Jewish dietary laws

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“What is kosher?”, Poster in the Zwi-Perez-Chajes-School of the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde (IKG) in Vienna
A machine for kosher gummy bears made from fish gelatine instead of pork in the Jewish Museum Berlin
Kosher certificate in a restaurant in Tel Aviv

The Jewish dietary laws ( Hebrew כַּשְרוּת Kashrut , in Ashkenazi pronunciation Kashru "ritual harmlessness") are traditional religious law regulations, the Halacha , for the preparation and enjoyment of food and drinks; they are based on the dietary laws of the Torah . According to these regulations, foods are divided into those that are permitted for consumption ( Yiddish : "kosher") and foods that are not permitted for consumption (Yiddish: "non-kosher" or " treife "). The way Jews deal with the kashrut today is very different and ranges from strict adherence by Orthodox Jews to complete disregard by secular Jews .

The Jewish dietary laws have their foundation in the Torah , the five books of Moses, and were further developed in rabbinic Judaism and became one of the pillars of Halacha , the Jewish religious laws . The following aspects are fundamental to kashrut:

1. The distinction between allowed and not allowed animals.
2. The prohibition of the consumption of blood.
3. The division into "meaty" (Hebrew: בשרי 'basari'), "milky" (Hebrew: חלבי 'chalawi') and "neutral" (Hebrew: "פרווה" , 'parve' ,) foods.
4. Special regulations for the manufacturing process

Declarations of the kashrut

Physical injury

For example, the medieval scholar Maimonides explained that all foods forbidden in the Torah are harmful to the human body. With the kashrut regulations, the Torah gave the Jews a key with which they can distinguish the good from the bad.

Mental damage

Nachmanides, however, stated that other peoples also ate the forbidden foods without being harmed by it. The forbidden food harmed the Jews not physically but mentally. In his view, it is significant that all birds forbidden for consumption in the Torah are birds of prey (eagle, falcon, hawk, etc.), while those permitted for consumption (including chickens, pigeons, ducks, goose) are not. Anything from the bird of prey rubs off on those who eat it. In this way, the prohibition of the consumption of blood becomes understandable: The consumption of blood gets used to cruelty and promotes murderous, destructive customs.


The most noble motif of the dietary laws, however, is the ideal of holiness called for in Lev 19.2  EU , not as an abstract idea, but as a dominant principle in the daily life of men, women and children. "The dietary laws educate us to rule over our cravings, they accustom us to suppress budding desires, as well as the tendency to regard the joy of eating and drinking as the purpose of human existence" ( Zohar ).

Divine origin

Rabbis emphasize the divine origin of the commandments. Interpretations and considerations are always only "human attempts to interpret the divine will". These rules were to Jewish tradition, the Israelites after the Exodus from Egypt by Moses delivered.

Kosher animals

In the 3rd book of Moses (chap. 11), the Torah distinguishes the animals intended for consumption into permitted (kosher) and prohibited (non-kosher) animals. According to this regulation, only those animals that have split hooves and are ruminants are to be considered kosher (for example cattle , sheep , goats , fallow deer ). This means that pork , for example , can be classified as mature , i.e. not kosher, since pigs have cleft hooves but do not chew the cud. Even camels are not kosher because, although they cud but do not completely split hooves. Accordingly, all other land animals ( horses , donkeys , hares , rabbits , guinea pigs , dogs , cats, etc.) fall into the category of prohibited animals.

Poultry is kosher if the animal species is domesticated and not a bird of prey (e.g. chickens and geese are allowed). For a long time, turkey was discussed in rabbinical terms; today it is generally considered kosher. Ostriches, however, are not allowed.

Of the aquatic animals, those that have fins and scales are kosher . Most freshwater fish are allowed, but the eel or catfish , which have no scales, are "mature" and therefore forbidden. All marine animals that are not fish, such as lobsters , lobsters , clams , squids and snails , are also not allowed . All reptiles , reptiles and insects are also considered "treife" . Locusts , on the other hand, were allowed in the Torah, but later banned from a rabbinical point of view, because the four types of locusts originally permitted (cf. Lev 11: 20-22  EU ) could no longer be determined with certainty.

According to rabbinical rules, all products from kosher animals are also considered kosher food. The milk of a kosher animal (cow, goat) is itself kosher, while that of a non-kosher animal (e.g. horse) is not allowed. An exception is honey, which is considered kosher, although it is produced by a non-kosher animal (bee).


The prohibition of blood consumption is also based on the Torah. Although it has already found its way into the so-called Noachidian laws and is accordingly already mentioned in Genesis , it is repeated more often later in the Torah (also in the 3rd book of Moses). Rabbinic Judaism has derived far-reaching regulations from this prohibition that concern the preparation of (kosher) meat. According to these regulations, the (kosher) animal must be slaughtered so that the animal's blood flows out as completely as possible. The (kosher) meat must also be watered, salted and rinsed before preparation in order to minimize the blood remaining in the meat. According to the biblical conception, the blood is the seat of the soul and must therefore not be consumed. See also: cultural history of blood .

Meaty and milky

The basic distinction between meaty ( basari ) and milky ( chalawi ) dishes is primarily of rabbinical origin , which is a further development of the commandment: "You should not cook a kid in its mother's milk" ( Ex 23.19  EU and Dtn 14 , 21  EU ) According to this, meaty foods are not only meat products, but all foods in which meat products are processed, while milky foods are all those in which milk or products made from milk are contained. This distinction is important for the kashrut because the simultaneous consumption of meaty and milky foods is forbidden and milky foods are only permitted after a long time (depending on tradition) after consuming meaty ones; the reverse order is handled less strictly - apparently because of the faster digestion of milky foods. In Ashkenazi Judaism in particular, the distinction between meaty and milky dishes has become established, so that meaty dishes cannot be eaten from milky dishes and vice versa. For this reason, a kitchen of observant Jews, i.e. those who obey the strict rabbinical interpretation of the biblical laws, often has four sets of cookware, crockery and cutlery (because of Passover) as well as the option of separate dishwashing (two ranges of dishwashers or two dishwashers) . Many kosher restaurants offer either only “milky” or only “meaty” dishes. But there are also restaurants that offer both and and still adhere to the rules of kosher. For this purpose, a milk kitchen and a meat kitchen will be set up, which will enable the strict separation of the preparation of milk and meat dishes and their kitchen appliances.

Neutral foods

In addition to this distinction (“meaty” and “milky”), there is also a third category of food that is called parve , neutral. This includes not only all types of fruit, vegetables and grains, but also eggs, honey and fish. With the exception of fish, these neutral foods can be consumed together with meaty or milky dishes. Fish is considered parve, but according to the regulations it may not be prepared or consumed with meat. However, it is allowed to eat them one after the other from separate dishes at the same meal. The interpreters of Sephardic / Oriental Judaism forbid eating fish and milk together, but there are also some that allow fish to be fried in butter.


The circled U is used by the Orthodox Union to mark kosher foods in the United States. "Pareve" means that it does not contain any milky or meaty ingredients.

Since the food regulations in Orthodox Judaism are strictly adhered to, the products, mostly food, must be certified so that there is a guarantee that they comply with these regulations. In Israel and the United States of America, the certification , or Hechscher in Hebrew , is affixed to the packaging like a kind of seal or is displayed in appropriate shops (e.g. in bakeries, butchers). The monitoring of the religious regulations is carried out by a Maschgiach and is responsible for a rabbinate. Hechsharim are awarded by numerous rabbinates and can compete with one another. In Germany and other countries where there are few Jews who are not very observant, the food is often not marked with a special Hechscher, but rather food that complies with Jewish dietary laws and is safe for religious Jews to consume is listed. Only kosher butchers or bakeries, as far as they exist in these countries, are under special supervision and are certified.



Although grape wine is a herbal product and is therefore not subject to any specific kashrut regulation, it is still necessary for Orthodox Jews to only drink grape wine with a kosher certificate. This is justified by the fact that grape wine had and has a ritual meaning in other religions and is therefore subject to the danger of being used in the context of idolatry. It has therefore become customary that only wine made from grapes that is accompanied in the production by Jews commissioned for this purpose is considered kosher wine and is certified accordingly. The same goes for grape juice and all foods that contain grape wine or grape juice. Also, kosher wines and juices must not be clarified with gelatine (so-called " gelatine-tannin fining ").


Since milk could well be milk from animals that were not allowed in earlier times, it has become common practice that milk is also closely monitored with regard to kasher and only milk that has a corresponding certificate is considered kosher. However, since it has become completely unusual today to add mare's milk to cow's milk (mare's milk is now much more expensive), certified milk is only common in ultra-orthodox circles .


Cheese is also considered a sensitive product when it comes to kashrut. However, this has less to do with the problem of milk than with the manufacturing process. Cheese needs rennet to coagulate , which used to be animal. This brings with it the problem that when animal rennet is used, the separation of milk and meat is not observed. Today, however, hard cheese is often made with microbial rennet. Many vegetarian cheeses are also made with rennet substitutes and can therefore be eaten.


Eggs from kosher animals (e.g. chickens) are generally considered kosher, but only if the opened raw egg is examined for traces of blood and none are present. If there is a trace of blood inside the chicken egg, the egg should not be eaten.


Even though vegetables are parve, they still need to be carefully controlled. Insects, worms and small snails, which are by no means kosher, can be hidden in fresh vegetables such as lamb's lettuce and cabbage.

Food regulations for Passover

Kitchen utensils stashed at an Israeli army base under the supervision of a military rabbi before Passover 2005; Please note the color coding of the serving trolleys for "milky" (blue) and "meaty" (red).

The Jewish Passover festival brings a completely different quality to kashrut . Because according to the 2nd book of Moses it is not allowed to enjoy "leavened" food or even to own it during the seven-day festival. Rabbinic Judaism has also deduced a whole system of regulations here , so that today all foods in which grain has been processed are forbidden for this time (only matzo flour, correctly processed grain, may be included). In Ashkenazi Judaism, not only are all types of grain prohibited, but also pulses, rice and maize. In addition, the dishes and kitchen utensils that are used during this festival and that have previously come into contact with grain are either separated or specially "kasched", ie made suitable for Passover.

The importance of the dietary rules

The kashrut has three levels of meaning:

  1. The purification of the body ,
  2. the purification of the soul and
  3. the purification of Jewry d. H. the protection against (undesired) assimilation.

For centuries, the aspects of keeping the body clean were actually hygienic regulations, which also restricted or completely excluded the transmission of diseases from animals to humans: the ban on eating pork protected against a parasitic disease in pigs that was widespread for centuries, the trichinella . However, this medical knowledge was completely unknown in ancient times, so that this rule was only an unintended, albeit positive, side effect of the dietary rules. The ban may have historical reasons. During the rule of the Seleucids under Antiochus IV, people wanted to force people to eat pork and they even slaughtered pigs on the altar in the Jerusalem temple . This should publicly document the turning away from Judaism. Washing dishes with pure water only became a common (and hygienic) kitchen practice in Central Europe from the 18th century onwards, which until then was only available within the framework of the ritual dietary regulations of Judaism.

The purification of the soul was again and loading through the conscious use of food and promoted that are clearly the relationship between the food preparation and the production of their food used to to let that ultimately make contact with God, an aspect that is of removed from the religious covering, can now be found in many organic or fair trade products .

Even if the Jewish dietary regulations are either ignored or only neglected by many Jews today, it must not be forgotten that the kashrut, like the Shabbat, was and is an identity-building for Judaism. Judaism had no religious center or state of its own since AD ​​70. The rabbis created solely by the Halacha, the law on religion, the prerequisite is that Jews, no matter what country they lived in, no matter what language was their mother tongue, could be understood as a matching "people". In this context of the Halacha, the kashrut formed an important pillar.

This has changed fundamentally since modern times and with the emergence of Reform Judaism, as both assimilation to the non-Jewish majority society had become important ( emancipation of the Jews ) and the binding nature of the Halacha was called into question. In this respect, kashrut has now been left to private practice in Reform Judaism , but has by no means become insignificant.

General use of "kosher"

The Yiddish word kosher has found its way into the general language in a figurative sense. In German usage it means “perfect”, “harmless”, not kosher , often not entirely kosher , correspondingly “questionable”, “not sure”.


The Islamic term comparable to the term kosher for the regulation of the Islamic dietary regulations is halāl , however “kosher” and “halāl” are not congruent.


  • Moshe Ben-Gideon: Everything is kosher. Stories of forgotten delights in Jewish cuisine . Hirzel, Stuttgart 1999, ISBN 3-7776-0871-8 .
  • Lea Fleischmann : Holy Food: Judaism made understandable for non-Jews. Scherz, Frankfurt am Main 2009, ISBN 978-3-502-15147-0 .
  • Michal Friedlander, Cilly Kugelmann (Ed.): Kosher and Co. About food and religion. Exhibition catalog Jewish Museum Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-89479-538-2 .
  • Tuvia Hod: Rabbi, is that kosher? Kosher List 2004-2005 . Doronia, Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-929895-19-6 .
  • Rachel Heuberger: Cooking Kosher. 36 classics of Jewish cuisine and their variants . Eichborn, Frankfurt am Main 1999, ISBN 3-8218-0678-8 .
  • Rachel Heuberger: Kosher style. 80 delicious recipes from the Jewish kitchen . Heyne, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-89910-217-7 .
  • Salcia Landmann : Kosher delicacies. Recipes and History . Hahn, Munich 2000, ISBN 3-87287-480-2 (formerly under the titles "The kosher kitchen" or "Bitter almond and raisins").
  • Deborah and Hermann Simon: Jewish family recipes. A cookbook . 2nd edition, Hentrich & Hentrich, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-942271-16-5 .
  • Shaul Wagschal: Kosher all year round . Pelican Publishing, Fehmarn 2004, ISBN 3-934522-08-4 (with an appendix: “Particularities when observing kashrut in Germany” by Dov-Levy Barsilay ).

Web links

Commons : Kosher  - Collection of images, videos, and audio files

Kashrut lists

See also

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Pentateuch and Haftaroth, with commentary by Joseph Hermann Hertz . Verlag Morascha Zurich, 1984. Volume III, pp. 94-95.
  2. Coffee in the Shul yard. (No longer available online.) In: Jüdische Allgemeine. June 16, 2011, archived from the original on March 17, 2017 ; accessed on March 16, 2017 . Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  3. Alois Payer, Judaism as a way of life; 4. Kashrut - the dietary laws , April 26, 1999. Materials on religious studies. Retrieved March 18, 2017.
  4. The new kosher list is here , Ha-Galil on July 2nd, 2010.
  5. Stephen Guy: The food and religion: illustrated using the example of Judaism ., April 11, 2014, ISBN 978-3-8366-4267-5 , p. 34–.