Keeping kosher is a big part of the Orthodox Jewish world. Only certain foods are permitted, and those foods need to be prepared in a very specific way in order to be considered kosher, or fit and proper to be eaten.
The definition of kosher animals is dictated in the Torah. It says that only animals that chew their cud and have split hooves are permitted to be eaten. Some of these animals would be cows, sheep, deer, lamb and goats. Kosher birds includes those that are a part of the tradition. Common poultry eaten today includes chicken, turkey and duck. The Torah also lists birds which may not be eaten; they are birds of prey such as eagles and vultures.
Birds and mammals that are to be eaten must be ritually slaughtered to be considered kosher, as well. A shochet, the man who preforms this ritual slaughter, kills the animal with one quick stroke against the throat with a very sharp blade, or chalet. If the stroke is delayed, prolonging the pain of the animal, or if the knife is not sharp enough, the animal is rendered unkosher and may not be eaten by Jews. Before it is slaughtered, the animal must be healthy and completely uninjured.
Because of the laws of kosher slaughter, keeping kosher mean that hunting is forbidden. Due to the way these animals are killed, they are automatically rendered unkosher. When learning about what is kosher meat and looking for some in a store, one must look for a heksher on the package. A heksheris a symbol that will tell who the agency is that overlooks that product's kashrut status.
Keeping kosher may mean different things to different communities at times. Those who keep glatt kosher have a stricter idea of what is kosher meat. The word glatt means smooth in Yiddish. In the context of kashrut, it refers to the lack of blemish in the internal organs of the animal. For something to be considered glatt kosher, the organs, specifically the lungs, must be completely smooth. If the lungs are found to be blemished when the animal is opened, it is considered to be not kosher, or treif. Not all Orthodox Jewish people keep glatt kosher.
The definition of kosher fish includes those fish that have both fins and scales. This means that shellfish such as shrimp and lobster are forbidden.
When keeping kosher, it is crucial to know that meat and dairy products must not be eaten together. In three separate places, the Torah says "You shall not cook a young goat in its mother's milk." (Shemot 23:19, 34:26; Bamidbar 14:21) In the Oral Torah, this has been translated to not eating milk and meat products together. Because of this law, kosher homes usually have two sets of dishes. Foods that are neither meat, or basari in Hebrew, nor dairy, or halevi, are considered to be pareva. These foots would include fish, vegetables, fruits and eggs. A certain amount of time is required to pass before eating dairy foods after one has eaten meat. Depending on the community, this length of time can be six hours, three hours or one hour.
The definition of kosher technically does not only pertain to food. The word means proper or fit, and can apply to things other than what one eats.
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