This is the second class inspired by Rabbi Yehoshua Lewis, founder of Olami affiliate Mesorah NJ, addressing myths held by outsiders of Judaism. The Olami Resources Chaburah, using materials from the Morasha Syllabus and elsewhere, prepared this shiur with Rabbi Lewis. The goals of this class are to: 1) show there is no basis to the myth that a rabbi needs to bless food to make it “kosher,” 2) suggest a theory of what might have led to this misunderstanding, and 3) explain the actual Jewish approach to the related topics that might have been misunderstood.
Section One. No Basis to the Myth
There is no basis to the myth that a rabbi needs to bless food to make it “kosher.” The Torah itself states which foods are intrinsically kosher and those that are not, independent of rabbis’ blessings. The Torah states that kosher mammals are those which chew their cud (ruminants) and are cloven-hoofed. The following animal species are among those considered to be kosher: addax, antelope, bison, cow, deer, gazelle, goat, ibex, and sheep.
- Vayikra (Leviticus) 11:2-3 – The Divine definition of the kosher mammal: it must have split hooves and chew its cud.
|Speak to the Children of Israel saying: These are the creatures that you may eat from among all the animals that are upon the earth. Everything among the animals that has a split hoof, which is completely separated into double hooves, and that brings up its cud – that one you may eat.||דַּבְּרוּ אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, לֵאמֹר: זֹאת הַחַיָּה אֲשֶׁר תֹּאכְלוּ, מִכָּל-הַבְּהֵמָה אֲשֶׁר עַל-הָאָרֶץ.
כֹּל מַפְרֶסֶת פַּרְסָה, וְשֹׁסַעַת שֶׁסַע פְּרָסֹת, מַעֲלַת גֵּרָה, בַּבְּהֵמָה–אֹתָהּ, תֹּאכֵלוּ.
- Sifra Shmini, Parshat Yayin ve-Shechar, Parshah 2 – To teach the Jewish people which animals are kosher, Moshe (Moses) held up each animal and declared its status.
|“This is the animal that you may eat.” This teaches that Moshe held each one and showed it to Israel, saying, “You may eat this kind” and “You may not eat this kind.”||זאת החיה, מלמד שהיה משה אוחז החיה ומ ראה להם לישראל, ואומר להם זו תאכלו, וזו לא תאכלו…|
Animals and birds require ritual slaughter to render them kosher. An animal that dies in any other way is not kosher.
- Devarim (Deuteronomy) 12:21 – The source for the requirement of a kosher slaughter.
|And you shall slaughter from your herd and from your flock that God has given to you as I have commanded you and you may eat meat to your soul’s desire.||וזבחת מבקרך ומצאנך אשר נתן יקוק לך כאשר צויתך ואכלת בשעריך בכל אות נפשך:|
Certain fats, known as cheilev, may not be eaten. As much blood as possible must be removed from the meat, either by soaking, salting and rinsing or by broiling over a fire.
- Vayikra 3:17 – Blood and forbidden fats must be removed from the meat before eating.
|It is an eternal statute for all your generations in all your dwelling places – all fats and all blood you shall not eat.||חקת עולם לדרתיכם בכל מושבתיכם כל חלב וכל דם לא תאכלו.|
Milk from kosher animals is kosher. However, dairy and meat products cannot be mixed. The seriousness of the prohibition of mixing meat and dairy products is underscored by its appearance three times in the Torah.
- Shemot (Exodus) 23:19, 34:26, Devarim 14:21 – The three sources of the Torah prohibition.
|Do not cook a goat in its mother’s milk.||לא תבשל גדי בחלב אמו.|
- Rabbi Yaakov Luban, OU Kosher Laboratories – The separation of meat and milk includes: not eating them at the same meal, not preparing them on the same utensils, and waiting between eating meat and milk.
|The rabbis extended the prohibition to disallow the eating of meat and dairy products at the same meal or preparing them on the same utensils. Furthermore, milk products cannot be consumed after eating meat, for a period of time. There are different traditions for how long to wait between meat and dairy, but the most prevalent custom is to wait six hours.
Meat may be eaten [directly] following dairy products with the one exception of hard cheese that is aged six months or more, which requires the same waiting time as that of dairy after meat.
Fish must have fins and scales to be kosher. Unlike meat and poultry, fish requires no special preparation.
- Vayikra 11:9 – Any fish which has fins and scales is kosher.
|This is what you may eat of all that is in the water: You may eat any creature that lives in the water, whether in seas or rivers, as long as it has fins and scales.||אֶת-זֶה, תֹּאכְלוּ, מִכֹּל, אֲשֶׁר בַּמָּיִם: כֹּל אֲשֶׁר-לוֹ סְנַפִּיר וְקַשְׂקֶשֶׂת בַּמַּיִם, בַּיַּמִּים וּבַנְּחָלִים–אֹתָם תֹּאכֵלוּ.|
There are five Torah prohibitions regarding the eating of insects. The Torah states that only certain chagavim (grasshoppers) are kosher. But just like birds, there is a need for a tradition regarding the identity of the kosher species.
- Vayikra 11:20-1 – Insects may not be eaten.
|Every flying insect that uses four legs for walking is an abomination to you. The only flying insects with four walking legs that you may eat are those which have knees extending above their feet, [using these longer legs] to hop on the ground.||כֹּל שֶׁרֶץ הָעוֹף, הַהֹלֵךְ עַל-אַרְבַּע–שֶׁקֶץ הוּא, לָכֶם
אַךְ אֶת-זֶה, תֹּאכְלוּ, מִכֹּל שֶׁרֶץ הָעוֹף, הַהֹלֵךְ עַל-אַרְבַּע: אֲשֶׁר-לא (לוֹ) כְרָעַיִם מִמַּעַל לְרַגְלָיו, לְנַתֵּר בָּהֵן עַל-הָאָרֶץ.