Social Question

Arp's avatar

Is there any reason beyond religion for Kashrut (the Jewish dietary laws)?

Asked by Arp (3516points) October 16th, 2010

I had a discussion with one of friends, who does follow those laws, and I did learn a lot. For example, apparently giraffe is considered Kosher! :P

Anyways, we came upon the question of why the laws are followed, beyond religious reasons (ie, are there reasons regarding cleanliness, health, or moral rights of animals accounted for in these laws?). Is there any more wisdom to following these dietary practices than following any others (eg veganism, vegetarianism)

This question is out of pure curiosity, and I am not trying to offend anyone by asking this, please let me know if the question is too personal or rude.

Thank you in advance! :)

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

17 Answers

YARNLADY's avatar

It’s my understanding that in the day they were written, the food preservation methods we know were not available to them, and they food restrictions were actually based on the healthy discoveries they did know of.

Arp's avatar

@YARNLADY So you are saying that, in the present, they are no longer relevant or useful beyond spiritual purposes?

YARNLADY's avatar

@Arp Basically, that would be the case, however, there still might be some validity to some of the rules.

downtide's avatar

I understand the same as @YARNLADY. For instance the thing about not eating pork or shellfish: these are two foods that are most difficult to keep salmonella-free, and it would have been so much worse in a society with no access to refrigeration, sterilisation etc. The point about not mixing meat and dairy products is another one that helps prevent the spread of bacteria, and is why professional kitchens (even non-Jewish ones) will have rules about contact between raw meat and other products. Hence, chopping boards and other utensils of different colours: they’re colour coded so you know what food you can safely use them with. Once they’re cooked and on the plate we know now that it doesn’t matter, but ancient hebrews didn’t know that. They only know that they got sick when they ate certain things.

Judi's avatar

I don’t know all the laws, but the different dishes for different foods I believe was because they used wood dishes back then. When residue was absorbed in the plates it caused bad smells and bacteria when mixed.
And, if you really think about it, the mixing meat and cheese is pretty awful. The Old Testament said not to eat anything in it’s mothers milk. When put that way it DOES sound pretty barbaric.

downtide's avatar

@Judi If we still didn’t mix meat and cheese we’d never have had Pepperoni Pizza. O.o Now that’s definitely not kosher (although during my years as a vegetarian I did enjoy the Jewish vegetarian pepperoni and other sausages).

Judi's avatar

I know. I still occasionally partake but I try not to think about how barbaric it is to eat an animal in it’s mothers milk.
Hey wait, isn’t pepperoni pork? It may not be in its mothers milk, but pork has issues all it’s own.

anartist's avatar

@Arp this could provide you with some good arguments

downtide's avatar

@Judi yes Pepperoni is pork. Which is why the Jewish kosher “pepperoni” I bought was vegetarian and made mainly out of soya.

answerjill's avatar

There are two categories of Jewish laws. The laws of kashrut fall under the category of “chukim,” which don’t always appear to have a rational basis that we can understand. People have made efforts to try to explain some of the kashrut laws in terms of ethics or spirituality, though. For example, some have argued that kosher slaughter is more humane than the usual type. (This is certainly debatable.) Or, the idea that by being so careful about what you eat makes filling a human need into an elevated spiritual experience (also debatable).

omfgTALIjustIMDu's avatar

“ie, are there reasons regarding cleanliness, health, or moral rights of animals accounted for in these laws?”

Yes! Half the point of Kashrut aside from the health of the human eating the food (they got it right with the no pig thing), the laws are set up to protect the lives of the animals being eaten. Meat, even if the animal is a Kosher animal, must be shechted, or killed in a very specific way which kills the animal in a humane fashion (uses a tool which slices the throat draining blood away from the body while also killing the animal almost instantaneously). This is why Giraffes, though they are Kosher animals since they chew their cud and have split hooves, cannot be eaten—because we don’t know where on the throat to cut in order to Schect it correctly.

There are several other laws regarding the protection of animals too. One big one is called Ayver meen ha’chai, and that law says that you may not cut off one limb or part of the animal to eat, and leave the rest of the animal intact, alive, and mutilated. This was more important in older times when there were no refrigerators and you couldn’t preserve meat. That is to say if you wanted meat you had to either cut off one limb and eat that and leave the mutilated animal alive and suffering, or you would have to kill the animal and somehow consume all of it’s meat. Hence, Ayver meen ha’chai was to protect animals from this grotesque act.

MeinTeil's avatar

It’s impossible for it to be a mandate from God:

Water contains microscopic shellfish.

It’s safe to assume that God would know this.

Yet God insisted that shellfish not be kosher and created man to be completely dependent on water.

This just doesn’t add up.

Jews have become so accustomed to being burdened they’ve found a way to do it to themselves using probably the most intimately needed substance: food.

But that isn’t enough.

Here in New York the rest of us must be inconvenienced as well.

I mean Sabbath Elevators?

seazen's avatar

There are new kashrut rulings every once in a while – e.g. certain leafy greens are now banned because of the difficulty in removing all the tiny insects from them. So there are the basic laws, chukim as was mentioned, and there are tikunim – amendments.

All of the posts above are correct in some part – some are interpretation, e.g., how can you say 50% or whatever… an observant Jew has 613 Mitzvahs to follow, blindly, unquestioningly and kashrut laws are a part of that. It’s not for every Jwe to decide what is kosher and what isn’t – or how he understands it – especially not to start “thinking” which one makes sense.

The laws of the Sabbath – the strictest laws, forbid work on the Sabbath. Not travel – work. They couldn’t foresee the automobile or train or even bike – so why is it forbiddedn to visit your Bubby on the sabbath by car? And it’s not because of the “fire” – the engine – it’s because should it break down on the way – you’d have to fix the tire – even on a bike.

He who observes (and I do not) does not go into detail – he simply has a list including giraffe, but not ostrich, for example. Why not – it’s like a big chicken, right? This one has to do with its biblical name – which latter scholars (mistakenly) thought was part of the birds of prey – a no no in kosher law because of what they eat.

But believe me, no-one who onserves contests this: they have tried to get it kosher in Israel and fail miserably – which is sad because it tastes great and is less filling – and should be kosher. It’s just a big fowl.

What’s the matter with a little calamari?

Are pigs any less clean than the cows that live in their filth? They eat slops? Cows eat ground up fish and chicken bones and feathers.

I disagree with the wooden cutting board: look it up – they retain less bacteria than their plastic counterparts – oddly enough. But they diod eat in wooden bowls, in the desert – not always having a river to wash it nearby. Salmonella, uncooked meat, unpasteurized milk – man that wooden bowl was worse than the conditions on Survivor.

I think if you make a lasagna – and the sauce has minced meat in it or not, and the top is covered with cheese – it shouldn’t matter anymore – it’s the 21st century.


answerjill's avatar

@seazen – In my opinion, things like the ban on certain leafy vegetables would fall under the category of “chumrot”—customs that are unnecessarily strict. I think that I am going to bow out of this convo now, for various personal reasons.

Pepshort's avatar

I believe that a persuasive case can be made to advocate for the observance of Kashrut beyond understanding it as simply a Divine decree.

1) To adhere to Kashrut requires tremendous self discipline. The ability to delay self-gratification, when practiced in moderation, is an invaluable tool for building character. It also has a great carry-over value to many other areas of life (such as controlling our speech).

2) You are what you eat. All predatory animals and birds, for example, are prohibited under Kashrut.

3) You don’t put ethanol in a Maserati engine. A Jewish soul needs special fuel so it can function smoothly, and run on all cylinders.

4) There are certain health benefits to a diet of Kashrut (i.e.avoiding mollusks, which are filter feeders. They are eaten, gastrointestinal system and all)

5) You and your family are affected by those you associate with. Observance of kashrut provides multiple opportunities for interaction with the type of people who you desire your family to associate with. The converse is also true.

Bon Apetit!

Crashsequence2012's avatar

It’s God’s big having a laugh at their expense:

God bans shellfish for Jews.

Neglects to tell them there are microscopic shellfish in water.

While we’re on the point. Water isn’t vegan either.

Answer this question




to answer.
Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther