The Laws of Kosher Animals

Leviticus 11:1-47

This chapter lists the animals, birds and fish which the Torah deems Kosher or not Kosher. For some creatures, specific criteria are listed, while for others, acceptable and unacceptable species are identified with no explanation provided.


Among the land animals, we are told that Kosher creatures must both have split hooves and chew their cud. If it has one sign without the other, it is unacceptable. The Torah singles out four animals which have one sign but not the other: the hare, hyrax and camel chew their cud but do not have split hooves by Torah standards, while the pig has split hooves but does not chew its cud.


Among sea creatures, only those with both fins and scales are permitted.


Among birds, a list of forbidden birds is provided, although the precise identities of many are unclear today. Observant Jews eat only birds that have been held to be acceptable throughout the generations.


Most insects are forbidden, but the Torah permits flying insects which walk on four legs and have jumping legs as well. Those without jumping legs are unacceptable.


The Torah also lists which animals transfer contamination to those who touch their carcasses. A person who becomes contaminated must remains so until evening, and under certain circumstances must wash his clothing before being purified. The Torah goes on to explain what happens to utensils that become similarly contaminated. Even Kosher animals can transfer contamination if they die instead of being slaughtered ritually.


God explains that all these laws are designed to help the people become holy, because God says He is holy. As the Israel Bible explains, God is requiring of the Jewish people to distinguish themselves from the other nations. He gives them an incredible responsibility, to live a holy life, follow His laws and become close to Him. Thus they can become a positive influence on the world.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

Why do you think the Torah specifies the four land animals which have only one Kosher sign without the other, implying all other animals will have either both or none?

Comments ( 8 )

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  • Katharine

    Thank you so much all of you, for your insights. I've just joined and am so grateful for these discussions already! 🙂

  • SueJean Heinz

    What if there was really no reason for why Elohim selected some animals to be eaten and others are not to be eaten?
    What if the whole definition of food is given for a single purpose and that purpose is to see if we will obey HIM?
    Eating the forbidden fruit got Adam and Eve thrown out of the Garden and they lost eternal life.
    What does that slice of bacon or pork chop or shrimp cocktail cost us?
    Baruch Hashem.

  • Herman Arentsen

    These four animals have only one sign of being kosher. Nothing of all and all do not need to be discussed. Only those “mixtures”. 4 animals which are frequently in the surroundings. A camel is a means of transport, the coney and the hare are not so difficult to catch and also seen in great quantities. The pig easy to keep but is an eater of everything. (omnivorus) So it eats rats/mice but also other not kosher food. Obvious that its meat will contain things that are not harmless to men.
    Still all 4 not to be eaten. Because the Eternal One (Blessed be His Name) does not like a mixed attitude , a divided heart, a mixture of wool and linnen. You shouild be pure, undivided and wholehearted before the G-d of Israël.

  • Angela B

    In answer to the question, I frankly can’t see a hidden meaning to that statement, I believe we don’t have to reason much about everything (hope my answer is not offending anyone); some scriptures are plain, with literal meanings while others have sod meanings.

    • Pauline Graham

      Hi well when we see that some animals eat grass and are permitted. Look what happens when an inhis wisdom, feed these animals meat, ie they eat sheep and dead ground cow. There came all these brain Desease, if they ate what they should none of these would of happened. For the animals welfare and our health, which Yehovah cares about.

  • Diana Brown

    To teach us that nearly kosher is not really kosher. We must be mindful and discern and choose to obey and sacrifice when we are pulling away from non-kosher foods for the sake of His Name. We have nothing good in us and we can’t go into the store and purchase a pound of faith to use when needed. The only measure of faith we are given comes from Him and is only activated as we focus on His Love for us and our Love for Him. From this place, love starts, holiness is manifested and the earth holds her breath for the Sons of God to be revealed.

    • Kenneth Osterman

      Building upon Diana’s comment that nearly kosher is not really kosher.
      We need to look closer to ensure that what we seek is kosher.
      To make this very personal, are we kosher?
      On the outside, it is obvious that we are not clean – we are sinful – we are not kosher.
      But if we view God’s children from His perspective of a clean heart, we may see that others can be kosher.
      Psalm 51
      ט תְּחַטְּאֵנִי בְאֵזוֹב וְאֶטְהָר; תְּכַבְּסֵנִי, וּמִשֶּׁלֶג אַלְבִּין. 9 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
      יב לֵב טָהוֹר, בְּרָא-לִי אֱלֹהִים; וְרוּחַ נָכוֹן, חַדֵּשׁ בְּקִרְבִּי. 12 Create me a clean heart, O God; and renew a stedfast spirit within me.

      • Doreen Poole

        Kenneth I agree with you. The inside of the cup needs to be clean, not just the outside. We need not have the appearance of holiness and have an unclean heart. Create in me a clean heart.

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