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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.
3. Nachmanides Deuteronomy 4:3.
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.
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Discussion (32)
March 26, 2015
These rules were made before biblical ways. I'm A farm girl and can offer info. Pigs are not as dirty as assumed. They compartmentalize. In any enclosure they have a place they eat, a place they sleep, a place they use for toilet, and a place they run around for fun. However pigs are hunters as well as rooters. They grow to huge sizes. They don't have as many sweat glands as they need to keep cool--hence the affinity for mud! Pork in the USA is wormed. This is why cooking shows have it looking rare. Other places be sure to cook it thoroughly before eating. Pigs are born with tusks and these become very sharp. Pigs slash sideways with their head and can rip and tear you apart. pork meat spoils easily--a danger pre-refrigeration. Crab and. Other shellfish can be problematic in disease outbreaks. I think colera? Not sure exactly. Every people have their own way. That's what keeps us interesting!
Nina
Sw kansas
March 13, 2015
''Animals must chew their cud and have split hooves''
Chickens don't have hooves - so why can Jews eat chicken then?
Anonymous
UK
January 25, 2015
I find it interesting that is there is so much discussion about the negative aspects of how a pig eats and lives. One this that has been fascinating to me is that no one is speaking about the eating habits and characteristics of goats. I have personally seen a goat eat a large portion of the inside of a car. I have seen a goat eat fecal matter from many different animals. I have seen a goat literally try to eat another dead goat... just a thought.
Anonymous
January 14, 2015
That's interesting what about all the other laws in the bible that are more important then pork, no one follows those laws lol
Anonymous
New Castle .P.A
January 9, 2015
The Sky Fairy of Doom wants us to eat animals that are easily domesticated, not very bright, and are easily herded and led to slaughter so that we should absorb these qualities into ourselves.
Anonymous
December 28, 2014
A reason why pig is not kosher
I just finished reading a book about the life and works of Maimonides. Maimonides thought that some laws were aimed at preventing Idolatry. He said that some gentiles (Egyptians) worshiped both the pig and the goat.

Thus Jews are forbidden to eat pork so they do not fall into the trap of idolatry. He also said that is why goats are recommended to be sacrificed as they were sacred animals to the pagans. Maimonides also said the reason the Torah states that "shall not wear shatnez--wool and linen together" is because that was the religious dress of certain pagans.
James Pinkerton
Very rural Mississippi
December 19, 2014
why cant we eat pork or crab?
Chani Benjaminson Great comments! On a basic level, as a father I want only the best of everything for my children. Our Creator designed and built everything with a purpose. Each animal has a purpose and uniquely fits into the creation as a whole. Some animals were created to remove poisons and toxins from the environment. This is of tremendous benefit to the whole system of creation. However their bodies become filled with these poisons, toxins, and diseases. The swine cleans the poisons from the land and the crab and shrimp from the bottom of the sea floor. They were so intelligently designed that their bodies can break down these toxins. YHVH made other animals who were not filled with these toxins, these, the best of all foods, He reserved for us to eat!
Tim
Tijeras, New Mexico
December 11, 2014
Pigs carry Trichinella Spiralis
Believe what you will but I have to think that a main reason why pigs were chosen to be "unclean" and not kosher is that when pigs are raised in the wild they can easily be the host of a parasite called Trichinella Spiralis in their muscles (the part we eat.) This worm will then invade into the human that eats the pigs flesh, it unless the pig is cooked properly. I have to believe that back in the day, the requirements for animal rendering and the adherence to strict cooking procedures is not the same as it is today. Therefore it is not a far leap to believe that the prophets of old made the connection between eating pig flesh and worm infestations in humans and simply attributed it to G-d not wanting humans to eat pigs. Their prophecies were fulfilled when more people ate infected pigs and were infected by the worms and it became the law and written in the scripture.
Joseph
Washington DC
October 17, 2014
1. I can maybe understand, but ALL animals have "sinful" qualities, so I don't understand why you would single out pigs and shellfish. Maybe back then when we as humans were dumb, but now that reasoning should lead to the fact that everything isn't kosher.

2. Seriously? Any rule would instill discipline, doesn't make it a good rule. Make only pigs and shellfish kosher, that would instill MORE discipline.
Anonymous
Iola
October 1, 2014
If we eat predators we will become like the predator...? But if we eat animals that are not predators, we are STILL PREDATORS...so are you even thinking at all?

That's like saying don't kill people who kill, only kill people who don't kill...
Yusef
Hamurabi
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