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?