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Laws of Religion

Laws of Judaism Concerning Food

from the Biblical Books of Moses (Torah)

and the Code of Maimonides (Mishneh Torah)

 

 

1.  Introduction to the Laws of Judaism Concerning Food

 

Our summaries of the Laws of Judaism (halakha) are based on two key source texts of Jewish law: the Torah (the first five books of the Bible, often called the “Books of Moses,” namely, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) and the Mishneh Torah of Moses Maimonides, written in the 12th century. The reasons for selecting these two sources, and the methods we used to prepare our summaries based on them, are described on the page Source Texts Used for Laws of Judaism.

 

There is no attempt in this work to explain contemporary interpretations of any of the passages or how they are applied in the practice of Judaism today except that we have included what Maimonides wrote concerning whether particular laws apply everywhere or only within the Land of Israel and whether such laws apply at all times or only, for example, when the Temple in Jerusalem is standing. Our summaries are emphatically not intended for use as guidance for religious practice. This work is simply a summary of what the cited texts say in the English translations referred to.

 

The summaries of the Laws of Judaism concerning food cover forbidden foods and other topics generally applicable to everyday life. In some cases we mention offerings of food to be made only when the Temple in Jerusalem (which was destroyed in 70 A.D.) is standing. The rules associated with the Sabbath or specific religious festivals or holidays, fasting, specific blessings to be recited over food, rules concerning the abstemious Nazirites and the detailed rules given by Maimonides in Book 6 of the Mishneh Torah on the subject of oaths concerning food are not included here.

 

In some places we attempt to clarify what is written in the original texts by offering an explanation of the meaning. Such comments are always placed in parentheses and are usually introduced with “Editors note.”  The reader should have no problem recognizing these occasional comments by us.

 

Throughout the rules cited in the Torah and in Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah concerning food, reference is made to things that are clean or unclean, pure or impure. A separate section of this website is devoted solely to the issue of ritual purity in Judaism and discusses these topics in greater detail. We use the words “clean” and “unclean” to refer to animal species that are permitted (kosher) or forbidden for eating. To describe the ritual state of a thing or person we use “pure” or “impure” or, occasionally for more clarity, “ritually pure” or “ritually impure.”

 

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Laws of Religion is a project of the Religion Research Society.

 

Updated October 15, 2016

 

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