Monday, April 16, 2012

Why Keep Kosher?

To give you the bottom line right at the top – “Jews must keep Kosher because Hashem commanded us to keep Kosher.”  The word Kosher actually means proper or fit.  In other words, anything that is done correctly according to Jewish law makes it Kosher.  That means not just food but it pertains to a Torah, the prayer shawl, other things to we do and wear, etc.

A wonderful source of information about Judaism is from Aish Hatorah, a yeshiva in Jerusalem with offices and programs worldwide.  Here is a very good write-up giving us concise reasons for keeping Kosher (this only is covering the dietary law concept of Kosher).

1) Hygienic: There are many laws that promote health. Judaism forbids eating animals that died without proper slaughter and the draining of the blood (which is a medium for the growth of bacteria). Judaism also forbids eating animals that have abscesses in their lungs or other health problems.

Shellfish, mollusks, lobsters (and yes, stone crabs) which have spread typhoid and are a source for urticara (hives) are not on the diet. Milk and meat digest at an unequal rate and are difficult for the body; they are forbidden to be eaten together.

Birds of prey are not kosher -- tension and hormones produced might make the meat unhealthy.

2) Moral Lessons: We are taught to be sensitive to others' feelings -- even to the feelings of animals. A mother and her young are forbidden to be slaughtered on the same day, and of course "don't boil a kid (goat) in its mother's milk."

The Torah prohibits cruelty to animals. We must not remove the limb of an animal while it is still alive (a common practice, prior to refrigeration). When we slaughter an animal, it must be done with the least possible pain; there is a special knife that is so sharp that even the slightest nick in the blade renders it impermissible. This prevents pain to the animal.  (I will cover this subject in a separate blog post with the proof that ritual slaughter is totally painless and even of great benefit to the animal.  You don’t believe it?  Stay tuned).

And we are reminded not to be vicious, by the prohibition to eat vicious birds of prey.

3) National Reasons -- The Jewish people have a mission of Tikkun Olam, repairing the world. A special diet reminds us of our mission and keeps us together as a people to fulfill it. (Intermarriage is kind of hard when you have to take your non-Jewish date to a kosher restaurant, or if you go to a prospective mother-in-law's home and you won't eat her food...)

Keeping kosher is also a reminder of gratitude to the Almighty for taking the Jewish people out of Egypt, and a symbol of the holy covenant. (see Leviticus 11:45-47)

4) Mystical -- The Torah calls the Jews a "holy people" and prescribes a holy diet (see Deut. 14:2-4). You are what you eat. Kosher is God's diet for spirituality. Jewish mysticism teaches that non-kosher food blocks the spiritual potential of the soul.

Kosher animals properly slaughtered and prepared have more "sparks of holiness" (according to the Kabbalah) which are incorporated in our being.

5) Discipline -- If a person can be disciplined in what and when he eats, it follows that he can be disciplined in other areas of life as well. Kashrut requires that one must wait after eating meat before eating milk products and we may not eat certain animals or combinations of foods. (Even when you're hungry!) All of this instills self-discipline.

To expound on number 4, Mystical, the deepest reasons for keeping Kosher are beyond human comprehension; but, I guarantee that Hashem knows exactly what is best for us (He gave us the guarantee in writing – iron clad).  Non-Kosher food to the soul of a Jew is poison.  As we would never consider eating arsenic laced food or serving it to our family or friends (it definitely has negative effects on the physical well being of the human being), why would we serve poisonous food to our soul?   Physical death can ruin your whole day.  Spiritual death lasts forever and ever.  If you think this is an exaggeration, I highly suggest you don’t test it.  You will not know the truth until a time that is called “too late.”

When it says you are what you eat, we actually pickup the personality characteristics of the food we eat.  It is totally a spiritual concept that from the soul of the food we are eating, our soul is affected.  As an example, a cow is a very docile animal (I have never seen an attack cow being used to guard anything).  A pig is a slob and even a very deceptive animal.  He has one of the two physical characteristics of a kosher animal (split hooves) but hides the fact that he is not Kosher (he doesn’t chew his cud).  This trait of being deceptive, by displaying his paws and pretending that he is a kosher animal, is transferred to the eater (not a favorable personality trait).  We don’t eat birds of prey because we should not be people of prey (only pray).

What confidence do I have in this information?  Total, since it comes from Hashem.  But, let me give you a more miraculous confidence measure (in case you require more help in believing).  It says in the Torah that we can eat from any animal that has two physical traits.  The animal must have split hooves and chew its cud.  If you don’t know what that means, Google it.  That is really all the information that is needed but yet the Torah continues to tell us a warning.  It says “beware there are four animals that have one sign but not the other.”
  • The camel, for being a ruminant without their hooves being divided.
  • The hyrax, for being a ruminant without cloven hooves. The Hebrew term for this animal - שפן shaphan - has been translated by older English versions of the bible as coney; the existence of the hyrax wasn't known to early English translators. The coney was an exclusively European animal, not present in Canaan, while the shaphan was described by the Book of Proverbs as living on rocks (like the hyrax, but unlike the coney).
  • The hare, for being a ruminant without cloven hooves.
  • The pig, for having cloven hooves without being a ruminant.
This sounds like very good information to help us identify kosher versus non-kosher animals.  But, wait a second.  Is this implying that whoever wrote the Torah knew every animal that ever was, is and will be?  Is the writer of the Torah willing to lose total credibility if there are other animals not mentioned here that can be found with one sign?  You bet!!!!!  The miraculous answer is there has never been another animal found in the 3324 years since Hashem gave Moses the Torah on Mount Sinai (there are variations of the above animals but they are still in the same family).  I guess the credibility goes completely to the One who happens to know every animal throughout history.

Let’s go one step further.  It says in the Torah that the requirements for a fish to be Kosher is that it must have scales and fins. Once again that is enough information to recognize a kosher fish.  But in the Oral Torah (the Talmud) it warns us that there are fishes that have fins but not scales and they are not kosher.  It goes on to let us know “but don’t worry there are no fish the have scales but no fins.”  Wait another second.  Is this implying that whoever wrote the Oral Torah knew every fish in every sea, lake and river that ever was, is and will be?  Is the writer of the Oral Torah willing to lose total credibility if there are fishes that can be found that have scales but no fins?  You bet, again!!!!!
Simple conclusion is that we know beyond a shadow of a doubt Who dictated the Torah, letter by letter, to Moses.  If the miraculous information here testifies to the total credibility of the writing of the Torah, the information that is in the Torah is also totally credible.  There are, by the way, an infinite number of miraculous bits of information in all of Jewish scriptures – this was only one example.  Don’t mess with the commandments especially since they are for our own good.  They are the tools to succeed in this world and for eternity.  You owe it to yourself and your loved ones.  Just be aware that for a Jew to observe the dietary laws is not just a cute tradition handed down for thousands of years, they are our method of survival.  There are dire consequences for not doing what Hashem asks of us and they last for all eternity.  Once again, we should never argue with success.  When you treat this information as a gift from Heaven to help us be happy, we should say “thank you” rather than ask “do we have to?”


  1. Do you think Noahide should eat Kosher food, too?

    Thanks for the good articles.

  2. Noahides, having the 7 Noahide commandments, do not have the requirement to eat Kosher. If the member of B'nai Noach is interested in converting to Judaism, then to learn about and practice the laws of Kashrut is advisable. There are about 7 million people in the US that buy only Kosher. Only about 1 million of them are Jewish. Muslims, Seventh-day Adventist and others keep Kosher for religious reasons. Watch this short video to get a better idea of why people eat Kosher. If you have any further questions, write me using my Email address
    Thank you for your comment.
    Your friend,
    Menachem from The Absolute Truth