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Is Pig More Unkosher Than Other Animals?

Is Pig More Unkosher Than Other Animals?

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Question:

Why do Jews give the poor old pig such a hard time? Is pig more unkosher than other animals?

Answer:

The pig has copped it pretty badly in the collective Jewish psyche over the years. It has always been the personification of unkosherness. It is not uncommon to find Jews who say "I may not keep kosher, but at least I don't eat pig!" Although a pig is no more unkosher than a cheeseburger or a lobster, the pig has something to it that is anathema to what Judaism stands for: it is a fraud.

There are two signs that identify a kosher species of animal. 1) It has split hooves, and 2) it chews its cud (i.e. it regurgitates its food and chews it over a second time.) The first sign is easy to spot - just look at the hooves. But the second is not so apparent. You have to study the animal's digestive system to know if it chews its cud. A cow is an example of an animal that fulfils both requirements, and is thus kosher. A horse is not kosher because it fulfils neither. There is only one animal in existence that seems kosher because it has split hooves, but is really not kosher because it doesn't chew its cud -- the pig.

And that's why we denigrate the pig. Every other non-kosher animal is up front about it. The horse says "I don't have split hooves, so I'm just not kosher." But the pig presents a kosher facade. "Look, I have split hooves, just like a kosher animal should!" But what lies hidden behind that kosher veneer is a non-kosher inside: it doesn't chew its cud. For Judaism, nothing could be worse than making a holy facade when your inside is rotten.

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to Chabad.org.
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Aron Jewville February 3, 2016

Inside a pig is rotten? It is an animal given the gift of life, what is so wrong with a pig unless you believe that animals are here purely for human consumption and anything else is rotten. It's insides are mentioned to be an abomination but only to your diet. Reply

Anonymous Shekelsberg January 16, 2016

Are volcanoes Kosher too? Reply

Raphaelle Do Lern Hwei Singapore September 22, 2015

Reply to Henrietta's note on Sept 18, 2015
Probably out of the list of non kosher food, pork is the most available. I am good friends with the local Jewish seniors' home residents. All seem to have digestive system ailments like obesity, diabetes, stroke. Mostly highly obese. Could it be because of a contemporary Western diet? I hate to ask as they had peevishly replied that they eat what is tasty (kosher of course. Though some surreptitiously ask non Jews to buy food for them). By the way, I in the healthcare profession. Maybe someone should continue to study this. Reply

Henrietta Houston,TX September 18, 2015

That is so unfair to the pig. I think pigs or pork have taken on such a super non-kosher (the most non-kosher) appearance because of other people trying to humiliate Jews by forcing them to eat 'pork.' I can't remember hearing about anybody trying to force Jews to eat lobster or oysters, or a cheeseburger, but pigs, yes. Reply

Yehuda Shurpin for Chabad.org February 2, 2015

For an elaboration and perhaps a slightly different take on the issue of Pigs in Judaism, see May a Jew Raise Swine Reply

Anonymous NY January 29, 2015

This is one of the most poorly contrived arguments I have ever read.

First of all, pigs are exactly the way that Hashem created them (assuming you believe that Hashem created everything), and are not morally responsible for how they digest their food.

Secondly, as others have pointed out, pigs and shellfish are clearly unkosher based on the text of the Torah, while it doesn't say anywhere in the Torah that you can't put a slice of cheese on a hamburger. Reply

Raphaelle Do Singapore October 5, 2014

Thank you for the articles on pigs, Chabad. Org! Reply

Weston O'Connor April 7, 2014

Even if pigs are healthy to eat, when fed the proper food that cows are fed, are they still right to eat? Understand first the verse about not seething a kid in its mothers milk. I think a lot of us will think this; to use something such as milk, against the very nature of its existence, is wrong. Using milk (which is supposed to nurture, and strengthen youth) as a tool of death against the youth, is clearly wrong- because it is a perversion of gods intended use of milk. Now i think, even if pigs are no longer fed worm egg infested, diseased feces and rotten foods, there design and true meaning of life is to dispose of those unwanted disease ridden substances. They are natures garbage trucks. They eat the nasty stuff spread around, compact it into a body, go and die, and we don't touch them, <thats kinda what i think gods plan for them is. To use a pig as a source of meat, and breed them, is a clear defiance of the lords purpose for them. Reply

peter New York October 19, 2013

I suspect the Mosaic dietary injuctions were rooted in sanitation/disease prevention (likely the root of circumcision too.) Pigs have a much higher incidence of trichinosis, so eating undercooked pork can make you deathly ill. Eating a bad oyster or clam could also put you in a bad way. Fellow bottom dwellers like lobsters are guilty by association.

In Petronius' Satyricon Trimalchio, a rich Hellenized Jew, holds a feast which includes a roast pig from which birds fly out.

In the modern world, dietary laws enforce cultural identity. Jewish people who keep them are making a sacrifice and doing what Catholics call "offering it up".

I was once told that pork was one of the biggest sellers in Israel. They call it 'white steak'. Reply

Barbara Melbourne July 10, 2013

This prohibition is because the mixing of these two provides a VERY good breeding ground for salmonella. Reply

Yisroel Cotlar Cary, NC February 20, 2013

While the ban on mixing fowl and milk was indeed added later on by the Rabbis and could be considered a "fence around the Torah" (see chabad.org/698970) mixing meat and milk itself is prohibited by the Torah. While the Torah words it in a way that was common at the time "kid in its mothers milk", the oral tradition passed on from Moshe from Sinai clearly states that this includes mixing any meat with milk. Reply

Brian S Simsbury February 14, 2013

To include "cheeseburgers" with swine and lobster is to diminish the difference between allowed and disallowed food.
Torah clearly bans swine and shellfish, seafood other than scaled fish. However the ban on milk and meat is generalized from an explicit and limited in scope half-verse. If half-verses could moan, the three: Exodus 23:19; 34:26; Deut. 14:21 would be literally whimpering under the weight piled upon them.
mitzvot are punctilious with meat and dairy separation. Reply

zelia nieminen pompano beach November 29, 2012

Why we should not eat pork, shellfish, etc.... Because G-D said so. the end. ce' fini . Reply

Anonymous toronto, canada August 17, 2012

If G-d says something you do it, end of discussion. Reply

Dave Canberra, Australia August 16, 2012

I believe it was all about health in the Nile delta, the Sinai and Arabian deserts. The same with eating shellfish and other scavengers from polluted waterways in the same area. Until about 10 years ago pigs were still used in Cairo as a primary methoid of cleaning up waste from the streets, including human waste in some places. They are very good at it. The problem is what goes into an animal determines the quality of meat and with pigs in an uncontrolled environment this means practically every type of worm on the planet. Breed them properly, feed them properly and prepare and preserve the meat properly and there is no problem. It is the most popular meat world wide at about 31% compared with 29% for fish with beef and chicken well behind. If you think about it the main issues with meat recently have been with beef (mad cow disease) and chicken (avian viruses). It's all common sense really.. Reply

Brian S Simsbury, CT November 30, 2011

It is just a tad foolish to claim that the Greeks Egyptians and Romans did not have awareness of health issues and food? Reply

marysgold BEDFORD, nh September 15, 2011

@alex braverman
Yikes !!! Monkey brain !! Please never, ever, ever consume the Central Nervous System of any mammal !!! Tremendous risk for Mad Cow disease (degenerative incurable illness that will render your own brain into swiss cheese ! ) Trust me on this I am an RN. So never eat sheep or calf brain or sheep eyeball. I think some cultures do eat this stuff but it really is a dangerous thing.


















Holes will form in your brain Reply

Anonymous Huntscille, AL September 7, 2011

I think the explanation is totally different, and hasn't got anything to do with cleanliness, diseases etc. God wanted to separate His people Israel from the other nations, prevent assimilation, inter-marriages etc. The best way to achieve that is to keep Israelites from dining with gentiles. Strict dietary laws achieve just that. Indeed, Jews who keep kosher will not at at a gentile's house, and of course not give their daughter to their son. Reply

Alex Braverman Fort Worth, TX June 7, 2011

The laws of kashrut have little to do with health. Health reasons, environmental reasons, humane treatment of animals -- all this is an attempt to offer a rational explanation to kashrut. But cyanide is kosher, and so is anthrax and VX gas. Would anyone here eat brains of a live monkey (a delicacy in some places)? I think, not. Why? There's nothing unhealthy about it. But somethings stops us. What is that "something"? And where do we draw the line between edible and inedible? Kahsrut offers such guidelines. Reply

Monika Vancouver , Canada September 7, 2010

G-d had a reason to forbid us to eat pork.
In our Christian church we have been told that the pig does not have sweat glands and therefore the "poison" of the sweat stays within the body of the pig without evaporating through the skin. It is Always good to follow G-d's health laws even though we may not understand the reason why we are told not to eat certain foods. Of course today all meat is inspected and even pork is a lot leaner. But if there is someone who would be offended if we were to serve that person pork knowing that it is forbidden by his religion, then we are commiting a sin. To sum it up, stay close to G-d and listen to His wisdom. Reply