What Does it Mean to be Kosher?: A Guide to Jewish Dietary Laws

In the Jewish tradition, dietary laws are an essential part of everyday life. These laws are collectively known as kashrut, and the food that adheres to these dietary laws is called Kosher. The word “Kosher” means “fit” or “proper” in Hebrew. Kosher food is prepared and consumed according to these laws to maintain the laws of morality and purity of the Jewish faith. The following article will explain the concept of kashrut, the origins of kosher laws, and what it means to be kosher in everyday life.

Origins of the Kosher Laws

The laws of kashrut are derived from the Torah, the Jewish holy book containing all the laws that Jews believe God gave to Moses. These laws, found in the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy, set out what foods are permissible and what foods are forbidden for Jews to consume. The Torah teaches that eating is a holy act, and humans must adhere to strict dietary laws to maintain their purity and remain holy in the sight of God.

What Foods are Kosher?

Kosher foods can be broadly categorized into three groups: meat, dairy, and Pareve.

  • Meat: Meat must come from an animal that chews the cud and has a cloven hoof. Animals that fit this criterion include cows, sheep, goats, and deer. Any meat that doesn’t come from these types of animals is forbidden.
  • Dairy: Milk and milk products derived from kosher animals are allowed, but they cannot be consumed with meat products. Milk and meat should be kept separate; this means that you cannot cook or eat them together.
  • Pareve: Pareve is a category that covers foods that are neither meat nor dairy. This can include fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and eggs.

What Foods are Not Kosher?

There are several foods that are not allowed under the laws of kashrut. These include:

  • Shellfish and crustaceans (ex. lobster, shrimp, crab, clams, and oysters)
  • Pork and pork products such as bacon and ham
  • Non-kosher animals
  • Meat and milk consumed together

Kosher Food Preparation

Preparing food according to kashrut requires strict adherence to the rules of Kosher. This includes the type of food, equipment, and preparation process. The following are some of the ways in which kosher foods are prepared:

Koshering Equipment

Utensils and cookware should only be used for either meat or dairy products. If a utensil is used for meat products, it cannot be used for dairy, and vice versa. If a utensil needs to be used for both meat and dairy products, it needs to be koshered or immersed in boiling water or flame to purify it.

Checking of Animal Products

If a product is derived from an animal, it typically has to be checked for any forbidden parts or blood. Any inedible parts, such as fat and certain nerves and organs, need to be removed. Slaughtering of the animal must be humane and done in a specific way- kosher slaughter.

Bishul Akum

In Jewish law, Bishul Akum (meaning “cooked by a non-Jew”) refers to a prohibition against consuming food that has been cooked by a non-Jew unless authorized. A Jew must be involved in the cooking, even if he or she only lights the fire or adds one of the ingredients.

Benefits of Eating Kosher

There are several health benefits to following the laws of kashrut. These include:

  • Proper separation of meat and dairy in the diet, which may create a healthier balance between the two.
  • Consuming meat that is free from the hormones and antibiotics that are commonly given to livestock, as kosher meat has to come from healthy, grass-fed animals.
  • Observing proper meat preparation techniques, which ensures that the meat is cooked thoroughly, reducing the risk of foodborne illnesses.
  • Consuming meat that is thoroughly drained of blood, which can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Misconceptions about Kosher

There are several common misconceptions about kosher food, including:

  • Kosher food is only for Jewish people – this is not true. Anyone can eat kosher food if they choose to do so.
  • Kosher food is just a dietary restriction – kosher food represents an entire lifestyle that includes ethical, moral, and spiritual guidelines centered around food consumption.
  • Kosher food is not tasty – kosher food is in no way inferior in taste to non-kosher food. Many cuisines and dishes from all over the globe are already kosher, such as Mediterranean and Israeli cuisine.


The dietary laws of kashrut are an integral part of the Jewish faith. Kosher foods represent more than just a dietary law, but a way of life that involves obedience, purity, and adherence to moral and ethical codes. Kosher foods are not only healthy but can also be delicious and enjoyed by anyone. The guidelines for kosher food preparation should be viewed as a way to elevate our consumption of food and how we view its impact on our lives.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

  • Can vegetarians observe the laws of kashrut?
  • Yes, vegetarians can follow the laws of kashrut since plant matter is usually considered Pareve. They should make sure that there is no cross-contamination of utensils or equipment used to cook or prepare the dish.

  • Is eating Kosher more expensive than eating non-kosher food?
  • Eating kosher doesn’t necessarily have to be more expensive. While some specialty products can be more expensive, many everyday items are already kosher that you may not realize are compatible. Also, kosher food typically requires preparing dishes from scratch- resulting in budget-friendly eating.

  • How do I know if food is kosher?
  • Most packaged and prepared foods have a kosher symbol. The symbols indicate that the foods and ingredients have been produced under the supervision of a rabbi or another organization that adheres to kosher guidelines. Before purchasing any food, it’s crucial to verify that it has the proper markings so that you can be confident it’s kosher.

  • Can I eat kosher food in non-kosher restaurants?
  • Eating kosher in a non-kosher restaurant is not possible since they don’t follow the guidelines for kosher food prep. Some more extensive restaurants offer kosher options or even have separate kitchens or sections for their kosher menus.


  • https://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/judaism/customs/kashrut_1.shtml
  • https://www.mychabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/729098/jewish/What-Is-Kosher.htm
  • https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/kosher-judaism-food/
  • https://www.ou.org/jewish-action/06/2014/the-hows-and-whys-of-kashrut/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *