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Kosher Law

- Law given by GOD regarding the food consumption - 

The laws all derive from a few fairly simple, straightforward rules:

  1. Certain animals may not be eaten at all. This restriction includes the flesh, organs, eggs and milk of the forbidden animals.

  2. Of the animals that may be eaten, the birds and mammals must be killed in a certain way

  3. All blood must be drained from the meat or broiled out of it before it is eaten.

  4. Certain parts of permitted animals may not be eaten.

  5. Meat (the flesh of birds and mammals) cannot be eaten with dairy. Fish, eggs, fruits, vegetables and grains can be eaten with either meat or dairy. (According to some views, fish may not be eaten with meat)


Animals That Cannot be Eaten


Of the "beasts of the earth" (which basically refers to land mammals with the exception of swarming rodents), you may eat any animal that has cloven hooves and chews its cud.


Lev 11:3 (HRB) 3  Any that divides the hoof and is wholly cloven footed, bringing up the cud, among the living things, you may eat it.


Deut. 14:6

Deut 14:6 Any land mammal that does not have both of these qualities is forbidden. The Torah specifies that the camel, the rock badger, the hare and the pig are not kosher because each lacks one of these two qualifications. Sheep, cattle, goats and deer are kosher.

Of the things that are in the waters, you may eat anything that has fins and scales. Lev. 11:9  Deut.14 19:9  Thus, shellfish such as lobsters, oysters, shrimp, clams and crabs are all forbidden. Fish like tuna, carp, salmon and herring are all permitted.

For birds, the criteria is less clear. The Torah lists forbidden birds  (Lev.11:13-19 Deut. 14:11-18), but does not specify why these particular birds are forbidden. All of the birds on the list are birds of prey or scavengers, thus the rabbis inferred that this was the basis for the distinction. Other birds are permitted, such as chicken, geese, ducks and turkeys.

Of the "winged swarming things" (winged insects), a few are specifically permitted (Lev. 11:22), but the Sages are no longer certain which ones they are, so all have been forbidden.

Rodents, reptiles, amphibians, and insects (except as mentioned above) are all forbidden. Lev. 11:29-30, 42-43.

Scripture References

Lev 11:3 (HRB)

3  Any that divides the hoof and is wholly cloven footed, bringing up the cud, among the living things, you may eat it.


Deu 14:6 (HRB)

6  And you may eat every animal that divides the hoof, and divides two hoofs wholly, and chews the cud among the animals.


Lev 11:9 (HRB)

9  Of all that are in the waters, you shall eat these; any one that has fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the brooks, you may eat them.


Deu 19:9 (HRB)

9  if you will keep these commandments which I am commanding you today, to love YEHOVAH your Elohim, and to walk in His ways forever, then you shall add to yourself another three cities to these three.


Lev 11:13-19 (HRB)

13  And these you shall count unclean among the fowls; they shall not be eaten; they are unclean: the eagle, and the black vulture and the bearded vulture,

14  and the kite, and the falcon, according to its kind;

15  every raven according to its kind;

16  and the ostrich, and the great owl, and the gull, and small hawks, according to its kind;

17  and the little owl, and the Egyptian vulture, and the eared owl;

18  and the barn owl, and the pelican and the owl-vulture;

19  and the stork, the heron according to its kind, and the hoopoe, and the bat.


Deu 14:11-18 (HRB)

11  You shall eat of all clean birds.

12  But you shall not eat of these: the eagle, the black vulture, and the bearded vulture,

13  and the hawk, and falcons, and the kite by its kinds,

14  and all ravens by their kinds;

15  and the ostrich, and the great owl, and the sea gull, and small hawks by their kinds,

16  the little owl, and the eared owl, and the barn owl,

17  and the pelican, and the owl, and the cormorant,

18  and the stork, and the heron after its kind, and the hoopoe, and the bat.


Lev 11:22 (HRB)

22  these are those you may eat: the locusts according to its kind, and the bald locust according to its kind, and the long horned grasshopper according to its kind, and the short horned grasshopper according to its kind.


Lev 11:29-30 (HRB)

29  And these shall be unclean to you among the swarming things which swarm on the earth: the weasel, and the mouse, and the great lizard according to its kind,

30  and the gecko, and the monitor, and the lizard, and the sand lizard, and the barn owl.


Lev 11:42-43 (HRB)

42  Anything going on its belly, and any going on all four, and all having many feet, even every swarming thing that swarms on the earth, you shall not eat them, for they are unclean.

43  You shall not pollute yourselves with any swarming thing which swarms, nor shall you make yourselves unclean with them, so that you should be defiled by them.

As mentioned above, any product derived from these forbidden animals, such as their milk, eggs, fat, or organs, also cannot be eaten. Rennet, an enzyme used to harden cheese, is often obtained from non-kosher animals, thus kosher hard cheese can be difficult to find.

Kosher Slaughter (Shechitah)

The mammals and birds that may be eaten must be slaughtered Deut.12:21. We may not eat animals that died of natural causes Deut.14:21 or that were killed by other animals. In addition, the animal must have no disease or flaws in the organs at the time of slaughter. These restrictions do not apply to fish; only to the flocks and herds Num.11:22.

Ritual slaughter is known as shechitah, and the person who performs the slaughter is called a shochet, both from the Hebrew root Shin-Chet-Tav, meaning to destroy or kill. The method of slaughter is a quick, deep stroke across the throat with a perfectly sharp blade with no nicks or unevenness. This method is painless, causes unconsciousness within two seconds, and is widely recognized as the most humane method of slaughter possible.

Another advantage of shechitah is that ensures rapid, complete draining of the blood, which is also necessary to render the meat kosher.

Deu 12:21 (HRB)

21  If the place which YEHOVAH your Elohim shall choose to put His name there is too far from you, then you shall kill of your herd and of your flock which YEHOVAH has given you, as I have commanded you; and you shall eat within your gates according to all the desire of your soul.

Deu 14:21 (HRB)

21  You shall not eat of anything that died of itself. You may give it to the alien who is within your gates, that he may eat it. Or you may sell it to a foreigner. For you are a holy people to YEHOVAH your Elohim. You shall not boil a kid in its mother's milk.


Num 11:22 (HRB)

22  Shall flock and herd be slaughtered for them, so one may find for them? Are all the fish in the sea to be gathered for them, that one may find for them?

Draining of Blood

The Torah prohibits consumption of blood. Lev.7:26-27; Lev.17:10-14. This is the only dietary law that has a reason specified in Torah: we do not eat blood because the life of the animal is contained in the blood. This applies only to the blood of birds and mammals, not to fish blood. Thus, it is necessary to remove all blood from the flesh of kosher animals.

The first step in this process occurs at the time of slaughter. As discussed above, shechitah allows for rapid draining of most of the blood.

The remaining blood must be removed, either by broiling or soaking and salting. Liver may only be kashered by the broiling method, because it has so much blood in it and such complex blood vessels. This final process must be completed within 72 hours after slaughter, and before the meat is frozen or ground. Most butchers and all frozen food vendors take care of the soaking and salting for you, but you should always check this when you are buying someplace you are unfamiliar with.

An egg that contains a blood spot may not be eaten. This isn't very common, but I find them once in a while. It is a good idea to break an egg into a container and check it before you put it into a heated pan, because if you put a blood-stained egg into a heated pan, the pan becomes non-kosher.

Lev 7:26-27 (HRB)

26  And you shall not eat any blood in all your dwellings, of fowl, or of animal.

27  Any person who eats any blood, even that person shall be cut off from his people.

Forbidden Fats & Nerves

The sciatic nerve and its adjoining blood vessels may not be eaten. The process of removing this nerve is time consuming and not cost-effective, so most American slaughterers simply sell the hind quarters to non-kosher butchers.

A certain kind of fat, known as chelev, which surrounds the vital organs and the liver, may not be eaten. Kosher butchers remove this. Modern scientists have found biochemical differences between this type of fat and the permissible fat around the muscles and under the skin.

Separation of Meat & Dairy

On three separate occasions, the Torah tells us not to "boil a kid in its mother's milk.” (Ex.23:19 Ex. 34:26  Deut.14:21) . It is also permissible to eat dairy and eggs together. According to some views, it is not permissible to eat meat and fish together, but I am not certain of the reason for that restriction.

One must wait a significant amount of time between eating meat and dairy. Opinions differ, and vary from two to six hours. This is because fatty residues and meat particles tend to cling to the mouth.

Scripture References

Exo 23:19 (HRB)

19  The first, the first-fruits of your ground you shall bring to the house of YEHOVAH your Elohim. You shall not boil a kid in its mother's milk.


Exo 34:26 (HRB)

26  You shall bring the first of the first-fruits of your ground to the house of YEHOVAH your Elohim. You shall not boil a kid in the milk of its mother.

Deu 14:21 (HRB)

21  You shall not eat of anything that died of itself. You may give it to the alien who is within your gates, that he may eat it. Or you may sell it to a foreigner. For you are a holy people to YEHOVAH your Elohim. You shall not boil a kid in its mother's milk.

Grape Products

The restrictions on grape products derive from the laws against using products of idolatry. Wine was commonly used in the rituals of all ancient religions, and wine was routinely sanctified for pagan purposes while it was being processed. For this reason, use of wines and other grape products made by non-Jews was prohibited. (Whole grapes are not a problem, nor are whole grapes in fruit cocktail).


For the most part, this rule only affects wine and grape juice. This becomes a concern with many fruit drinks or fruit-flavored drinks, which are often sweetened with grape juice. You may also notice that it is virtually impossible to find kosher baking powder, because baking powder is made with cream of tartar, a by-product of wine making.


Kashrut Certification

The task of keeping kosher is greatly simplified by widespread kashrut certification. Approximately three-quarters of all prepackaged foods in the United States and Canada, at least, have some kind of kosher certification, and most major brands have reliable Orthodox certification.

The symbols of kashrut certification are all widely-accepted and commonly found on products throughout the United States. It is very easy to spot these marks on food labels, usually near the product name, occasionally near the list of ingredients.

The most controversial certification is the K, a plain letter K found on products asserted to be kosher. All other kosher certification marks are trademarked and cannot be used without the permission of the certifying organization. The certifying organization stands behind the kashrut of the product. But you cannot trademark a letter of the alphabet, so any manufacturer can put a K on a product. For example, Jell-O brand gelatin puts a K on its product, even though every reliable jewish authority agrees that Jell-O is not kosher.

It is becoming increasingly common for kosher certifying organizations to indicate whether the product is fleishig, milchig or pareve. If the product is dairy, it will frequently have a D or the word Dairy next to the kashrut symbol. If it is meat, the word Meat or an M may appear near the symbol. If it is pareve, the word Pareve (or Parev) may appear near the symbol

(Not a P! That means kosher for Passover!). If no such clarification appears, you should read the ingredient list carefully to determine whether the product is meat, dairy or pareve.

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