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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 (25)
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
August 17, 2014
This is so interesting!
Anonymous
July 24, 2014
Contradicts genesis 9:3
God tells NoAh "Every creature that lives shall be yours to eat". What then is the correct belief?
Charles Serio
July 11, 2014
Why would G-d make a bacon sandwich so delicious then?
Anonymous
Austrlia
February 18, 2014
Thousands of years ago when this law was written, perhaps pigs were as dirty as they are today, but there was no way to effectively clean them
Yoni ben Hasmira Rabbi
Los Angeles
November 8, 2013
I would put it this way...
If swine DNA being so similar to human DNA is in fact a sign of why we can't eat them, this is only an outward manifestation of a deeper reason: a pig indeed represents a certain personality that is inside all of us: the trickster, the deceiver, the ingratiator - Esau. Unlike most animals, a pig places its legs outwards (instead of inwards) to lie down, displaying its split hoof, as if to say "Look at me! I'm kosher!" -when really it is not kosher since it doesn't chew its cud.
This character lives inside us, trying to distract us from our G-dly mission in this world. Our task is to control and subdue it to this Holy Mission.The only way to do this, to beat this trickster is...through his own tricks. We have to fight fire with fire. This is why Jacob played such dirty games with Esau- this is the only way to beat him. So we don't eat pig, to make sure we remain in control of our own "pig."
May the day come soon that this "pig" will be totally subdued to the Divine Will, and be kosher!
Anonymous
Jerusalem
November 6, 2013
Pigs have almost the same biological makeup as humans, in effect, we are eating ourselves?

In ancient Sumerian Scripts it was said that pigs are partly human and partly hog!

So that in itself maybe one of the reasons that God has forbade this???
Anonymous
Scotland
October 13, 2013
Good question. A person who travels from place to place and observes kosher, will make sure to bring non perishable foods along, nuts, crackers and matzah, bagged tuna/salmon, canned foods etc. For people who live on location year round, there is surely some kosher food to be found. Vegetables and fruits (such as berries), kosher fish (if it has both fins and scales it's kosher), nuts, berries etc, there are always alternatives.
Chana Benjaminson
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