immersed in a Mikvah prior to use, even if bought new.
  • Additional strictures on the methods used to kasher.
  • Continued observance of certain biblical rules for produce grown in the Land of Israel, including the rule of new grain (Yoshon), a modified version of the Biblical tithes including Terumat HaMaaser, Maaser Rishon and Maaser Sheni), and a rule against eating Tevel, produce grown in a manner that violates the Shmita (Sabbatical Year).
  • Additional restrictions during Passover (Gebruchts)
  • A variety of additional details

Conservative Judaism follows a number of additional leniencies, including:

  • Permitting kashering with less than boiling water under certain circumstances (which permits a dishwasher to be used for meat and dairy dishes, although not at the same time)
  • Classifying various chemical additives derived from non-kosher meat products as nonfood and permissible (for example, permitting renet from cow's stomachs to be used in cheese and horse-hoof gelatin and pectin in foods)
  • A variety of additional details.

Although Reconstructionist Judaism and some perspectives within Reform Judaism encourage individuals to follow some or all aspects of the Kashrut rules required by the more traditional branches, these branches do not require their observance and do not maintain their own sets of required rules.

Types of foods

For more details on this topic, see Kosher foods.

Foods are kosher when they meet all criteria that Jewish law applies to food and drinks. Invalidating characteristics may range from the presence of a mixture of meat and milk, to the use of produce from Israel that has not been tithed properly, or even the use of cooking utensils which had previously been used for non-kosher food.

Identification of kosher foods

For more details on this topic, see Hechsher.

Store-bought foods can be identified as kosher by the presence of a hechsher (plural hechsherim), a graphical symbol that indicates that the food has been certified as kosher by a rabbinical authority. (This might be an individual rabbi, but is more often a rabbinic organization.) One of the most common symbols in the United States is the "OU", a U inside a circle, standing for the Union of Orthodox Congregations (or "Orthodox Union"). Many rabbis and organizations, however, have their own certification mark, and the other symbols are too numerous to list.

The hechsherim of certain authorities are sometimes considered invalid by certain other authorities. A solitary K is sometimes used as a symbol for kashrut, but as this symbol cannot be trademarked (the method by which other symbols are protected from misuse) in the United States, it does not indicate anything other than the fact that the company producing the food considers it to be kosher.

It is not sufficient to read the list of ingredients on a product label in order to determine a food's kosher status, as many things are not included in this list, such as pan lubricants and release agents (which may be derived from lard), flavorings (even "natural flavorings" may be derived from non-kosher substances) and others. It can, however, identify obviously unkosher substances present in food.

Producers of food items and food additives can contact Jewish authorities to have their product deemed kosher. A committee will visit their facilities to inspect production methods and contents of the product and issue a certificate if everything is in order. In many product classes, constant supervision is required.

For various reasons, such as changes in manufacturing processes, products known to be kosher on one day might not be kosher tomorrow; a change in lubricating oil to one containing tallow, for instance. Often, these changes will be coordinated with the supervising rabbi or organization, to ensure that new packaging, which will not suggest any hechsher or kashrut, will be used for the new formulation. But in some cases, the supply of preprinted labels with the hechsher may still find its way onto the now non-kosher product; for such reasons, there is an active "grapevine" among the Jewish community, as well as newspapers and periodicals, identifying which products are now questionable, as well as products which have become kosher but whose labels have yet to carry the hechsher.

Attempts to explain the Kashrut laws

There continues to be a debate among various theories about the purposes and meaning of the laws regarding Kashrut.

Traditional Jewish philosophy divides the 613 mitzvot into mishpatim (laws which are held to be explainable rationally) and chukim (laws which are held not to be explainanable rationally). Those categorized as chukim include such laws as the Red Heifer (Numbers 19). There are three basic points of view regarding these laws:

  • One view [specify] holds that these laws do have a reason, but it is not understood because the ultimate explanation for mitzvot is beyond the human intellect; [citation needed]
  • A second view [specify] holds that most of the laws have some historical and/or dietary significance (such as preventing the consumption of unhealthy food, or differentiating oneself from non-Jews through dietary restrictions); [citation needed] and
  • A third view [specify] holds that these laws have no meaning other than to instill obedience. [citation needed]
Some Jewish scholars have held that these dietary laws should simply be categorized with a group of laws that are considered irrational in that there is no particular explanation for their existence. The reason for this is that there are some of God's regulations for mankind that the human mind is not necessarily capable of understanding. Related to this is the idea that the dietary laws were given as a demonstration of God's authority and that man should obey without asking for a reason. [citation needed]

This last view, however, has been rejected by most classical and modern Jewish authorities [citation needed], and a majority of modern critical Biblical scholars [citation needed]. For example, Maimonides holds that all the laws given by God have a reason, that we are permitted to seek out what these reasons may be, and that we should feel comfortable in knowing that rational reasons exist for all of God's laws in the Torah, even if we are not sure of what some of these reasons are. For Maimonides, the idea that God gave laws without any reason is anathema. [1]

Others argue that laws in the category of chukim were given because of the well-known Jewish tendency[citation needed] to rationalize and probe — a sort of reminder that, while the universe is generally explainable, one cannot possibly understand everything.

Ritual purity and holiness

According to the Biblical book of Leviticus, the purpose of the laws is related to ritual purity and holiness. Indeed, the Hebrew word for "holiness" is etymologically related to the Hebrew word for "distinction" or "separation." This idea is generally accepted by most Jews today, and by many modern Biblical scholars. Cultural anthropologist Mary Douglas has written on just how the Israelites may have used the idea of distinction as a way to create holiness. Her seminal work, Purity and Danger (1966), is still studied today. One theory widely accepted today is that the laws serve as a distinction between the Israelites and the non-Israelite nations of the world. Gordon Wenham writes: "The laws reminded Israel what sort of behaviour was expected of her, that she had been chosen to be holy in an unclean world."

Similarly, the practice of Kashrut serves as a daily exercise in self-discipline and self-control, strengthening the practitioner's ability to choose other difficult paths. The ability to rationally curb one's most basic appetites can be seen as the prerequisite to living in a civilized society. Also, Jews consider the aspects of Kosher slaughter which emphasize and incorporate the need to avoid unnecessary suffering of the animal a reminder to the believer that having the power of life and death or to cause suffering, even to a farm animal born and bred to be eaten, is a serious responsibility rather than a pleasure to be sought after; and that to actually indulge in pleasure in the power to cause suffering, even in so common a practice as hunting, is to damage our own moral sensibilities.

The prohibition against eating the fruits of a tree for the first three years also represents a capacity for self-discipline and self-denial, as well as a lengthy period of appreciation for the bounty of God, prior to losing oneself in its enjoyment. Similarly, the requirement to tithe one's harvest, aside from the social justice aspect, serves as a reminder that this material wealth is not purely the result of one's own efforts, but represents a gift from God; and as such, to share the gift with one's fellows does not represent a real loss to anyone, even oneself.

Symbolic purpose

During the first few centuries of the Common Era some philosophers held that the laws of kashrut were symbolic in character. In this view, kosher animals represent virtues, while non-kosher animals represent vices. The first indication of this view can be found in the 1st century BCE Letter of Aristeas (par. 145-148, 153). It later reappears in the writings of Philo of Alexandria, and in the writings of some of the early Church Fathers.

This hypothesis has long since been rejected by most Jewish and Christian scholars. Modern Biblical criticism also has found nothing to support this hypothesis, although the concept of the pig as a particularly 'unclean' animal persists among Jews.

Although the symbolic explanation for kashrut has been largely rejected, a number of authorities maintain that the laws are intended to promote ethical and moral behaviour. A recent authority who has reexamined the symbolic/ethical meaning of kashrut is Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (Germany, 19th century).

To some degree, the prohibition on combining milk with meat represents a symbolic separation between death, represented by the flesh of a dead animal, and life, represented by the milk required to sustain a newborn creature. The often-quoted humane component to this law is also of symbolic value; the Torah prohibits 'seething the kid (goat, sheep, calf) in its mother's milk', a practice cruel only in concept, which would not be understood as cruelty by either the kid or its mother and would not cause them additional suffering; but which could still potentially inflame a human's taste for ultimate power over those creatures who are weaker. Thus, Kashrut prohibits the practice itself, even if the resulting mixture is to be discarded.

Similarly, the prohibition against consuming carnivorous mammals and birds, 'loathsome crawling creatures', and scavengers, as well as the prohibition against consuming sick or diseased animals, would seem to rely, at least in part, on their perceived symbolic character.

Chassidic view of the laws of Kashrut

According to Hasidic Judaism (a Kabbalah-inspired branch of Orthodox Judaism), even though the primary reason for the laws of Kashrut is that they are stated in Torah, it is not the case that we cannot understand any of the reasons for the laws, at least partially.

According to the teachings of Hasidism, when a Jew manipulates any object for a holy reason (which includes eating, if it is done with a proper intention -- to provide strength to follow laws of Torah), he releases "sparks of Holiness" which are found in every object. [2] These "sparks" are actually channels of connection with the Divinity, and their "activation" allows to draw the Divine Presence into the physical world. [3]

However, there are some types of animals, whose products are not applicable for performance of commandments, because the "sparks of holiness" cannot be released from their matter. [4] Therefore, we are provided with "signs" of the animals whose sparks can be released [5]. These signs are split hooves (hooves symbolize connection with material world which, however, is not so complete as to lose connection with the spiritual world), and rechewing of food (food symbolizes Torah or in more general terms, holiness; rechewing of food symbolizes ability to penetrate deeper into some holy concepts or penetrate deeped into holiness, as is necessary to separate sparks from their matter). For fish (which symbolize sages), these signs are scales (protection from water, which is a symbol of intellectual influence) and fins (that gives fish ability to move in water better, which symbolizes ability to move from one area of Torah or holiness to another).

It must be noted that these signs are not the causes of these animals not being kosher (so, according to Talmud, if a camel is born with completely split hooves, it does not become kosher), they are merely signs that alert us to spiritual characteristics of these animals' products (namely, whether it's possible to activate their "sparks of Divinity") which cannot be seen from the physical perspecitve.[6]

Maintenance of a separate culture

Related to the concept of kashrut being one aspect of Judaism is the practical outcome of maintaining a specific national diet which helps maintain Jews as a separate people. However it is clear that other practices for example "Halal" ritual in its concept of hygienic preservation by salting and dehydrating meat is almost identical to the Jewish procedure. The laws of Kashrut had the effect of preventing socialization and intermarriage with non-Jews, helping the Jewish community maintain its identity. Gordon J. Wenham writes that

"circumcision was a private matter, but the food laws made one's Jewish faith a public affair. Observance of the food laws was one of the outward marks of a practising Jew, and this in turn enhanced Jewish attachment to them as a reminder of their special status." [2]


There have been attempts to provide empirical support for the view that kashrut laws have hygienic benefits. However, this has never been the traditional Jewish view, in spite of the fact that the slaughter ritual is almost totally concerned with the hygienic processing of the carcass and that the following procedure of draining the body liquids and then salting to further dehydrate by osmosis is considered critical in its importance.

It was believed by some people that kosher animals were healthier to eat than non-kosher animals. It was also noted that the laws of purity (Leviticus 11–15) not only describe the difference between clean and unclean animals, but also describe other phenomena that appear to be related to health. For instance, glatt, the requirement that lungs be checked to be free of adhesions, would prevent consumption of animals who had been infected with tuberculosis; similarly, the ban on slaughtering of an unconscious animal would eliminate many sick and possibly infectious animals from being consumed. Such a rationale seems reasonable when considering the laws prohibiting the consumption of carrion birds or birds of prey (which are advantageous scavengers), as they may carry disease from the carrion they consume; shellfish, which as filter feeders can accumulate harmful parasites or toxins; or pork, which can harbor trichinosis if not properly cooked. Thus, it was natural for many to assume that all the laws of kashrut were merely hygienic in intent and origin. One of the rabbinical authorities that mention the hygiene hypothesis is Maimonides in his Guide for the Perplexed.

For a number of reasons, however, this idea has fallen out of favor among Biblical scholars, and has never been accepted by the majority of Jews. Fruits and vegetables may be eaten without prohibition even though there are many poisonous herbs, seeds, berries and fruits. Additionally, this hypothesis does not explain other parts of the Jewish dietary laws; for instance forbidding the consumption of fish without true scales, such as sharks and swordfish, fruit from trees which are less than four years old, or residual blood in meat.

In 1953, Dr. David I. Macht, a Johns Hopkins University researcher, performed experiments on many different kinds of animals and fish, and concluded that the concentration of zoological toxins of the "unclean" animals was higher than that of the "clean" animals, and that the correlation with the description in Leviticus was 100%.[3] In addition, Dr. Macht's research indicated harmful physiological effects of mixtures of meat and milk, and ritually slaughtered meat appeared to be lower in toxins than meat from other sources [4] The conclusions of the paper published in Johns Hopkins Bulletin of the History of Medicine was challenged in a paper by biologists written at the request of a Seventh-day Adventist Church publication [5].

Other reasons

It is possible that there are multiple reasons for the laws of Kashrut, with each law serving one or more than one purpose.

Sociologist Marvin Harris has proposed that the Jewish prohibition of pork results from the fact that in arid countries such as Israel, it is possible to raise pork only by feeding it grains that are also eaten by people, since the pigs cannot forage in nonexistent forests. In bad harvest years, there would be a social conflict between those who could afford to raise and eat pork and those who would be at risk of starvation due to the scarcity of edible grains. Thus, in the interest of social survival, the prohibition entered the Jewish religion, with evident success, in survival terms at least. Harris in "Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches" cites worldwide examples of similar ecologically determined religious practices, including other prohibitions of pork for similar reasons. According to Harris, pork requires too much salt to guarantee the elimination of the carcass liquids due to high fat content. The reverse process of washing out the preserving salt when it came to eating the meat also made it difficult to justify. This same reason would apply to many other forbidden foods either because salting preservation was impossible or because the salting process was not reversible.

U.S. Laws regarding use of the word Kosher

In some states in the U.S. (Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, and Virginia, as well as local ordinances in two counties in Florida and the Independent City of Baltimore), statutes defined "kosher" and made it a crime to sell a product which was called "kosher" if, in general, it was not processed in accordance with the Jewish religion. Earlier court decisions upheld some of these laws. Courts have since determined that because this represents a state establishment of a religious practice, when such laws have been challenged, they have been struck down. Those who oppose the above rulings argue that kashrut is simply a set of standards for food preparation, nothing more; there is no difference between labelling something "low sodium", "high-fiber", "pasteurized", "kosher", "calcium-enriched", or "contains no cholesterol".

  • Baltimore's City ordinance creating a kosher law was found to be unconstitutional: Barghout v. Bureau of Kosher Meat & Food Control, 66 F. 3d 1337 (4th Cir. 1995).
  • New Jersey's Kosher laws were found to violate the Establishment clauses of both the New Jersey state constitution and the First Amendment: Perretti v. Ran-Dav's County Kosher Inc., 289 N.J. Super 618, 674 A. 2d 647 (Superior Ct. Appellate Div 1996). The opinion was affirmed by the New Jersey Supreme Court in which it found that the State's use of "Orthodox Jewish law" as a basis for the definition of kosher was an adoption of substantive religious standards which violated the State and Federal constitutions. 129 N.J. 155. The State's response was to create a new law which avoids any definition of a standard for what is or is not considered kosher. Instead, establishments which claim to be kosher must publicize what they mean by that, and the State will check to ensure that this standard is adhered to. For example, kosher restaurants must display a poster (provided by the Kosher Food Enforcement Bureau) on which they display the name of their rabbinic certifier, how often he inspects the place, whether or not he requires all ingredients to be kosher-supervised, and so on. In this manner, government enforcement becomes a consumer-protection issue, and avoids the problems of advancing any particular religious view.
  • The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit found that the challenged provisions of New York's Kosher Fraud law "on their face violate the Establishment Clause because they excessively entangle the State of New York with religion and impermissibly advance Orthodox Judaism." Commack Self-Serv. Kosher Meats, Inc. v. Weiss, 294 F.3d 415 (2d Cir. 2002), 45 ATLA L. Rep. 282 (Oct. 2002). The Supreme Court refused to hear the case, and denied certiorari (123 S. Ct. 1250 (mem.) (2003)). The statute has since been revised and a new statute, The McKinney's Agriculture and Markets Law Sec. 201-a has since been passed.

How kashrut is viewed by Judaism today

Orthodox Judaism and Conservative Judaism hold that Jews should follow the laws of kashrut as a matter of religious obligation. Reform Judaism and Reconstructionist Judaism hold that these laws are no longer binding. Historically, Reform Judaism actively opposed kashrut as an archaism inhibiting the integration of Jews in the general society. More recently, some parts of the Reform community have begun to explore the option of a more traditional approach.[citation needed] This tradition-leaning faction agrees with mainstream Reform that the rules concerning kashrut are not obligatory, but believe that Jews should consider keeping kosher because it is a valuable way for people to bring holiness into their lives. Thus Jews are encouraged to consider adopting some or all of the rules of kashrut on a voluntary basis. The Reconstructionist movement advocates that its members accept some of the rules of kashrut, but does so in a non-binding fashion; their stance on kashrut is the same as the tradition-leaning wing of Reform.

Many Jews who do not meet the complete requirements of Kashrut nevertheless maintain some subset of the laws; for instance, abstaining from pork or shellfish. Many Jews will likewise avoid drinking milk with a meat dish. Similarly, many keep a degree of Kashrut at home while having no problems eating in a non-kosher restaurant, or will follow leniencies when eating out that they would not follow at home.

In common vernacular

In English and Hebrew, the term kosher is frequently used in a metaphorical sense to mean "fitting" or "correct". This is also its conventional meaning in Hebrew. For example, a mezuzah, a Tefillin, a Torah scroll or even an etrog can be kosher (if it is fit for ritual use) or non-kosher (if it is unfit for ritual use), but their "kashrut" has nothing to do with food.

It is also part of some common product names. For example, "kosher salt" (technically "kashering salt") is a form of salt which has irregularly-shaped crystals, making it particularly suitable for preparing meat in accordance with Kashrut law because the increased surface area of the crystals absorbs blood more effectively. Likewise, a "kosher pickle" is a particular style of pickle that originated in Eastern European kosher delicatessens with a distinctive flavor. This is the same reason why the usage of the term "kosher-style" became frequently used in the food industry, from delis to restaurants, and even street vendors.

Protection of the term

Consumer-protection laws in many jurisdictions prohibit use of the term "kosher" unless it is shown to conform to Jewish dietary laws, however this will be defined differently for different jurisdictions and situations. For example, in some places the law may require that a rabbi certify the kashrut, and in others it is sufficient that the manufacturer believes the product to be kosher. Most packaged food products that are labelled "kosher" will therefore have some level of certification of compliance with the laws of kashrut, though individuals must determine if that level is adequate for themselves. More detail on the "legal" usage of the term "kosher" can be found in the section above entiled "U.S. Laws regarding use of the word Kosher"

Israeli usage of the term

A new movement in Israel [6] demands that an establishment — a grocery store or restaurant — will only be considered fully kosher if its employees are paid a decent wage and treated fairly, and there is access for the handicapped. This will require a second certificate of kashrut in addition to the standard one.

Cloned livestock

There is currently a debate about the kashrut status of cloned livestock, especially after the United States FDA stated that cloned livestock is virtually indistinguishable from conventional livestock and therefore does not require labeling.[7][8][9]

Ethical Eating

The translation of the root כ ש ר (KaSheR) when used in this context is generally accepted to be about the "fitness" of the food for consumption. There are two major trains of thought on alternative ways that "kashrut" should be practiced in order to more broadly categorize food as fit for consumption. In addition to these two major trains of thought, some, especially in the United Kingdom, have taken the fitness of the food they eat as directly dependent on how ethically it was produced, specifically in relation to its impact on the world and its people. For instance only Fairtrade teas and coffees are served in some synagogues and community centers and eggs used are organic or free range.


Since there are few laws of kashrut restricting the consumption of plant products, many people assume that a strictly vegetarian meal would usually be inherently Kosher. In practice, however, those who follow the laws of kashrut do not automatically regard all restaurants or prepared or canned food which claim to be vegetarian as kosher, due to the likelihood that the utensils were used previously with non-kosher products, as well as the concern that there may be non-kosher ingredients mixed in, which, although they may still be considered vegetarian, would make the food not kosher. Additionally, kashrut does provide special requirements for some vegetarian products, such as milk, wine, and bread.

Many vegetarian restaurants and producers of vegetarian foods do in fact acquire a hechsher, certifying that a Rabbinical organization has approved their products as being kosher. In addition to the above concerns, the hechsher will usually certify that certain suspect vegetables have been checked for insect infestation, and that a Jew has turned on the pilot light on the oven, to ensure that any cooked food meets the requirements of bishul Yisrael.

Most vegetables, particularly leafy vegetables (lettuce, cabbage, parsley, dill, etc.), must be thoroughly checked for insect infestation. The consumption of insects involves five violations of Torah law[citation needed], so according to Jewish Law it is a greater sin than the consumption of pork. The proper procedure for inspecting and cleaning will vary by species, growing conditions, and the views of any particular rabbi.

The situation is not always reversible, however; although pareve food can contain neither meat nor dairy, that label on a product cannot be always used by vegetarians as a reliable indication, since Kashrut considers fish to be pareve. However, in practice it is rare to find fish products in pareve foods; moreover, because of potential issues of mixing meat and fish (see Fish and seafood) many Kashrut supervising authorities specifically indicate the presence of fish products when they are found in pareve foods.

People who have specific dietary needs should be aware that their standards for certain concepts may differ from the halachic standards for similar concepts.

  • Many coffee creamers currently sold in the United States are labeled as "non-dairy", yet also have a "D" alongside their hechsher, which indicates a dairy status. This is because of an ingredient (usually sodium caseinate) which is derived from milk. The rabbis consider it to be close enough to milk that it cannot be mixed with meat, but the US government considers it to lack the nutritional value of milk. Such products are also unsuitable for vegans and other strict dairy abstainers.
  • On the other hand, kashrut does recognize some processes as capable of converting a meat or dairy product into a pareve one. For example, rennet is sometimes made from stomach linings, yet is acceptable for making kosher cheese[10], but such cheeses might not be acceptable to some vegetarians, who would eat only cheese made from a vegetarian rennin. The same applies to kosher gelatin which in some cases is an animal product, despite its pareve status.
  • Kashrut has procedures by which equipment can be cleaned of its previous non-kosher use, but that might be inadequate for vegetarians or other religions. For example, dairy manufacturing equipment can be cleaned well enough that the rabbis will grant pareve status to products manufactured afterward. Nevertheless, someone with a strong allergic sensitivity to dairy products might still react to the dairy residue, and that is why some products will have a "milk" warning on a product which is legitimately pareve.

Genesis 1:29 states "And God said: Behold, I have given you every herb yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree that has seed-yielding fruit - to you it shall be for food." According to many classical Jewish Bible commentators, this means that God's original plan was for mankind to be vegetarian, and that God later gave permission for man to eat meat because of man's weak nature. However, others argue that people may eat animals because God gave Eve and Adam dominion over them. Some prominent rabbis have been vegetarian, among them former Chief Rabbi of Israel Shlomo Goren and former Chief Rabbi of Haifa She'ar-Yashuv Cohen. Abraham Isaac Kook, the first Chief Rabbi of pre-state Israel, supported vegetarianism, and is often described as a vegetarian, though he ate a small amount of chicken every Sabbath.[7].

Some Orthodox authorities have ruled that it is forbidden for an individual to become a vegetarian if they do so because they believe in animal rights; however, they have also ruled that vegetarianism is allowed for pragmatic reasons (if kosher meat is expensive or hard to come by in their area), health concerns, or for reasons of personal taste (if someone finds meat unpalatable). Some feel that the mass-slaughter of animals in this industrial age is not subject to the same scrutiny as it was in olden days, with the result that the likelihood of proper shechita is very low; some Jews abstain from meat for this reason. Some believe that Halakha encourages the eating of meat at the Sabbath and Festival meals, and some Orthodox Jews who are otherwise vegetarian will nevertheless consume meat at these meals.

Kabbalistic teachings, from Talmudic and Medieval sources, restrict the consumption of meat to only those who are spiritually highly developed. The soul of an animal is more complex than that of a vegetable, so it requires a correspondingly complex soul to consume it. Conversely, others suggest that all Jews except the spiritually highly developed can eat meat: the consumption of meat has often been seen as luxuriously indulgent, and therefore the highly spiritual would abstain from it as a form of self-denial.

Kashrut and animal welfare

The practice of kosher slaughter emphasizes the sharpness of the knife and the accuracy and precision of the skill of the shochet, in order to slit the jugular of the animal with an absolute minimum of pain and suffering. In general, over the years authorities have ruled that any unnecessary suffering by the animal can render otherwise kosher meat traife. Nevertheless, the method of slaughter used in strict adherence to Jewish law has been criticized as being inhumane by a number of animal rights organizations, in particular because animals are killed without the use of anesthesia (traditional kashrut would often not allow for anesthesia, as it may severely injure the animal before it is slaughtered, rendering it Treifa, and because Kashrut prohibits slaughter of an unconscious animal.) This has resulted in several restrictions or even an outright ban on kosher meat in a number of countries, sometimes encompassing related practices such as Muslim halal slaughter, though other countries grant ritualistic slaughter such as kashrut special exemption from the relevant regulations.

While Kashrut law requires consideration of animal welfare, it is sometimes not followed in practice, even under supposedly strict rabbinical supervision. In one of the most egregious cases, an investigation by PETA has revealed that “AgriProcessors, the world's largest glatt kosher slaughterhouse, has been ignoring the Jewish commitment to compassion and federal law by mutilating fully conscious animals, shocking them in the face, and slaughtering them in a way that has allowed many to stand and attempt to flee, even minutes after their throats had been slit.” [8]. This was done under the supervision of the Orthodox Union, an authority on strict adherence to kashrut laws.

Some animal rights groups object to some forms of kosher slaughter, claiming it can take several minutes for the animal to die and can often cause immense suffering. Jewish groups point to studies showing that the technique is no more painful than conventional techniques, and in most cases quicker and less painful; the emphasis on flawless procedure and tools contrasts with the often sloppy production line methodology of the slaughterhouse resulting in failure to stun the animal, as often described by animal rights advocates in other contexts. However, the conclusions of these studies are sometimes rejected by animal rights advocates. In addition, there are campaigns to have the practice of ritualistic slaughter globally banned.

In some ways, modern slaughtering practices and kashrut practices clash, although both may have good intentions with respect to hygiene and animal welfare; for instance, kashrut prohibits slaughter of an unconscious animal, for reasons of avoiding consumption of a diseased animal as well as the possibility of inhumane means of anesthesia, and relies on the skill of the shochet and the sharpness of the knife to slit the jugular as painlessly as possible. On the other hand, for reasons of hygiene, modern slaughterhouse regulations prohibit the carcass of an animal from falling into the blood of another, so that animals are often suspended by a leg before being slaughtered; they would normally be stunned by a blow to the head to prevent suffering in this process, but the prohibition of slaughter of an unconscious animal prevents this for kosher slaughter. Of course, other methods of supporting the carcass of the animal after it is slaughtered are available, but since they are more expensive and not routinely used for non-kosher slaughter, slaughterhouses are reluctant to adopt them, and when they do often greatly raise the price of the meat to compensate for the non-standard technique.

See also

  • Kosher foods
  • Jewish cuisine
  • Judaism
  • Halal
  • Muslim dietary laws
  • Kosher tax - urban legend
  • Taboo food and drink
  • Clean animals
  • Unclean animals


  1. ^ Mishneh Torah Korbanot, Temurah 4:13 (in eds. Frankel; "Rambam L'Am")
  2. ^ Gordon J. Wenham, "The Theology of Unclean Food," The Evangelical Quarterly 53, January March 1981, p.6-15
  3. ^ Macht, Dr. David I.. "An Experimental Pharmalogical Appreciation of Leviticus XI and Deuteronomy XIV" (pdf). Bulletin of the History of Medicine 27:444-450.
  4. ^ David I. Macht, Medical Leaves 1940; 3:174-184
  5. ^ Ministry Magazine, March 1953, p37-38 "This Question of Unclean Meats" Responses to Macht's study from heads of biology depts.
  6. ^ Chicago Jewish Star, September 30, 2005, front page.
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ The rennet must be Kosher, either microbial or from special productions of animal rennet using Kosher calf stomachs.[1] Retrieved August 10, 2005.

Further reading

  • James M. Lebeau, The Jewish Dietary Laws: Sanctify Life, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, New York, 1983
  • Samuel Dresner, Seymour Siegel and David Pollock The Jewish Dietary Laws, United Synagogue, New York, 1982
  • Isidore Grunfeld, The Jewish Dietary Laws, London: Soncino, 1972
  • Isaac Klein, A Guide to Jewish Religious Practice, JTSA, 1992
  • Shechita: Religious, Historical and Scientific Perspectives, Munk, Feldheim Publishers, New York, 1976

External links

Wikibooks Cookbook has an article on

Resources on keeping kosher

  • The world's largest Kosher certification agency online resource for keeping Kosher and becoming Kosher certified - The Orthodox Union
  • Guide to keeping kosher
  • International Kosher Symbols and Kosher Food Guidance
  • Kashrut Alerts
  • Kosher Certification
  • The Star K's website
  • The O-K's website
  • A useful guide to the issues of kashrus

On ritual slaughter

  • Shehitah- The Laws
  • About Shechita: The Method of Animal Slaughter
  • Controversy over recent PETA complaint
  • Studies on pain during slaughter
  • Conservative Judaism viewpoints on which methods should be considered kosher
  • What limit religious freedom? The ban on kosher meat in Switzerland
  • Proposed British ban on kosher and halal meat
  • Campaign against all ritual slaughter
  • Procedures and equipment designed for humane ritual slaughter by Prof. Temple Grandin, a world renowned professional designer of humane livestock facilities.


  • About Kosher Food: Menus and Recipes
  • Economics of NaCl: Salt made the world go round Bloch, David: .
  • Traditional Kosher foods recipes
  • The Torah and vegetarianism
  • Second Jewish Encyclopaedia's excerpt on Kashrut and Jewish Dietary Laws
  • Kashrut Certification Agencies from around the world, and their symbols which are found on all food that has been deemed kosher.
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