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Kosher overview: Fins & scales, split hooves & rumination, proper schitah

  • What is Kosher?

  • Kosher is a complex set of laws that define what a Jew may and may not eat. All vegetables and minerals are Kosher for a Jew to eat. When it comes to living creatures, it gets a bit more complicated:

  • No creepy crawlies are considered Kosher, except for this one grasshopper 

  • Animals have to meet several criteria to be considered kosher:

  • They need to have split hooves and have a ruminating digestive system. This includes: cows, sheep, goats, giraffes(!?), and deer. It precludes animals like a pig, which has split hooves, but has a monogastric digestive system, so it is not kosher

  • Once we have a kosher animal, it needs to be slaughtered by a certified Shoichet - a rabincally ordained slaughterer who knows how to slaughter an animal in accordance with Torah law. 

  • It must be checked to see that the animal was healthy, and would not have died on its own.

  • It must then be salted to remove any trace of blood from the meat, for blood is forbidden to be eaten under Torah law

  • Fish need to have fins and scales in order to be Kosher. There are no laws regarding how to kill a fish. 

  • Regarding the birds, the Torah listed which birds were not kosher, the rest, by implication, are kosher. The Shulchan Aruch lists 4 criteria for a bird to be kosher:

  • Must have a Crop - a digestive organ in the throat

  • Have an extra finger

  • A gizzard that can be peeled

  • And not be a bird of prey

  • Only milk from a kosher animal is considered kosher.

  • Kosher Milk and meat is not allowed to mix. If they do, the dish is no longer kosher

  • There are endless more details regarding kosher, but we hope you’ve enjoyed this overview of what is Kosher

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