Kashrut / Proper Food

Kashrut and kosher are forms of a Hebrew word meaning proper.



The Torah (Bible) commandments are divided into three categories: mishpatim / judgments (often called moral laws), edot / ordinances (sometimes called ceremonial laws), and hukim / statutes. Yahweh’s statutes (hukim) are standards for holiness for His people, with basis not stated. They are often ridiculed by the world. Kashrut (which defines God-given food) falls into the category of statutes.


The creatures that God gave to man for food, are called kosher (or clean – meaning proper for food, not meaning washed). They include: beasts that split the hoof and chew the cud, fish that have fins and scales, birds that are specified, and insects that have four jointed legs with which to jump (see list at end of article).


2 "For you are a holy people to Yahweh your God, and Yahweh has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. . . . 4 These are the animals which you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat, the deer, the gazelle, the roebuck, the wild goat, the ibex, the antelope and the mountain sheep. Any animal that divides the hoof and has the hoof split in two and chews the cud, among the animals, that you may eat. . . .. 9 These you may eat of all that are in water: anything that has fins and scales you may eat, . . .. 11 You may eat any clean bird” – Deuteronomy 14:2-11. Also see Leviticus 11.


Creatures not given to man for food, are called tamei (or unkosher or treif or unclean – meaning improper for food, not meaning unwashed).


2 "For you are a holy people to Yahweh your God, and Yahweh has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. You shall not eat any detestable thing. . . . 7 you are not to eat of these among those which chew the cud, or among those that divide the hoof in two: the camel and the rabbit and the shaphan, for though they chew the cud, they do not divide the hoof; they are (tamei) unclean for you. The pig, because it divides the hoof but does not chew the cud, it is (tamei) unclean for you. You shall not eat any of their flesh nor touch their carcasses. These you may eat of all that are in water: anything that has fins and scales you may eat, but anything that does not have fins and scales you shall not eat; it is (tamei) unclean for you. . . . 12 these are the ones (birds) which you shall not eat: . . .” – Deuteronomy 14:2-12.


Arguments against following Biblical kashrut instruction often result from desired naturally acquired tastes and from misunderstandings due to traditions and misinterpretations passed down from antinomian dogma (the idea that Torah – God’s instruction – has been superseded by teachings of Yeshua or His apostles).


Yeshua (Jesus) said: "Do not think that I came to abolish the Torah or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Torah until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” – Matthew 5:17-19.



When Yeshua was challenged by some Pharisees about His disciples eating without washing their hands, His response is often mistranslated to mean He changed what is kosher.


For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thus observing the traditions of the elders; and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they cleanse themselves; and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing of cups and pitchers and copper pots – Mark 7:3-4.


This is not a statement of condemnation, but one of giving social background to non-Jews. “The traditions of the elders” are commonly halakhic rulings as required by Torah, and the phrase does not imply extra-Biblical man-made rules, though this is sometimes the case.


And He said to them, "Are you so lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him; because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purging all foods?" – Mark 7:18-19.   


The last clause (katharizon panta ta bromate / thus purging all foods) is often mistranslated “Thus He declared all foods clean.” That would be inconsistent with the subject of the passage (eating with unwashed hands). It would also contradict Yeshua’s teachings: "Do not think that I came to abolish the Torah or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish . . .” – Matthew 5:17.  It may be noted that “all foods” were always (kosher) clean, that being the definition of food; things that are (tamei) unclean were never called food.

The problem here was not that some Pharisees were insisting on kashrut laws that Yeshua had abolished. The problem was that some Pharisees sought to publicly find fault with Yeshua, by putting minor stricter-than-Biblical standards ahead of major Biblical judgments. While hand washing is good, making it a requirement above providing necessary food was simply looking for an excuse to condemn Yeshua. Yeshua’s response was simply explaining that any dirt passed from unwashed hands onto food was purged by the digestive system, and that the real problem here was the words that went forth from their hearts through their mouths.



Regarding Peter’s vision in Acts 10: No food was present here, and Peter ate nothing. Peter, having spent years with Yeshua, still knew of no change in kashrut laws. Jews generally saw gentiles as unclean like pigs. God presented a vision to tell Peter not to avoid gentiles whom He had cleansed.


Peter said, "You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean. That is why I came without even raising any objection when I was sent for” – Acts 10:28-29.



Paul did not require gentile Corinthians to eat only rabbinic certified kosher food: he said to eat what was sold in the markets, but he was referring to that which God defined as food. Even having been offered to idols does not change the permissibility of the food (food offered to idols was commonly sold later in the markets), but we must not partake of food in such a way that we would appear to be worshipping idols.


The Apostle Paul said, “Eat anything that is sold in the meat market, without asking questions for conscience ' sake; for the earth is the Lord's, and all it contains. If one of the unbelievers invites you, and you wish to go, eat anything that is set before you, without asking questions for conscience ' sake. But if anyone should say to you, 'This is meat sacrificed to idols,' do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for conscience ' sake; I mean not your own conscience, but the other man's; for why is my freedom judged by another's conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I slandered concerning that for which I give thanks? Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” 1 Corinthians 10:25-31.



The bottom line is this: do we speak and eat according to our own feelings and traditions, or grow in learning and practicing what God says about how we should speak and what we should eat? The physical and spiritual are paralleled here.





God-given for Food                             Forbidden to Eat

-  -  -  -

ANIMALS [chew cud, split hoof]

Cattle                                                     Pigs

Sheep                                                     Rabbits

Goats                                                     Bear

Deer – Elk – Moose                             Frogs

-  -  -  -

BIRDS [itemized in Bible]

Chickens                                               Bats

Turkeys                                                 Owls

Ducks                                                     Vultures

Geese                                                     Pelicans

-  -  -  -

FISH [fins and scales]

Salmon                                                  Clams – Oysters

Trout                                                      Crab – Lobster

Snapper                                                 Shrimp

Halibut                                                  Octopii

Tuna                                                      Catfish

-  -  -  -

INSECTS [jointed-leg jumpers]

Locusts                                                  Other insects

Crickets                                                 “Natural colors”

Grasshoppers                                             from insects

-  -  -  - 


Milk from                                              Reptiles
   kosher animals                                 


Eggs from                                             
   kosher birds                                          


Honey is kosher  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  Bees are not kosher



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(Followers of the Messiah)