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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 (22)
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
October 10, 2013
People with no option
I often watch Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern who travels to places all over the world and eats with the inhabitants. These individuals live in areas where their only choice is eat whatever moves on land, in the rivers/oceans or starve to death. Should they consume or die?
Anonymous
Texas
July 20, 2013
We are all adults
This explanation assumes that we are all children who can not think for ourselves. There are many conflicting verses in the bible, and we are left with human explanation and interpretation in the form of the Talmud.

By your explanation, if we eat cows won't we become fat and lazy, or if we eat fish won't we become good swimmers? What is the reasoning behind the cud-chewing requirement?

Speaking to your second point, there are many other practical ways to practice self-discipline than by obeying an arbitrary rule. G-d made other seemingly random commandments in the bible. For example, when he ordered Abraham to kill his only son, just to prove his devotion to G-d. Seriously that sounds more like a mafia directive than a command from a kind, loving G-d.
Anonymous
New York
July 1, 2013
Why can't Jews eat crab
Tia
Darlaston
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