What can Jewish people not eat?
First off, you might know that there’s a dietary law known as Kosher for Jews to observe, which contrary to common opinion is not the same as Halal food. If you want to know the exact difference this article can come handy for you.
Kosher and halal are mainly associated with the food of Muslims and Jewish people. Though kosher and halal are food laws, it also has great significance in other rituals that they both follow in their life. Kosher and halal have their roots in their respective scriptures, Kosher is identified in Holy Bible and Torah and Halal is mentioned in Quran.
The answer to this question depends upon how observant the particular Jewish person is. Jews run the gamut in their observance level between Ultra-Orthodox Jews and Culturally acknowledging Jews. Some Jews will eat any food they want, regardless of Kosher. I know several Jews who are vegetarians. I have a friend whose family follows a dietary regime which some call “Kosher Lite” or “Culturally Kosher.” I like to call our diet, “Casual Kosher.” But I think what you are really asking is what are the dietary restrictions of Jews who keep strict Kosher. Here are the ones I, personally, know about:
- No shellfish- ever. In fact, no fish that does not have (or never had at some point during its life cycle) scales. (In other words, They do eat seafood so long as it has scales and fins due to Leviticus making other seafood unclean. This means they don’t shellfish and some fish like rays and eels.)
- No pork- ever. Period. End of story.
- No birds of prey. At all.
- No meat from any animal that does not chew its cud or have cloven hooves.
- No mixing of meat and dairy. And by that I mean, no meat and dairy on the same plate, during the same meal, prepared on the same surface, or washed in the same sink. Some Ultra-Orthodox Jews have separate sinks, tableware, flatware, refrigerators, and ovens for meat and dairy. Some Ultra-Orthodox Jews won’t eat meat and dairy on the same day.
- Many Ultra-Orthodox Jews will only eat meat that is Kosher slaughtered and will only consume dairy that is raised according to the laws of Kosher and is Kosher certified.
- All Kosher observant Jews will only eat commercially prepared foods that are Kosher certified by a Kosher Rabbi and certified either as Kosher Meat, Kosher Dairy, or Kosher Pareve (which is food that can be eaten with either dairy or meat, such as fruit, bread, and vegetables).This list does not include the Kosher for Passover restrictions, which forbid the use of all wheat, rye, spelt, barley, or oats (except for Kosher for Passover matzah and matzah meal). Observant Ashkenazi Jews will also not eat rice, beans, corn, lentils, and peas during Passover.
Keeping Kosher is usually associated to a higher level of observance, the least observant a Jew is the least likely they are to keep Kosher. If you are entertaining and have invited some Jewish people over, you can simply ask them if they keep kosher. If you can’t get kosher products where you live, just make sure there is a good vegetarian choice and they’ll be able to eat it.
Observant Jews do not also eat meat and dairy together because doing so is prohibited in the Torah; in fact, this is prohibited three times (from which the Rabbis derive that not only may one not eat milk and meat together, but it is also forbidden to prepare milk and meat together or to derive any benefit from doing so).
As for why the Torah prohibits this, there are a couple explanations. The phrasing “do not cook a kid in its mother’s milk” is likely teaching a lesson about compassion for animals; that is, one should not do this because one should not making the mother animal complicit in the killing and preparation of its child. Another explanation is that supposedly this kind of food preparation was a part of idol worship (suggested by the discussion of idol worship that precedes the topic), and Judaism tries to avoid any sort of behaviors associated with idol worship or the appearance of idol worship. Ultimately, however, the reasons are not known; it simply says so in the Torah.
The verse “Do not boil a kid in its mother’s milk” is found three times in the Torah. The Oral Torah tells us that this refers to three laws:
- The prohibition of cooking beheima meat and beheima milk together
- The prohibition of eating such a cooked mixture
- The prohibition of deriving any benefit from such a cooked mixture
A beheima is, more or less, a domesticated animal, such as a cow, a sheep, a goat, and the like. As opposed to a chaya, which is roughly speaking an undomesticated animal, like deer and elk and caribou. During the early talmudic period, it was decided that poultry, since it can so easily be confused with beheima meat, should be included in the prohibition.
In the Torah, it is specified that we Jews are only supposed to eat animals that both chew their cud and have split hooves. As part of this prohibition, a sample list of animals that appear to possibly be fit for consumption is provided with pigs happening to be one of those animals. In the case of pigs, they have split hooves but do not chew their cud.
Read about The ‘Iranian Schindler’ who saved Jews from the Nazis here.