The 42 Divine Principles of Ma’at

Ma’at

Ma’at is the ancient Egyptian goddess of truth, justice, harmony, and balance who first appears during the period known as the Old Kingdom (c. 2613 – 2181 BCE) but almost assuredly existed in some form earlier.

The purpose of ma’at (law/justice/truth) among the Ancient Egyptian people of Upper and Lower Egypt was to divert chaos. Known as the principles of Ma’at or the Negative Confessions.

42 Divine Principles of Ma’at Simplified

  1. I have not committed sin.
  2. I have not committed robbery with violence.
  3. I have not stolen.
  4. I have not slain men or women.
  5. I have not stolen food.
  6. I have not swindled offerings.
  7. I have not stolen from God/Goddess.
  8. I have not told lies.
  9. I have not carried away food.
  10. I have not cursed.
  11. I have not closed my ears to truth.
  12. I have not committed adultery.
  13. I have not made anyone cry.
  14. I have not felt sorrow without reason.
  15. I have not assaulted anyone.
  16. I am not deceitful.
  17. I have not stolen anyone’s land.
  18. I have not been an eavesdropper.
  19. I have not falsely accused anyone.
  20. I have not been angry without reason.
  21. I have not seduced anyone’s wife.
  22. I have not polluted myself.
  23. I have not terrorized anyone.
  24. I have not disobeyed the Law.
  25. I have not been exclusively angry.
  26. I have not cursed God/Goddess.
  27. I have not behaved with violence.
  28. I have not caused disruption of peace.
  29. I have not acted hastily or without thought.
  30. I have not overstepped my boundaries of concern.
  31. I have not exaggerated my words when speaking.
  32. I have not worked evil.
  33. I have not used evil thoughts, words or deeds.
  34. I have not polluted the water.
  35. I have not spoken angrily or arrogantly.
  36. I have not cursed anyone in thought, word or deeds.
  37. I have not placed myself on a pedestal.
  38. I have not stolen what belongs to God/Goddess.
  39. I have not stolen from or disrespected the deceased.
  40. I have not taken food from a child.
  41. I have not acted with insolence.
  42. I have not destroyed property belonging to God/Goddess

The Negative Confessions Of The Papyrus of Ani

Hail, Usekh-nemmt, who comest forth from Anu, I have not committed sin.

Hail, Hept-khet, who comest forth from Kher-aha, I have not committed robbery with violence.

Hail, Fenti, who comest forth from Khemenu, I have not stolen.

Hail, Am-khaibit, who comest forth from Qernet, I have not slain men and women.

Hail, Neha-her, who comest forth from Rasta, I have not stolen grain.

Hail, Ruruti, who comest forth from heaven, I have not purloined offerings.

Hail, Arfi-em-khet, who comest forth from Suat, I have not stolen the property of God.

Hail, Neba, who comest and goest, I have not uttered lies.

Hail, Set-qesu, who comest forth from Hensu, I have not carried away food.

Hail, Utu-nesert, who comest forth from Het-ka-Ptah, I have not uttered curses.

Hail, Qerrti, who comest forth from Amentet, I have not committed adultery, I have not lain with men.

Hail, Her-f-ha-f, who comest forth from thy cavern, I have made none to weep.

Hail, Basti, who comest forth from Bast, I have not eaten the heart.

Hail, Ta-retiu, who comest forth from the night, I have not attacked any man.

Hail, Unem-snef, who comest forth from the execution chamber, I am not a man of deceit.

Hail, Unem-besek, who comest forth from Mabit, I have not stolen cultivated land.

Hail, Neb-Maat, who comest forth from Maati, I have not been an eavesdropper.

Hail, Tenemiu, who comest forth from Bast, I have not slandered [no man].

Hail, Sertiu, who comest forth from Anu, I have not been angry without just cause.

Hail, Tutu, who comest forth from Ati, I have not debauched the wife of any man.

Hail, Uamenti, who comest forth from the Khebt chamber, I have not debauched the wife of [any] man.

Hail, Maa-antuf, who comest forth from Per-Menu, I have not polluted myself.

Hail, Her-uru, who comest forth from Nehatu, I have terrorized none.

Hail, Khemiu, who comest forth from Kaui, I have not transgressed [the law].

Hail, Shet-kheru, who comest forth from Urit, I have not been wroth.

Hail, Nekhenu, who comest forth from Heqat, I have not shut my ears to the words of truth.

Hail, Kenemti, who comest forth from Kenmet, I have not blasphemed.

Hail, An-hetep-f, who comest forth from Sau, I am not a man of violence.

Hail, Sera-kheru, who comest forth from Unaset, I have not been a stirrer up of strife.

Hail, Neb-heru, who comest forth from Netchfet, I have not acted with undue haste.

Hail, Sekhriu, who comest forth from Uten, I have not pried into matters.

Hail, Neb-abui, who comest forth from Sauti, I have not multiplied my words in speaking.

Hail, Nefer-Tem, who comest forth from Het-ka-Ptah, I have wronged none, I have done no evil.

Hail, Tem-Sepu, who comest forth from Tetu, I have not worked witchcraft against the king.

Hail, Ari-em-ab-f, who comest forth from Tebu, I have never stopped [the flow of] water.

Hail, Ahi, who comest forth from Nu, I have never raised my voice.

Hail, Uatch-rekhit, who comest forth from Sau, I have not cursed God.

Hail, Neheb-ka, who comest forth from thy cavern, I have not acted with arrogance.

Hail, Neheb-nefert, who comest forth from thy cavern, I have not stolen the bread of the gods.

Hail, Tcheser-tep, who comest forth from the shrine, I have not carried away the khenfu cakes from the Spirits of the dead.

Hail, An-af, who comest forth from Maati, I have not snatched away the bread of the child, nor treated with contempt the god of my city.

Hail, Hetch-abhu, who comest forth from Ta-she, I have not slain the cattle belonging to the god.

Ancient Egyptian Religion Overview

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Ancient Egyptian Religion Overview:

~ The religion of Ancient Egypt lasted for more than 3,000 years, and was polytheistic, meaning there were a multitude of deities, who were believed to reside within and control the forces of nature.

~ Formal religious practice centered on the pharaoh, or ruler, of Egypt, who was believed to be divine, and acted as intermediary between the people and the gods. His role was to sustain the gods so that they could maintain order in the universe.

~ The Egyptian universe centered on Ma’at, which has several meanings in English, including truth, justice and order. It was fixed and eternal; without it the world would fall apart.

~ The most important myth was of Osiris and Isis. The divine ruler Osiris was murdered by Set (god of chaos), then resurrected by his sister and wife Isis to conceive an heir, Horus. Osiris then became the ruler of the dead, while Horus eventually avenged his father and became king.

~ Egyptians were very concerned about the fate of their souls after death. They believed ka (life-force) left the body upon death and needed to be fed. Ba, or personal spirituality, remained in the body. The goal was to unite ka and ba to create akh.

~ Artistic depictions of gods were not literal representations, as their true nature was considered mysterious. However, symbolic imagery was used to indicate this nature.

~ Temples were the state’s method of sustaining the gods, since their physical images were housed and cared for; temples were not a place for the average person to worship.

Certain animals were worshipped and mummified as representatives of gods.

~ Oracles were used by all classes.

Click to Pray

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The Vatican is going high tech (not a joke) only $110:

“Click to Pray eRosary” – wearable smart device to pray the rosary for peace

In the middle of the Extraordinary Missionary Month of October, the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network launched the “Click To Pray eRosary” at a press conference in the Vatican on October 15. October is also the month of the Rosary.

The “Click to Pray” eRosary can be worn as a bracelet and links to a mobile app that becomes activated when the user makes the sign of the cross. The beads of the bracelet are made of black agate and hematite, and the digital device is in the shape of a cross.

What is a Dreidel and Why?

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What is a Dreidel and why?

The dreidel or sevivon is perhaps the most famous custom associated with Hanukkah.  The dreidel is a type of top with a Hebrew letter on each of its four sides. The four letters are nun (נ), gimel (ג), hei (ה), and shin (ש), which are commonly understood to be an acronym for the phrase נֵס גָדוֹל הָיָה שָׁם, “A great miracle occurred there.”  “There” being the land of Israel.  In Israel, the letter peh (for the Hebrew word “po,” meaning “here”) replaces the letter shin to spell out “A Great Miracle Happened Here.”

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To play dreidel, each player begins with an equal number of games pieces usually ten to fifteen, such as coins, candies, etc. At the beginning of each round, every player puts one game piece into the center pot. Players then take turns spinning the dreidel. Depending on the side it lands on, you give or get game pieces from the pot:

  • Nun means “nisht” or “nothing.” The player does nothing.
  • Gimel means “gantz” or “everything.” The player gets everything in the pot.
  • Hey means “halb” or “half.” The player gets half of the pot. (If there is an odd number of pieces in the pot, the player takes half of the total plus one).
  • Shin (outside of Israel) means “shtel” or “put in.” Peh (in Israel) also means “put in.” The player adds a game piece to the pot.

If you find that you have no game pieces left, you are either “out” or may ask a fellow player for a “loan.”  When one person has won everything, that round of the game is over!

The classical reason given for playing the game of dreidel on Chanukah is that the simple little top was used during the Chanukah era to preserve Judaism. When the Syrian-Greeks ruled over the Holy Land, they outlawed many Jewish practices, such as circumcision, Shabbat observance and Torahlearning. With great self-sacrifice, the Jewish children would hide in caves to learn Torah. When they would see a Greek patrol approaching, they would quickly hide their scrolls and take out spinning tops, pretending to have simply been playing a game.  Despite the ubiquity of this reason, many mystics have ascribed much deeper symbolism to the game of dreidel. In fact, many of them don’t even mention the classic reason for dreidel.

Other explanations for the dreidel include the letters nun, gimmel, hey, shin are supposed to represent the four kingdoms that tried to destroy us [in ancient times]: N = Nebuchadnetzar = Babylon; H = Haman = Persia = Madai; G = Gog = Greece; and S = Seir = Rome.  Others figured out elaborate gematriot [numerological explanations based on the fact that every Hebrew letter has a numerical equivalent] and word plays for the letters nun, gimmel, hey, shin. For example, nun, gimmel, hey, shin in gematria equals 358, which is also the numerical equivalent of mashiach or Messiah!

The game of dreidel teaches that even when we are playing, we imbue the game with meaning, remembering our heritage and the miraculous salvations that G‑d performed for Jews in the past. It also expresses our longing for the final redemption with the coming of the Moshiach.

Sources: “Essential Judaism,” Robinson, George. 2016. myjeweishlearning.com. chabad.org.

Hannukkah…What Exactly Is It?

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“On the 25th of Kislev are the days of Hanukkah, which are eight… these were appointed a Festival with Hallel [prayers of praise] and thanksgiving.”

~ Shabbat 21b, Babylonian Talmud

Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of rededication, also known as the festival of lights, is an eight-day festival beginning on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev.  Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after its defilement by the Syrian Greeks in 164 BCE.

Hanukkah is probably one, if not the, best-known Jewish holidays, not because of any great religious significance though, but because of its proximity to Christmas. Many non-Jews think of this holiday as the Jewish Christmas, adopting many of the Christmas customs, such as gift-giving and decoration. It is ironic that this holiday, which has its roots in a revolution against assimilation and the suppression of Jewish religion, has become the most assimilated, secular holiday on our calendar.

Orgins:

 The story of Hanukkah begins in the reign of Alexander the Great. Alexander conquered Syria, Egypt and Palestine, but allowed the lands under his control to continue observing their own religions and retain a certain degree of autonomy. Under this relatively benevolent rule, many Jews assimilated much of Hellenistic culture, adopting the language, the customs and the dress of the Greeks, in much the same way that Jews in America today blend into the secular American society.

More than a century latter beginning in 167 BCE, the Jews of Judea rose up in revolt against the oppression of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes of the Seleucid Empire. The military leader of the first phase of the revolt was Judah the Maccabee, the eldest son of the priest Mattityahu. In the autumn of 164, Judah and his followers were able to capture the Temple in Jerusalem, which had been turned into a pagan shrine. They cleansed it and rededicated it to Israel’s God. This event was observed in an eight-day celebration, which was patterned on Sukkot, the autumn festival of huts. Much later rabbinic tradition ascribes the length of the festival to a miraculous small amount of oil that burned for eight days.

Traditions:

“Our rabbis taught the rule of Hanukkah: … on the first day one [candle] is lit and thereafter they are progressively increased … [because] we increase in sanctity but do not reduce.”

~ Shabbat 21b, Babylonian Talmud

 Most of the activity of Hanukkah takes place at home. Central to the holiday is the lighting of the hanukkiah or menorah, an eight-branched candelabrum to which one candle is added on each night of the holiday until it is ablaze with light on the eighth night. The only religious observance related to the holiday is the lighting of candles.  Gift-giving is not a traditional part of the holiday, but has been added in places where Jews have a lot of contact with Christians, as a way of dealing with our children’s jealousy of their Christian friends. It is extremely unusual for Jews to give Hanukkah gifts to anyone other than their own young children. The only traditional gift of the holiday is “gelt,” small amounts of money.

Another tradition of the holiday is playing dreidel, a gambling game played with a square top. Most people play for matchsticks, pennies, M&Ms or chocolate coins. The traditional explanation of this game is that during the time of Antiochus’ oppression, those who wanted to study Torah (an illegal activity) would conceal their activity by playing gambling games with a top (a common and legal activity) whenever an official or inspector was within sight.

In commemoration of the legendary cruse of oil, it is traditional to eat foods fried in oil. The most familiar Hanukkah foods are the European (Ashkenazi) potato pancakes, or latkes, and the Israeli favorite, jelly donuts, or sufganiyot.  The tradition developed in Europe to give small amounts of money as well as nuts and raisins to children at this time. Under the influence of Christmas, which takes place around the same time of year, Hanukkah has evolved into the central gift-giving holiday in the Jewish calendar in the Western world.

Since Hanukkah is not biblically ordained, the liturgy for the holiday is not well developed. It is actually a quite minor festival. However, it has become one of the most beloved of Jewish holidays. In an act of defiance against those in the past and in the present who would root out Jewish practice, the observance of Hanukkah has assumed a visible community aspect.  Jews will often gather for communal celebrations and public candle lighting. At such celebrations, Hanukkah songs are sung and traditional games such as dreidel are played. Like Passover, Hanukkah is a holiday that celebrates the liberation from oppression. It also provides a strong argument in favor of freedom of worship and religion.

Sources: “Essential Judaism” Robinson, George. 2016. Myjewishlearning.com. Chabad.org. jewfaq.org.

The Ten Commandments Controversy

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In the United States, a controversy has persisted for many years regarding the placement of the “Ten Commandments” in public schools and public buildings. But one critical question seems to have escaped most of the public dialog on the subject: Whose “Ten Commandments” should we post?  Judaism, unlike Catholicism and Protestantism, considers “I am the L-rd, your G-d” to be the first “commandment.” Catholicism, unlike Judaism and Protestantism, considers coveting property to be separate from coveting a spouse. Protestantism, unlike Judaism and Catholicism, considers the prohibition against idolatry to be separate from the prohibition against worshipping other gods. No two religions agree on a single list. Whose list should we post?  Once we decide on a list, what translation should we post? Should Judaism’s sixth declaration be rendered as “Thou shalt not kill” as in the popular King James Version translation, or as “Thou shalt not murder,” which is a bit closer to the connotations of the original Hebrew though still not entirely accurate?

In Talmudic times, the rabbis consciously made a decision to exclude daily recitation of the Aseret ha-Dibrot from the liturgy because excessive emphasis on these statements might lead people to mistakenly believe that these were the only mitzvot or the most important mitzvot, and neglect the full 613. By posting these words prominently and referring to them as “The Ten Commandments,” (as if there weren’t any others, which is what many people think) schools and public buildings may be teaching a message that Judaism specifically and consciously rejected

There are different versions of the 10 Commandments, there are actually three different versions (Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant) plus a Muslim version of sorts. This variation brings up an interesting point for Americans — posting the 10 Commandments in public places not only requires a choice of religious over secular, it also necessitates a choice between religions.

The 10 Commandments appear in three places in the Bible: in Exodus, chapter 20, in Exodus, chapter 34 and in Deuteronomy, chapter 5.  All three versions differ slightly.  Historically, the commandments have been abbreviated to aid memorization, which has led to even greater differences on what to put in and what to leave out.  Exodus 34 is the only place where the label “The Ten Commandments” is used in the Christian Bible. The other two listings (Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5) are normally referred to as the Ten Commandments, but the actual text doesn’t describe them as such.

As far as the Muslim version we need a little background.  Muslims regard Moses as one of their greatest prophets, but they reject the Biblical versions of the Ten Commandments.  The site http://www.quran.org.uk has a chart that compares the Protestant 10 Commandments to the Muslim equivalents found in different places within the Quar’an.

“There is no formal Islamic version of the ten commandments, but each of the ten can be found embedded in both the foundational sources of Islam (the Qur’an and the Sunna – the normative example of Muhammad) as well as in later articulations of Shari ‘a (Islamic law). However, they are not to be found lumped together; instead, they would be scattered around under different topics in legal manuals.”

~ Ahmet T. Karamustafa, Associate Professor of History and Religious Studies at Washington University in St. Louis

A few of the differences: The Jewish Version (Exodus 20) – The Jewish version refers to the same place in the Bible as the Protestant version but emerges with a different interpretation. The initial reference to Egyptian bondage is important enough to Jews that it forms a separate commandment.  Protestant Version (Exodus 20) – This is by far the most commonly cited version of the 10 Commandments in the U.S. and applies to members of the Greek, Anglican, and Reformed traditions.  Catholic/Lutheran Version (Deuteronomy 5) – Catholics and Lutherans follow this particular version, the text of which was likely written around 300 years later than the Exodus text. Interestingly, the Catholic version omits the prohibition against graven images, which is fitting, as the Roman Catholic church displays many shrines and statues. Catholics and Lutherans separate the two kinds of coveting (namely, of goods and of the flesh), while Protestants (but not Lutherans) and Jews group them together.

According to Jewish tradition, G-d gave the Jewish people 613 mitzvot (commandments). All 613 of those mitzvot are equally sacred, equally binding and equally the word of G-d.

“Be as meticulous in performing a ‘minor’ mitzvah as you are with a ‘major’ one, because you don’t know what kind of reward you’ll get for various mitzvot.”

~ Pirkei Avot, a book of the Mishnah

 It’s important to remember that in the Torah, these words are never referred to as the Ten Commandments.   In rabbinical texts, they are referred to as Aseret ha-Dibrot. The words d’varim and dibrot come from the Hebrew root Dalet-Beit-Reish, meaning word, speak or thing; thus, the phrase is accurately translated as the Ten Sayings, the Ten Statements, the Ten Declarations, the Ten Words or even the Ten Things, but not as the Ten Commandments, which would be Aseret ha-Mitzvot.  The Aseret ha-Dibrot are not understood as individual mitzvot; rather, they are categories or classifications of mitzvot. Each of the 613 mitzvot can be subsumed under one of these ten categories, some in more obvious ways than others.

Let’s examine the Jewish version:

  1. Belief in G-d

This category is derived from the declaration in Ex. 20:2 beginning, “I am the L-rd, your G-d…”

  1. Prohibition of Improper Worship

This category is derived from Ex. 20:3-6, beginning, “You shall not have other gods…” It encompasses within it the prohibition against the worship of other gods as well as the prohibition of improper forms of worship of the one true G-d, such as worshiping G-d through an idol.

  1. Prohibition of Oaths

This category is derived from Ex. 20:7, beginning, “You shall not take the name of the L-rd your G-d in vain…” This includes prohibitions against perjury, breaking or delaying the performance of vows or promises, and speaking G-d’s name or swearing unnecessarily.

  1. Observance of Sacred Times

This category is derived from Ex. 20:8-11, beginning, “Remember the Sabbath day…” It encompasses all mitzvot related to Shabbat, holidays, or other sacred time.

  1. Respect for Parents and Teachers

This category is derived from Ex. 20:12, beginning, “Honor your father and mother…”

  1. Prohibition of Physically Harming a Person

This category is derived from Ex. 20:13, saying, “You shall not murder.”

  1. Prohibition of Sexual Immorality

This category is derived from Ex. 20:13, saying, “You shall not commit adultery.”

  1. Prohibition of Theft

This category is derived from Ex. 20:13, saying, “You shall not steal.” It includes within it both outright robbery as well as various forms of theft by deception and unethical business practices. It also includes kidnapping, which is essentially “stealing” a person.

  1. Prohibition of Harming a Person through Speech

This category is derived from Ex. 20:13, saying, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” It includes all forms of lashon ha-ra (sins relating to speech).

  1. Prohibition of Coveting

This category is derived from Ex. 20:14, beginning, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house…”

Sources: “Essential Judaism” Robinson, George. 2016. Myjewishlearning.com. Chabad.org. jewfaq.org. undergod.procon.org.

 

Kashrut: Jewish Dietary Laws

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Whether you’re Jewish or not chances are you’ve heard of Jews keeping kosher or the Jewish laws called Kashrut. “Kashrut” comes from the Hebrew root Kaf-Shin-Reish, meaning fit, proper or correct.  It has come to refer more broadly to anything that is “above board” or “legit.” The basics which define the foods that are fit for consumption for a Jew are pretty simple:

  • Certain species of animals including their eggs and milk are permitted for consumption, while others are forbidden, notably pork and shellfish.
  • Meat and milk are never combined. Separate utensils are used for each, and a waiting period is observed between eating them.
  • Meat must come from animals that are slaughtered in a specific and painless manner known as shechitah, and certain parts of the animal including the blood must be removed.
  • Fruits, vegetables and grains are basically always kosher, but must be insect free. Wine or grape juice, however, must be certified kosher.
  • Since even a small trace of a non-kosher substance can render a food not kosher, all processed foods and eating establishments require certification by a reliable rabbi or kashrut supervision agency.

Of course during Pesach (Passover) there are additional dietary restrictions,, and many foods that are kosher for year-round use are not “kosher for Passover.” A bagel, for example, can be kosher for year-round use but is certainly not kosher for Passover. Foods that are kosher for Passover, however, are always kosher for year-round use.  Traditional Ashkenazic Jewish foods like knishes, bagels, blintzes, and matzah ball soup can all be non-kosher if not prepared in accordance with Jewish law. When a restaurant calls itself “kosher-style,” it usually means that the restaurant serves these traditional Jewish foods, and it almost invariably means that the food is not actually kosher

So why do Jews observe the laws at all?

Many modern Jews think that the laws of kashrut are simply primitive health regulations that have become obsolete with modern methods of food preparation. However, health is not the only reason for Jewish dietary laws. Many of the laws of kashrut have no known connection with health. To the best of our modern scientific knowledge, there is no reason why camel or rabbit meat, both forbidden, is any less healthy than cow or goat meat.  some of the health benefits to be derived from kashrut were not made obsolete by the refrigerator, such as there is some evidence that eating meat and dairy together interferes with digestion.

The short answer to why Jews observe these laws is: because the Torah says so. The Torah does not specify any reason for these laws and there is no need for any other reason. Some have suggested that the laws of kashrut fall into the category of “chukkim,” laws for which there is no reason. Jews show their obedience to G-d by following these laws even though they do not know the reason. Others have attempted to ascertain G-d’s reason for imposing these laws. Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin suggests that the dietary laws are designed as a call to holiness. The ability to distinguish between right and wrong, good and evil, pure and defiled, the sacred and the profane, is important in Judaism and as such imposing rules on what you can and cannot eat ingrains that kind of self control, requiring us to learn to control even our most basic, primal instincts.  Furthermore he suggests that the laws of kashrut elevate the simple act of eating into a religious ritual.

Animals that may not be eaten:

Of the beasts of the earth you may eat any animal that has cloven hooves and chews its cud. (Lev. 11:3; Deut. 14:6)

Any land mammal that does not have both of these qualities is forbidden. The Torah specifies that the camel, the rock badger, the hare and the pig are not kosher because each lacks one of these two qualifications. Cattle, sheep, goats, deer and bison are kosher.

Of the things that are in the waters, you may eat anything that has fins and scales. (Lev. 11:9; Deut. 14:9)

Thus, shellfish such as lobsters, oysters, shrimp, clams and crabs are all forbidden. Fish like tuna, carp, salmon and herring are all permitted.

And these are they which ye shall have in abomination among the fowls; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, and the ossifrage, and the ospray, And the vulture, and the kite after his kind; Every raven after his kind; And the owl, and the night hawk, and the cuckow, and the hawk after his kind,And the little owl, and the cormorant, and the great owl,And the swan, and the pelican, and the gier eagle, And the stork, the heron after her kind, and the lapwing, and the bat. (Lev. 11:13-19; Deut. 14:11-18)

As far as birds go thee Torah is less clear. The Torah provides a list of forbidden birds, but does not specify why these particular birds are forbidden. All of the birds on the list are birds of prey or scavengers, thus the rabbis inferred that this was the basis for the distinction. Other birds are permitted, such as chicken, geese, ducks and turkeys.

All winged swarming things that go upon all fours are a detestable thing unto you.  Yet these may ye eat of all winged swarming things that go upon all fours, which have jointed legs above their feet, wherewith to leap upon the earth;  even these of them ye may eat: the locust after its kinds, and the bald locust after its kinds, and the cricket after its kinds, and the grasshopper after its kinds.  But all winged swarming things, which have four feet, are a detestable thing unto you. (Lev. 11:20-22)

The Sages are no longer certain which ones they are, so all have been forbidden. There are communities that have a tradition about what species are permitted, and in those communities some insects are eaten.

Of the animals that move along the ground, these are unclean for you: the weasel, the rat, any kind of great lizard, the gecko, the monitor lizard, the wall lizard, the skink and the chameleon. (Lev. 11:29-30, 42-43)

Rodents, reptiles, amphibians, and insects, except as mentioned above, are all forbidden.

Any product derived from these forbidden animals, such as their milk, eggs, fat, or organs, also cannot be eaten of course. Rennet, an enzyme used to harden cheese, is often obtained from non-kosher animals, thus kosher hard cheese can be difficult to find.

Kosher Meat Processing:

If the place the Lord, your God, chooses to put His Name there, will be distant from you, you may slaughter of your cattle and of your sheep, which the Lord has given you, as I have commanded you, and you may eat in your cities, according to every desire of your soul. (Deut. 12:21)

You shall not eat any carcass. You may give it to the stranger who is in your cities, that he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner; for you are a holy people to the Lord, your God. You shall not cook a kid in its mother’s milk. (Deut. 14:21)

If sheep and cattle were slaughtered for them, would it suffice for them? If all the fish of the sea were gathered for them, would it suffice for them? (Num. 11:22)

The mammals and birds that may be eaten must be processed in accordance with Jewish law. Jews may not eat animals that died of natural causes or that were killed by other animals. In addition, the animal must have no disease or flaws in the organs at the time of slaughter. These restrictions do not apply to fish; only to the flocks and herds

Ritual slaughter is known as shechitah, and the person who performs the slaughter is called a shochet, both from the Hebrew root Shin-Cheit-Teit. The method of slaughter is a quick, deep stroke across the throat with a perfectly sharp blade with no nicks or unevenness. This method is painless, causes unconsciousness within two seconds.  Another advantage of shechitah is that it ensures rapid, complete draining of the blood, which is necessary to render the meat kosher.  The shochet is not simply a butcher; he must be a pious man, well-trained in Jewish law, particularly as it relates to kashrut. In smaller, more remote communities, the rabbi and the shochet were often the same person.

And you shall not eat any blood in any of your dwelling places, whether from birds or from animals.  Any person who eats any blood, that soul shall be cut off from its people. (Lev. 7:26-27; Lev. 17:10-14)

The Torah prohibits consumption of blood.  This is the only dietary law that has a reason specified in Torah: we do not eat blood because the life of the animal (“soul”) is contained in the blood. This applies only to the blood of birds and mammals, not to fish blood. Thus, it is necessary to remove all blood from the flesh of kosher animals.

The remaining blood after slaughter must be removed, either by broiling or soaking and salting. Liver may only be made kosher by the broiling method, because it has so much blood in it and such complex blood vessels. This final process must be completed within 72 hours after slaughter, and before the meat is frozen or ground.  An egg that contains a blood spot may not be eaten.  The sciatic nerve and its adjoining blood vessels may not be eaten. The process of removing this nerve is time consuming and not cost-effective, so most American kosher slaughterers simply sell the hind quarters to non-kosher butchers.

Fruits and Vegetables:

All fruits and vegetables are kosher, but there are additional rules for grape products.  The restrictions on grape products derive from the laws against using products of idolatry. Wine was commonly used in the rituals of all ancient religions, and wine was routinely sanctified for pagan purposes while it was being processed. For this reason, use of wines and other grape products made by non-Jews was prohibited. For the most part, this rule only affects wine and grape juice, but some beers are not kosher because fruity beers made with grape products have become more common.

Separation of Meat and Dairy:

The choicest of the first fruits of your soil you shall bring to the house of the Lord, your God. You shall not cook a kid in its mother’s milk. (Ex. 23:19; Ex. 34:26; Deut. 14:21)

The Torah explains that this passage prohibits eating meat and dairy together.

The rabbis extended this prohibition to include not eating milk and poultry together. In addition, the Talmud prohibits cooking meat and fish together or serving them on the same plates.  It is, however, permissible to eat fish and dairy together with lox and cream cheese being a prime example. It is also permissible to eat dairy and eggs together.

This separation includes not only the foods themselves, but the utensils, pots and pans with which they are cooked, the plates and flatware from which they are eaten, the dishwashers or dishpans in which they are cleaned, the sponges with which they are cleaned and the towels with which they are dried. A kosher household will have at least two sets of pots, pans and dishes: one for meat and one for dairy.  One must wait a significant amount of time between eating meat and dairy. Opinions differ and vary from three to six hours after meat.

How many Jews keep kosher?

According to the 2000 National Jewish Population Survey (NJPS), 21% of American Jews report that they keep kosher in the home. This includes the vast majority of people who identify themselves as Orthodox, as well as many Conservative and Reconstructionist Jews and some Reform Jews.

Part of that 21% keeps kosher at home, but eat non-kosher food out of the home in varying  degrees. Some will eat cooked food in a restaurant or a non-kosher home, as long as the meal is either vegetarian or uses only kosher meat and no dairy products. Some will eat non-kosher meat in restaurants, but only if the meat comes from a kosher animal and is not served with dairy products. Some will go…whole hog and eat bacon out of the home while keeping a strictly kosher household.

“Everyone who keeps kosher will tell you that his version is the only correct version. Everyone else is either a fanatic or a heretic.”

~ Rabbi Jack Moline, “Growing Up Jewish” 1987

Sources: “Essential Judaism” Robinson, George. 2016. “Growing Up Jewish” Moline, Jack. 1987 Myjewishlearning.com. Chabad.org. jewfaq.org