Explanation of kosher

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Thanks, everyone for your lovely compliments on my explanation to Nancy Johnson. And Nancy, if you're reading this, everyone else has done a super job of filling you in on what "kosher" means. However, I don't think anyone mentioned the source of "kosher," and that is, of couse, the Bible. The word kosher, or Kasher, to use a more correct pronounciation, means "fit" or "proper." In the Bible, we have laws given to the Jews by God about what foods we may and may not eat. There has been much speculation down through the ages about the reason for these laws: health, cleanliness, etc.

But the true reason, our Rabbis tell us, is because we were commanded by God to follow these laws, and to set us apart as a holy people. In fact, Nancy, even though only about 10 percent of all Jews observe the dietary laws, it is probably these same laws that have allowed the Jews to survive as a people for 4,000 years.

Kosher animals, as the others have mentioned, include cows, lambs, goats, sheep, deer. A kosher four-legged animal is one that both chews its cud and has a cloven hoof. Therefore, pig is not a kosher animal. In the category of fowl, chicken, goose, duck, turkey (there are a few others as well) are kosher. There is a list of birds in the Bible that we are forbidden to eat. No reason is given, but the thing they have in common is that they are birds of prey.

We are permitted to eat fish that have fins and scales, therefore cod, flounder, salmon, tuna, mahi mahi, mackerel, trout, etc are kosher.

Shrimp, lobster, eel, clam, crab, squid etc. are not. We are not permitted to eat things that creep or crawl on their bellies, for instance, reptiles (alligator or lizard or snake), or insects.

Fruits and vegetables are all kosher, as are eggs of kosher animals.

It may interest you to know that Adam and Eve were vegetarians, and some believe that man was meant to be a vegetarian, in the best of all possible worlds. It was only after they were thrown out of the garden of Eden that they were permitted to kill animals for their food.

Speaking of killing animals, our kosher animals must be ritually slaughtered in order to be fit for us to eat. It means slaughtering in a way that caused the animal the least pain; produces the quickest death, and drains out as much blood as possible. We are not permitted to eat the blood; it is the life of the animal. That's why kohser butchers (and in the old days, housewives) soak and salt the meat to drain out even more blood. Because of the requirements of slaughter, observant Jews do not hunt, nor will they eat an animal that has been shot, bludgeoned, or that has died a natural death. Kosher slaughterhouses employ a Rabbi who oversees the slaughtering process and who ascertains that it has been done properly. You might imagine that kosher meat costs more, and it does! Looks like I'm out of room again...Anne in Balt. MD 3:20 pm

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