by Dr. Gerhard Falk
proper or correct are three possible translations of the Hebrew word
“Kosher”. This word has entered American English in a slightly altered
sense, meaning genuine or permissible.
few non-Jews who know the origin of the Jewish Kosher laws and there are vast
numbers of Jews who are also ignorant of the source of these laws. Many people
imagine that these are ancient sanitary measures on the grounds that the pig,
which we do not eat, may at one time have had diseases which affected humans.
Believing this, these theorists say that pork is now government inspected and
therefore free of disease. Hence, say these believers, we can now eat pork in
safety. The trouble with this view is that the kosher laws are far more than
merely a prohibition against pork. Furthermore, meat from permitted animals was
also infected in pre-sanitary days, so that such reasoning would have prevented
Jews from eating any meat.
is that the Torah, i.e. the Five Books of Moses, include our dietary laws, which
are also interpreted and augmented by Rabbinical scholarship.
seven laws of kashrut. These are:
animals may not be eaten at all. Look at Leviticus 11:3 and 4. This tells us
that we can eat animals which divide the hoof and chew the cud. Therefore, we
cannot eat those which do not have both attributes. Then read the remainder of
Leviticus 11. Here we find that we are also prohibited from eating the camel,
the rock badger, the hare and the pig. Sheep cattle, goats and deer are kosher.
11:9 tells us that we can eat fish which have fins and scales but not those
which do not have both. Rabbi Isaac Klein (1905-1979), our great teacher, taught
in his Guide to Jewish Religious Practice that we can eat the swordfish,
which was at one time believed to be trefe, i.e. prohibited. He shows
that according to Deuteronomy, 14:4, domestic animals and numerous other animals
may also be eaten.
It may be
surprising to some that cheese and wine also have to be “kosher” to be used
by observant Jews.
which may be eaten must be slaughtered according to Jewish law. This means that
we cannot eat even permitted food if it is not so slaughtered. Our enemies
pretend that kosher slaughter is not humanitarian despite the fact that it is
far less painful and much more considerate of the animal than any other method
in use. In Switzerland, in Belgium and in other European countries kosher
slaughter has been prohibited in order to make Jewish life as difficult as
possible. It ought to be remembered that the first anti-Jewish law the Nazis
made in 1933 was the prohibition of kosher slaughter.
blood must be drained from the meat or broiled out before it is eaten.
genital and rear end parts of permitted animals cannot be eaten. The sciatic
nerve may not be eaten nor may some of the fat around the vital organs.
cannot be eaten with dairy. This prohibition is derived from Exodus 23:19;
Exodus 34:26 and Deuteronomy 14:21. There the Torah tells us not to “boil a
kid in its mother’s milk.”
separation includes all kitchen utensils and dishes, towels, tablecloths and
anything else used to prepare or eat a meal.
products may only be used if produced by a Jew. This is not true of foods other
than grape products. The reason for this law is that wine was commonly used by
religions viewed as idolatry by the ancients and by us.
Jews who do not observe the kosher laws because they view them as antiquated.
This is a matter of choice and cannot be criticized. However, the reason for
maintaining the kosher laws is not antiquated at all. Self control and an effort
to be a thoughtful and principled person are not antiquated. Those who eat only
kosher must constantly think about the most basic of human drives, hunger, and
control it. Those who eat only kosher are of course not entitled to claim that
only they are self controlled decent persons. In addition it is utterly
out-of-order to call kosher Torah-true Jews “gastronomical Jews” so as to
indicate that those who prefer to emphasize prophetic Judaism are morally
superior. We Jews do not need to insult one another. There are many others more
than glad to do so.
respect the kosher laws and let us remember that they are given us in the Torah.
Too many Jews do not know this and cannot answer the questions of our non-Jewish
friends as to the origin of these laws. Tell those who are not Jewish but base
their religion on the Torah that they can see the kosher laws in their own
Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications,
A New Look at the Supporting Generation (with Dr. Ursula A., Falk, 2002),
Ascent to Reason (2003).