Shmini lists the foods that are kosher and those that are not. Mammals must have split hooves and chew cud. Fish must have scales. Most insects are off limits. Here are some of the animals that are not kosher:
Here are some of the animals that are:
- Locusts (Grasshoppers)
- Canada Geese
Surprising lists, aren’t they?
Of course, we know that pigs are not kosher. Could it be because pigs are smarter than dogs? Could it be because pigs get a disease called trichinosis? Could it be because pigs were too slow and thin skinned to keep up on the hot trek in the desert? Could it be because that’s just the way the laws were laid down?
The questions above illustrate some of the reasons people put forth for keeping kosher. Such as:
- It’s good for your health
- Kosher forms of slaughter are humane to animals
- Keeping kosher makes you feel holy whenever you eat something
- It’s the law as laid forth in the Torah, so you just do it.
Along about the year 2000, Jewish people started giving other definitions of kosher food:
- Were the animals raised kindly?
- Were the food workers paid a decent wage?
- Was the food grown in such a way that it was good for the environment?
There’s even a group that certifies food to be kosher according to those yardsticks. Here is their mission statement:
The Magen Tzedek Commission’s seal of approval, the Magen Tzedek, will help assure consumers that kosher food products were produced in keeping with the highest possible Jewish ethical values and ideals for social justice in the area of labor concerns, animal welfare, environmental impact, consumer issues and corporate integrity.
In 1922, Professor Mordecai Kaplan, founder of Reconstructionism, wrote “There can be no question that sooner or later Judaism will have to get along without dietary laws.” And yet, now, there are over 20,000 kosher products on the US market, according to the Jewish Theological Seminary. So it looks like kashrut is here to stay.
Food for Thought
The word kosher means fit or proper. What does that mean to you?