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Why Do Jews Not Eat Pork or Crab?

Why Do Jews Not Eat Pork or Crab?

On why pig and crab are not kosher foods

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Question:

I was wondering, why can't Jews eat pork or crab?

Answer:

In the Bible, G‑d lists two requirements for an animal to be kosher (fit to eat) for a Jew: Animals must chew their cud and have split hooves. Pigs do have split hooves but do not chew their cud, so we cannot eat pig meat and its derivatives. In the seafood department, we may only eat fish that have both fins and scales.

Here is a translation of the original Divine command, from Deuteronomy, Chapter 14:8-10:

And the pig, because it has a split hoof, but does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you. You shall neither eat of their flesh nor touch their carcass.

These you may eat of all that are in the waters; all that have fins and scales, you may eat.

But whatever does not have fins and scales, you shall not eat; it is unclean for you.

While the commandment to follow a kosher diet falls under the category of laws which do not necessarily seem logical,1 observing them only because G‑d commands us to,2 there are moral lessons we derive from them.

Here are several given:

  1. The birds and many of the mammals we do not eat are predators, while the permitted animals are not. We are commanded not to eat those animals possessive of a cruel nature, so that we should not absorb these qualities into ourselves.3
  2. The commandment refines the person and instills self-discipline.4

I hope this helps.

For more extensive information please see Which Animals Are Kosher? and Buying Kosher Meat & Fowl from our Kosher section.

For spiritual insights see Why Do We Keep Kosher? and Judaism and the Art of Eating.

Best wishes,

Chani Benjaminson
Chabad.org

Footnotes
1.
See Rashi Leviticus 18:4
2.
G‑d's 613 commandments can be divided into three categories: mishpatim (judgments), chukim (decrees), or eidot (testimonials). The first category includes those observances which have an obvious reason, such as giving charity, not stealing or murdering, etc. The second category, chukim, includes laws which do not necessarily seem logical, and we observe them only because G‑d commands us to. The third category, eidot, includes those mitzvot that commemorate an event, such as Shabbat or Passover. Following a kosher diet falls under the category of chukim.
4.
Midrash Rabbah, Genesis 44:1.
Chani Benjaminson is co-director of Chabad of the South Coast, coordinator of Chabad’s Ask the Rabbi and Feedback departments, and is a member of the editorial staff of Chabad.org.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
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Anonymous USA March 21, 2017

God knows the effects these creatures have on the human body, now 4 thousand years latter(more or less) we have finally found out about triganosis, which of course was always fatal to the human being, in the days the laws were given, people cooked over open fire, and chances were they would not always get the meat cooked through. This is only one thing we have learned, we have no idea what else might be there that sience has not found yet. We have found That animals that eat others animals carry rabbis, which would greatly transmitted to humans through handling and takes up-to a year to manifest it's self, we have that animals with paws also carry toularimy which was fatal to humans, we have no idea what else makes them unclean, it could be simply mixing the different kinds of DNA, that we can change our own DNA. We have trusted and believed G-d all of these years. Let's continue to do so, because as smart as man thinks he is is not as smart as He who created all things. Reply

Eliezer Zalmanov for Chabad.org February 14, 2017

No, they do not. Reply

Anonymous February 11, 2017

Do the prohibitions of אבר מן החי and בשר מן החי apply to sea creatures like kosher fish? Reply

Nina Manter January 16, 2017

I thank you for answering my question.
Best regards, Reply

Tsepo ndebele January 16, 2017

it is logical because science is proving that most of these animals that God told the Israelites not to eat are actually toxic and dangerous to our bodies for example the pig is very toxic and causes cancers and all sort of diseases so God knew what he was talking about when he gave them instruction if you don't believe me then research. Reply

Eponine Poole January 2, 2017

Doesn't really make sense as chickens, cows, lamb, etc are not predators either. Seems like weak reasoning to me. Reply

Anonymous November 23, 2016

I may add, most of these commandments (not all) are very healthy, my opinion is YHWH knew that the jews needed self discipline, so he picked a bunch of things that would benefit them without their knowing. Reply

Troy October 21, 2016

Not being of the same faith but very interested in this field led me to this discussion. I want to thank you because I did nor know the fact about not eating Predators. Very interesting fact and logic on the reasoning. Reply

William Lynch North Carolina, USA July 31, 2016

Thank you so much for providing a simple, succinct, and straightforward answer to a question that is bound to be asked hundreds of times per day on planet earth. The information about Halal food and the prescribed diet of Islam was very easy to find. On the other side of the coin, the facts about the prescribed Kosher diet of Judaism were fairly difficult to find. When I read that practitioner's of Islam do eat pork, granted that it is killed in accordance with the permissible/Halal fashion, I did make a quick, erroneous, assumption that Jewish people probably do consume pork, as long as it has been treated and blessed in accordance with the laws set forth in Deuteronomy. Again, I am assuming that the word Kosher comes from the set of rules that were set forth in Deuteronomy and neatly outlined by the author, Mr. Benjaminson. My words are much more labored than the author's, thanks again Mr. Benjaminson!! Reply

Anonymous St Augustine June 6, 2016

The idea that eating predators is the reasoning behind kosher law falls apart when you consider that nearly all fish are predators or scavengers. Food poisoning seems far more likely, since shellfish, pork, etc. are known to carry parasites and harmful bacteria, and food handling practices 4000+ years ago were less... refined. Reply

Mrs. Chana Benjaminson March 23, 2016

While that may be the case, the fact is they are transgressing a Biblical commandment :( Reply

pat 33428 March 23, 2016

I know many Jews who eat lobster the don't have fin or gills Reply

Lucy Mauterer Atlanta February 18, 2016

Another reason for not eating predator animals is they taste terrible.

I am still trying to figure out why fish with no scales is unclean. We fish in pure mountain streams and catch and eat trout, which is scaleless. They do however, have fins. Reply

Anonymous December 30, 2015

Noachides (gentiles who honor the 7 Noachide Law in the Torah) are prohibited from eating any part of a living animal.
e.g. in some cultures sea creatures that are still alive are sold as a delicacy in restaurants (not that I ever felt like eating them).
Crabs and lobsters often have their legs ripped out while still alive too, so Noachides need to avoid them. This means we must how any animal is processed before the product is sold. Reply

bob gillespie Canada December 27, 2015

Pork is full of bacteria because pigs basically eat anything including garbage and other dead animals Reply

Sylvia Commerford Chilliwack . December 26, 2015

pigs are always associated with anything that is not right like, i.e you eat like a pig, you smell like a pig, more or less equating it with something that isnt nice in a human being. as for shrimp, lobster crab they are bottom feeders eating everthing that settles on the bottom of the ocean. Reply

Helen Lackawanna December 26, 2015

Anything that crawls on the bottom is considered dirty. I believe they eat excrement. Reply

Anonymous December 25, 2015

Hi! I hope someone can help me with this question: I was wondering because I want to follow the Torah regarding Dietary laws .So my family usually prepare foods with shrimp, crabs, and pork with noodles ; my question is can I still keep kosher if i get those out of my noodle, or the noodle as a whole is unclean . Reply

kit hastings New York December 25, 2015

you say: The birds and many of the mammals we do not eat are predators, while the permitted animals are not. We are commanded not to eat those animals possessive of a cruel nature, so that we should not absorb these qualities into ourselves.3

I am curious about this because pigs are not "predators" any more than cows, but you eat cows. I heard something about not eating anything with a "cloven hoof" and that would include a pig, but that rule comes from the Christian bible, and Jews do not use the Christian bible, do they? I am not in any religion and find these things of interest, and would like to have your answer. Many thanks. Reply

James Delinois December 12, 2015

God created two kind of animals pure and impure What God consider impure can not be eating. It is an abomination Reply