Email Email   


Code of law restricting the foods Jews may eat and controlling the prepara­tion of permitted foods. According to the story of Creation (Gen. 1:29), all fruits and vegetables may be eaten. The Bible separates animals into clean—tahor—and unclean—tameh (Lev. 1:1). Israel, as a holy people, is allowed to eat only the flesh of “clean” animals, mammals which chew the cud and have cloven hooves. Rabbis have restricted the birds considered fit for food, since it has been difficult to identify all those mentioned in Leviticus. Permitted animals, before they may be eaten, must be ritually slaughtered. Since the eating of blood is forbid­den, the meat must be soaked and salted to withdraw as much blood as possible. It is not per­missible to use the hindquarter of cattle unless cer­tain veins are removed. If the animal is sick, or if after slaughtering the vital organs show signs of fatal disease, the animal becomes “unclean.” Fish with both scales and fins may be eaten, but shellfish, reptiles, and insects are forbidden.

The products of unclean animals, such as their milk or eggs, are also unclean. In several places the Bible commands, “Thou shalt not seethe a kid in the milk of its mother” (Exod. 34:26; Deut. 14:21). From this comes the command to separate meat and dairy foods to the extent of us­ing separate utensils for their preparation and ser­ving. Explanations for the dietary laws are manifold. Some feel they are hygienic in origin, others that they are spiritual. Historically, they were important in helping Jews maintain their identity and added a measure of sanctity to their daily lives.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email