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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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Carole EDEN HILL September 7, 2017

I've learned a lot from these questions and answers. Thanks Reply

Dr. Salahuddin Khan Lahore, Pakistan August 4, 2017

Thanx for the explanation. Being a muslim myself it only reinforces my belief in God's commandments. Pigs and boars are indeed harbingers of many diseases which can be transmitted to humans and they have a DNA which can easily combine with human.. For example the outbreaks of swine flu occurred due to that reason. Reply

Anonymous August 11, 2017
in response to Dr. Salahuddin Khan :

then you should also not eat chicken, because of bird flu, and you should not eat cow because of anthrax Reply

Watchman UK July 16, 2017

These laws were given whilst they were living in the Sinai desert. God knew then what we didn't know: that shellfish in stagnant water is a host to bacteria, for shellfish to be safe it has to be in running water. Pigs are also host to parasites, such as tapeworm which are parasitic in humans also. It seems to me that all He was trying to do was protect them whilst living under difficult desert conditions with knowledge He had but they didn't. Reply

David New York June 29, 2017

I love the explanation regarding why we follow these laws. That was beautiful! For me, it gives a new dimension to 'shalom'. Reply

Anonymous May 19, 2017

Amen! Super helpful thanks for posting! Reply

Julie Brown Armidale, NSW Australia April 9, 2017

Thanks for this, I have often wondered. Reply

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

Re: Question No, they do not. Reply

Anonymous February 11, 2017

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

Nina Manter January 16, 2017

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

Tsepo ndebele January 16, 2017

Yes it is logical 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

Anonymous Moscow April 14, 2017
in response to Tsepo ndebele:

Why then God created such disgusting animals? That's irrational and out of logic Reply

Deborah September 4, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

Everything that God created has a purpose and based on research , these animals are for other purposes than to eat, we are to eat food which can nourish our bodies, not destroy it 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

Anonomys April 16, 2017
in response to Eponine:

That is why we are allowed to eat them, they get there nutrients from vegetation. So they would have no mixing of DNA, or disease that is passed from one animal that eats another. Very sound reasoning, now that we know through science why we should not eat them.
It is my firm belief that MS, LSA, Parkinson's, and possibly all neurological disease is from the mixing of wrong proteins, which is the mixing of DNA, in the western world dairy protein is mixed with ever kind of animal protein, and we do not know yet all there is to know about. We know those who eat gravies and dairy sauces on a daily bases have far more neurological disease than in other parts of the world, including all forms of dementia. Reply

DC August 16, 2017
in response to Anonomys:

Interesting, but it is believed that many modern diseases did in fact come from contact with cows, pigs and sheep. It was these diseases which wiped out the Native Americans. The Native Americans did have wild boar, but did not raise them in town like people of Europe, Asia and Africa did. The Natives did not have cows or sheep and the diseases carried by those animals caused a heck of a lot of problems. It stands to reason that at one time the people of the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Europe suffered their own plague epidemics caused by those animals, but developed some immunity. It is documented that people in early eras of the Agricultural Revolution were less healthy than those of the earlier Holocene (when people mostly hunted for food). Reply

Anonymous November 23, 2016

Interesting 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

Predators 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

Finally....... 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

Rabia Zakir Australia May 13, 2017
in response to William Lynch:

Practicing Muslims are not allowed to eat pork no matter how it is slaughtered.
Not many people know but halal and kosher are very similar. Muslims are also not allowed to eat all the same animals as Jews. Reply

Farhaan Tariq Ali Canada July 6, 2017
in response to William Lynch:

Muslims are not allowed to eat pork and consume alcohol, yet you will find many Muslims doing so.this doesn't mean it's allowed in Islam. Just like Christians and Jews are not allowed to eat pork according to Torah and Bible, yet almost all Christians eat and some Jews also...this doesn't mean it's allowed in those religions.what is allowed or not in any religion, we have to look into their holy books that what God revealed to people of those times. Reply

Khalid Calcutta, India July 5, 2017
in response to Rabia Zakir:

Rabbits and Camels are also forbidden as per the Torah (Old Testament/Hebrew Bible), but in Islamic tradition, it is permissible to eat those things. Being a wanderer I'm searching for the God of Abraham from all the Abrahamic scriptures and I felt his presence when I am alone and I became a believer. There is no deity but God. Reply

Anonymous St Augustine June 6, 2016

Food poisoning 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

Anonomys April 16, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

Yes, but fish do not carry the diseases that hot blooded creatures do. It is a different DNA all togather. And the kosher fish are not scavengers. We know that she'll fish is a great cause of heart disease. Possibly other diseases. We have so many disease that we do not know where they came from. That since God proved himself in some areas already. I think it is a great Idea to trust him in other areas. Reply

Mrs. Chana Benjaminson via chabadone.org March 23, 2016

To Pat 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

Anonomys April 16, 2017
in response to pat:

At there own peril. I chose not to. 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

Bob San Jose April 21, 2017
in response to Lucy Mauterer:

Sorry to differ with you, but Trout do have scales. Very minut, but still have scales. Reply

Anonymous December 30, 2015

Noachide law 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

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