According to the Torah, kosher food is God’s diet for a spiritual life and non-kosher food hinders spiritual progress. Judaism does not suppress the three of the strongest instincts in man, viz. the impulses of food, sex, and acquisition, but aims at their control, sanctification and transformation into legitimate joys of life. With regard to food, man may yield to evil impulses if he is a glutton.
Kashrut, or Jewish dietary law, prohibits consumption of certain animals, prohibits cooking or heating food on the Sabbath and mixing of meat and dairy products. It also demands adherence to specific ways of preparing meat for consumption. Jewish food is prepared in accordance with the Kashrut guidelines with the aim of injecting meaning into something even as commonplace as eating. It is also aimed at bringing about self discipline. If one can be sciplined in what one eats he is expected to be disciplined in other spheres of life too. Many of these rules also came about for health and sanitary reasons.
Earthly Benefits Too
But today kosher food markets are offering earthly as well as heavenly benefits. The kosher food industry is reinventing itself in such a way that the health and diet conscious too are turning to kosher food. Non-Jewish customers are today a major segment, if not the larger segment, among kosher food users. Kosher food is clean, healthy and tasteful packaged. For processing cold, flowing spring water is used. For packaging also there are numerous inspections and strict regulation. .
Kosher certification is being increasingly accepted as a sign of healthy, clean and superior quality food, and this trend is rapidly catching on. With more and more people adopting kosher food, many food companies are obtaining the kosher seal of approval for their brands and have been able to increase their sales significantly.
Kosher certification has given consumers extra assurance of quality and purity. For kosher certification all nutritional supplements are required to be manufactured under the supervision of a rabbi or by a kosher certification agency. Up to 2004 as many as 85,000 products were certified kosher as compared to 18000 in 1998
Today kosher food is available widely and can be ordered online too. Visit Kosher Market and Crazy Kosher for all kosher food on the web.
Growth of the kosher food market among Jews is much less compared to the non-Jews who are crossing over to this variety. Kosher is not a style of cooking. Even Chinese food can be kosher whereas much Jewish food can be non-kosher. See Kosher Food Recipes
Broader Aim of Kasrut
The broader aim of kasrut is to bring in self control by preventing instinctive eating and observing what one eats, how he eats it and how it is prepared. Apart from the need for the animals to be ruminant and have split hooves, they should be tranquil and domesticated as it is believed that we may absorb these characteristics by consuming such meat. Similarly scavengers, carnivores or birds of prey are not kosher and are avoided because we do not wish to imbibe their traits.
- An animal should have fully split hooves and rumination (chewing its cud) in order to be kosher. As pig has only split hooves, it is not kosher. Kosher animals and birds must be slaughtered according to the Jewish law (Shechita) which involves cutting the animal's trachea and oesophagus (the carotid and jugular are also severed) with a surgically sharp knife in a swift, continuous movement by an expert. This method of slaughter brings down the blood pressure in the animals to a minimum and facilitates swift unconsciousness, followed by death. Blood must be removed from the meat and certain fats known as chelev are not to be consumed.
- The animals should be free from 70 different types of injuries and diseases to be kosher. Dairy products are not to be eaten along with poultry. Vegetables in your garden are kosher unless they have in them non-kosher bugs.
- All species of fruits and vegetables are kosher. Initially God wanted all to be vegetarian (Genesis 1:29), but later granted permission to eat meat as a concession to human weaknesses (Genesis 9:2-5). Thus, being a vegetarian makes it easier to keep kosher. Vegetarians are not bound like meat eaters to use separate utensils for meat and dairy foods, or give gap of three to six hours between eating meat and dairy products, or store four sets of dishes, pots and silverware. A vegetarian also does not run the risk of eating blood or the flesh of non-kosher animals. For better understanding refer to Separating Kosher Food Myths from Facts
- Grape products require proper supervision for use by Kashruth-observant Jews This applies to wine, grape juice, grape jelly, vinegar, and all soft drinks that use white grape juice as a sweetener. It does not apply to fresh grapes or raisins.
While the Torah states that one who consumes non-kosher food is infected by an unclean spirit, the health benefits of kosher foods cannot be ignored. As kosher laws strictly dictate how animals are to be fed, killed and processed, kosher food remains a safe choice even among the non-Jews, especially in view of repeated cases E. coli and mad cow disease.
With increase in instances of rough handling of animals, keeping Kosher means eating a much healthier grade of meat.
Diseased and dead animals are considered non-kosher. This necessitates checking of the inner organs to ensure that the animals are healthy and we are free from ingesting germs and impurities. Similarly as mixing milk with meat interferes with digestion, it is forbidden by the Torah. One must give a gap of up to six hours between eating meat and dairy products.
Kosher foods are ideal for Lactose Intolerant and food allergic people. Many veins and fats of animals are forbidden by the Torah and have to be removed. Blood of an animal or bird, which is a medium of bacteria, is required to be drained out of the animals.
With strict supervision of religious inspectors, sick or injured animals that would be normally be accepted in non-Kosher markets are ruled out
Kosher slaughter practices require slitting the jugular of the animal with absolute minimum of pain and suffering. But because animals are killed without anesthesia, Jewish slaughter laws are criticized by animal rights organizations as inhumane. Though some countries allow such slaughter practices on religious grounds, several countries have imposed restrictions and even outright bans on Jewish slaughter. Rendering animals unconscious with anesthesia is forbidden by Kashrut to avoid inhumane means of anesthesia and consumption of diseased animals. Instead the skill of the Shochet (kosher slaughterer) and the sharpness of the knife are relied on to slit the jugular painlessly.
Recently kosher slaughter has been undergoing some changes to minimize the pain and fear of the animals. The traditional "hoisting and shackling" method has been giving way to a pen which is a slower and more expensive process.
- Soul Food
- for Everyone
- Why Kosher?
- Health Benefits of Kosher Food
- Frequently Asked Questions - Kosher Food