The sages explain that there are several beneficial outcomes that happen to a person by virtue of keeping kosher. Once again it must be emphasized that these are not the reasons for keeping kosher, but positive and practical effects it has on the human being. On the most basic level, keeping kosher enhances self control. The Midrash relates:1

“What does G‑d care if a man kills an animal in the proper Jewish way and eats it, or whether he strangles the animal and eats it? Will one benefit Him, or the other injure Him? Or what does G‑d care whether a man eats kosher or non-kosher animals? …So you learn that the commandments were given only to refine G‑d’s creatures, as it says, “G‑d’s word is refined. It is a protection to those who trust in Him” 2

One of the key purposes and divine mission of the human being in this world is to achieve self refinement. It is a worthy goal which is unfortunately not often pursued.

The sages teach that a person should never say, “I am not interested in eating pork, or engaging in lusts, rather he should say “from my own standpoint it is entirely possible and desirable, yet I cannot because G‑d has prohibited it.”3 Self control is the distinctive feature marking man as superior to animal. The human being is able to call upon his nobler instincts and overcome his natural base drives. By not being allowed to eat just anything that he fancies, he will be disciplined to exercise the same self-control that he is called upon to display in the dietary field in other fields as well.4

Positive Trait Inheritance

Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, the nineteenth century author of the then best-known work of gastronomy, said “Tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you what you are.”5 In the more wide-spread 1960s vernacular, the slogan was “You are what you eat.”

Modern science reveals that foods not only influence cells in the body, but also the personality. Every cell, likewise, possesses a spiritual nature that gets passed on. Different foods create different character and temperaments within the human being that ingests them.

The sages explain that all of the non-kosher animals which the Torah forbids possess negative character traits. Ruminants, on the other hand, tend to be tranquil creatures. All kosher animals and birds are herbivorous and non-predatory.6 All of the foods that a Jew ingests, he is ingesting the characteristics of the animal as well.7 By not eating from the meat of aggressive predators one is protected from the transmission of cruel traits into our personality.8 The only meat eaten is that of the passive grass eaters who are themselves nearest to plant life—vegetarians.9 Ergo, the kosher food chain is one of simple foods that do not influence the eater in a negative manner.

The consumption and absorption of the kosher species fosters sanctity and closeness to G‑d, whereas other animals can instead dull and cloud this bond.10


Some sages mention that one educational outcome implanted in the separation of milk, the life-sustaining liquid, and meat which comes through taking an animal’s life, is the idea that even those things permitted to the Jew must be treated with respect.11

Furthermore, the sages relate that one purpose of Jewish ritual slaughter is to perfect man by instilling within him proper character traits. The Ramban writes that although man was eventually granted permission to use animals for food, he must show respect for a creature’s life-soul.12 Because of this, the Jewish people completely drain the blood before consumption since that is where the life-soul of the animal is found. The shechita process benefits the animal and the slaughterer: a) It is the best way to reduce the pain that the animal feels, and b) it inculcates into the Jewish nation to be merciful—for when one is cruel to animals, that cruelty expresses itself elsewhere as well.13

Compassion for animal life is expressed in a variety of ways in Judaism. When one sees someone who has purchased new clothing, one wishes them ‘May you wear it out and renew it.’ There are those that refrain from these words when seeing someone who acquired new leather clothing because another animal must be killed in order to make that new garment, and the Psalms say, “His mercy is upon all His creations.”14

There have been times, even in recent history, when kosher slaughter was deemed inhumane. This is ironic given that there is meant to cause as little pain for animal as possible. Shechita requires one swift movement across the throat with a very sharp knife in which the animal dies instantaneously. As was mentioned earlier, within kosher animals, the carotid and vertebral arteries actually merge, so the shechita cuts off all blood flow to the brain allowing the animal to die immediately and painlessly.15

Dr. Temple Grandin is an American doctor of animal science and professor at Colorado State University. She is arguably the most respected and well known name in animal welfare. She commented about kosher slaughter as follows:

“Recently, I participated in a ritual kosher slaughter — in this ritual, the way it was meant to be done, I must say. This was at a plant where the management really understood the importance and significance of what they were doing, and communicated this to their employees — and to the animals as well, I believe. As each steer entered the kosher restraining box, I manipulated the controls to gently position the animal. After some practice, I learned that the animals would stand quietly and not resist being restrained if I eased the chin-lift up under the animal’s chin. Jerking the controls or causing the apparatus to make sudden movements made the cattle jump… Some cattle were held so loosely by the head-holder and the rear pusher gate that they could easily have pulled away from the rabbi’s knife. I was relieved and surprised to discover that the animals don’t even feel the super-sharp blade as it touches their skin. They made no attempt to pull away. I felt peaceful and calm.” 16

Studies have shown that kosher animals have shown no signs of fear in the slaughter house. Calves roamed freely without attempting to runaway and a knife dipped in blood was licked by oblivious cattle. 17 As an extra precaution against any type of suffering, in case there may be one sensitive animal that could theoretically be aware of what is going on, animals are not killed in front of others.