Moses records forbidden and permitted foods, introducing certain dietary regulations for Israel. Today, Torah- observant Jews eat kosher—a term known by Jews but seldom understood by most Gentiles, including Christians. The word kosher, or kashrut, means “fit” or “proper.” Kosher is not a style of food or a style of cooking, but it is actual food preparation that meets the requirements of Jewish dietary laws, including laws about food to be avoided altogether. God revealed these “kosher commandments” to Moses in the wilderness in Leviticus 11 and in Deuteronomy 14:1-21. The basic kosher requirements in the Law and those followed today are:
• Milk, meat, and eggs of certain species are permitted and others are forbidden
• Animals must be slaughtered in a certain manner and only certain parts are to be eaten
• Milk and meat are never combined, and separate utensils are used for each
• Most grains and vegetables are kosher but must be examined for insects prior to preparation
• Animals with split hooves and that chew the cud are kosher, such as cows, sheep, deer, and goats
• Most domestic birds (chicken, turkey, duck, and geese) are kosher
• Fish with scales and fins are permissible, such as salmon, tuna, flounder, pike, and herring
• Fish with no scales are not kosher and should be avoided
Removing Blood from Meat
God gave specific instructions about the slaughter of a kosher animal such as a cow, goat, or sheep. He told Noah not to eat its blood: “Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things. But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat” (Gen. 9:3-4). This requirement is also found in Leviticus 7:26: “Moreover ye shall eat no manner of blood, whether it be of fowl or of beast, in any of your dwellings.” The Jewish manner of preparing kosher meat is to use a sharp knife and kill the animal with a quick stroke, making a deep cut to its throat. In a Jewish kitchen, all the blood must be drained from the animal and the meat soaked in water for half an hour. Afterwards, the meat is sprinkled with salt, left to stand for about an hour, then rinsed and cooked.
God gave a second instruction about meat: avoid eating the animal fat (see Lev. 7:23). The Almighty knew that when humans consume animal fats loaded with cholesterol, trans fats, and saturated fats, their health is at risk. Eating the fat increases a person’s chance of heart problems since the human body has difficulty processing trans fats that create cholesterol buildup in the arteries. Scientists have discovered biochemical differences between this fat and the fat permissible for consumption, the fat surrounding the muscles and skin. A Jewish butcher also removes the sciatic nerve and the fat surrounding an animal’s liver and vital organs (source Kashrut: Jewish Dietary Laws). Two parts of the animal are forbidden as food to be eaten: the blood and the fat (see Lev. 3:17).
Moses recorded another unusual dietary requirement: humans are not to consume meat and milk (or dairy) together (see Deut. 14:21). The Jewish mystics explain that milk represents life and meat represents death; thus, combining them creates a spiritual clash. Plants contain the right type of nutrients to keep people healthy, whereas the “red” meats can take hours to digest and can remain in the colon for an extended time. It is believed the Egyptians used to boil the animal in the mother’s milk; thus, God was separating his people from pagan Egyptian customs. When the Torah forbids the wearing of wool and linen together (see Deut. 22:11), it may be because pagan priests would mix the two fabrics in their garments and wear them during idol worship. In our contemporary society, some of these dietary requirements make little sense. However, in giving the Law, God was protecting His people by giving them knowledge of the animal kingdom that surpassed what they knew; He was separating His people from the “unclean,” and from creatures whose consumption could cause sickness.