Kosher foods are food items that conform to the policies of the Jewish dietary law, which is commonly known as kashrut. According to this law, the term kosher basically means fit for consumption in the context of food. Foods that do not conform to the Jewish dietary law are considered to be unfit for consumption and are known as treif foods. Treif foods are not fit for consumption due to various reasons including the existence of ingredients originating from non-kosher animals, those from animals not killed in a ritually appropriate way. The other reasons for the consideration of these foods as unfit include ingredients from Israel's produce that has not been tithed, a combination of various items produced without supervision, and utilizing non-kosher cooking equipments and machinery. Generally, kosher foods are governed by every law of kashrut, which not only contain foods that can and cannot be eaten but also contain how these foods should be prepared in order to be considered fit for consumption.
Basic Rules of Kosher Foods:
As previously mentioned, kosher foods are those that meet the standards of the Jewish dietary law or kashrut. This legislation is primarily used to describe ritual items that are made based on the Jewish law and are suitable for ritual use. While kashrut laws contain details on how these foods should be prepared, kosher is not a cooking style and there is no kosher-style foods. This implies that any kind of food whether Chinese, Indian or Mexican can be kosher food if it is prepared based on the Jewish law ("Jewish Dietary Laws," par, 3). On the contrary, traditional Jewish foods such as matzah ball soup and bagels can be treif foods i.e. unfit for consumption if they are not prepared in compliance with the Jewish Dietary Laws.
The Jewish Dietary Laws, which form the basic rules of kosher foods, originated in the Bible, particularly Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 17. Leviticus 11:1-42 and Deuteronomy 17:3-20 not only contain a list of certain kosher foods but also contain some basic rules of these foods. Rabbinic scholars have constantly codified and interpreted these laws and applied them to modern situations. These measures have been accompanied by the enactment of protective regulations to protect the integrity of kosher laws. As a result, the definitions of kosher foods have constantly evolved in reaction to societal changes such as changes in global culture, the food industry, and the Jewish people.
The evolution and changes in the Jewish definitions of kosher has been influenced by the fact that Jews are currently living in and have adopted food traditions from different countries across the globe. This has contributed to varying Jewish ethnic cultures, various branches in Judaism, and varying Jewish kosher certifying agencies. Moreover, these definitions have changed because gentiles have become more interested in kosher foods in the recent past. To ensure that current kosher foods comply with the basic rules in Jewish Dietary Laws, kosher certification labels are printed on packages of these foods (Shomoni, par, 6). Kosher certifying authorities have also emerged to determine the status of prepared kosher foods because of increased complexity of foodstuffs in today's society.
In light of the changes in today's society, hotels, caterers, and restaurants are required to meet certain conditions in order to be kosher. The most important condition is supervision by a credible Orthodox Rabbinic authority. Restaurants, hotels, and caterers are not merely kosher because of the creation of a kosher impression in advertisements. They only become kosher if supervised by a reputable Orthodox Rabbinic authority and found to meet kosher regulations. A meal is kosher if it meets the regulations in the Jewish Dietary Laws on foods and how they are prepared. Similarly, after reputable kosher supervision, a restaurant is kosher if it contains food items that are kosher and prepares them based on regulations in the Jewish Dietary Laws.
Different Categories in Keeping Kosher:
There are different categories involved in keeping kosher in order to differentiate these foods from treif foods. The most common categories in keeping kosher include animals, meat, poultry, fish, and slaughtering. Kashrut states that kosher mammals are animals that chew their cud and are cloven-hoofed such as antelope, cow, goat, and sheep. Land animals that do not meet both qualities such as hare, pig, and camel are considered as non-kosher foods. Even though these laws do not state specific characteristics to differentiate permitted and prohibited birds, they list 24 prohibited species of fowl while the rest are regarded as kosher. The two criteria for determining kosher fish are fish with fins and scales and the scales must be easy to remove without any damage on the skin.
According to the Jewish Dietary Laws, cooking meat and milk together in any form is prohibited. This ban extends to consuming such cooked products and obtaining any benefit from them. In order to protect the integrity of kosher, the Rabbis expanded this prohibition to ban the eating of meat and dairy products i.e. milk at the same meal or preparing them using the same equipments. In addition, milk and its related products cannot be eaten after consuming meat, for a period of time. While there are different traditions on the period of time to wait between meat and milk products, the most commonly used duration is six hours ("What is Kosher Food?" p.5).
With regards to slaughter, animals and birds that are fit for consumption must be slaughtered based on the Jewish law. It is prohibited to eat animals that died of natural causes or those that were killed by other animals. Furthermore, for an animal to be kosher, it must have no illness or flaws in the organs during slaughter. However, these regulations are not applicable to fish but only to herds and flocks according to Numbers 11:22. The means of slaughtering an animal is to use a quick, deep stroke across the throat with an absolutely sharp cutting edge with no unevenness. This is the preferred slaughtering method because it is painless, generates two-second unconsciousness ("Jewish Dietary Laws," par, 19). The other regulation regarding slaughtering is that consumption of blood is prohibited since the life of an animal is contained in the blood. Therefore, all blood must be removed from the flesh through rapid draining and either soaking, salting, or broiling.
Kosher in Today's World:
The modern society is characterized with numerous changes that have contributed to the evolution of kosher rules and their application. As previously mentioned, this evolution in definitions and regulations are geared towards protecting the integrity of kosher. Consequently, keeping kosher in today's world is quite different from the traditional methods, though they are based on the Jewish Dietary Laws found in the Bible. In today's world, keeping kosher has mainly been simplified through widespread kashrut certification carried out by different kosher certification authorities. Actually, three-quarters of all pre-packaged foods in America and Canada have certain kosher certification with credible Orthodox certification.
Kosher certification agencies have also simplified the process of keeping kosher in today's world by indicating whether the food products are pareve, milchig, or freishig. Milchig products are dairy products, which usually have a D. Or Dairy next to the kashrut sign. Meat products are usually symbolized with an M. Or the word Meat near the kashrut symbol. On the contrary, Pareve products are not indicated with letter P. But rather the word Pareve or Parev since P. means Passover in Jewish culture. In cases where these symbols do not appear in the packages of food products, clarifications are made in the ingredient list to help an individual determine whether it is meat, dairy, or pareve.
Despite these measures, keeping kosher in today's world is relatively a difficult process since food products are no longer prepared in the family kitchen like in the…