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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)

4.  Hooves and Cud

From the Biblical Books of Moses (Torah)

 

It is permitted to eat animals that have cloven (split) hooves and chew their cud.[1] Animals permitted for eating include the ox, the sheep and the goat.[2] Also permitted are the deer and the gazelle,[3] as well as the roe deer, the wild goat, the mountain goat, the antelope and the mountain sheep.[4]

 

It is forbidden to eat animals that don't have cloven hooves or don't chew their cud.[5] Animals that chew their cud but are forbidden because they do not have cloven hooves include the camel,[6] the rock hyrax (coney),[7] and the hare.[8] Swine, which have cloven hooves, are forbidden for eating because they do not chew their cud.[9]

 

It is forbidden to either eat or touch the dead bodies of these animals which do not have cloven hooves or do not chew their cud because they are unclean* to an Israelite.[10] Touching the carcass of such an animal, even unknowingly, renders a person impure.[11]

 

 

Hooves and Cud

Jewish Law (Halakha) from the Code of Maimonides (Mishneh Torah)

 

As the Torah says, to be permitted for eating, an animal must have cloven hooves and chew its cud. An animal which chews its cud has no front teeth in its upper jaw. According to Maimonides, the only animal that chews the cud but does not have cloven hooves is the camel; the only animal that has cloven hooves but does not chew its cud is the pig.[12]

 

There are procedures, described by Maimonides, for unusual cases of identifying clean* and unclean animals, such as when the mouth and/or hooves have been cut off, when a clean animal gives birth to an apparently unclean one and vice versa, etc.[13]

 

Only the ten animals listed in the Torah are permitted for eating. These include three domesticated animals:  the ox, the sheep and the goat. The seven permitted wild animals are the hart, the gazelle, the roebuck, the wild goat, the pygarg, the antelope and the mountain sheep. Subspecies of these are also permitted, such as the wild ox and the buffalo. All these have cloven hooves and chew their cud[14]. (Editor’s note: The names of the animals vary from those listed above from the Torah citations due to different translations. The two translations of the Mishnah Torah we have used also list different names.)

 

The punishment for eating an amount the size of an olive of either meat or fat from an unclean animal is flogging.[15]

         

Eating human flesh or fat is not permitted because man is not one of the species permitted for eating by the Torah. The negative commandment prohibiting the eating of animals without cloven hooves does not, itself, prohibit the eating of human flesh or fat since man is not of the type of living creature that has cloven hooves. Therefore, the eating of human flesh or fat is not punishable by flogging since it is a violation only of a positive commandment and not a negative one.[16] Since eating human flesh is prohibited only by a positive commandment, not a negative one, the consumption of human milk is permitted,[17] though the Sages ruled that an adult may not suckle milk directly from a woman’s breast.[18]

 

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* We use the words "clean" and "unclean" to refer to animal species that are permitted (kosher) or forbidden for eating; other things or people are referred to as being "pure" or "impure" or, occasionally for more clarity, as "ritually pure" or "ritually impure." A separate section of this website is devoted solely to the issue of ritual purity in Judaism.

 

 

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

 

Updated October 9, 2012

 

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Food Laws of Judaism, Table of Contents

Index – Food Laws of Judaism and Islam

 

Abbreviations used in footnotes:

Gen: The Biblical book of Genesis.

Exod: The Biblical book of Exodus.

Lev: The Biblical book of Leviticus.

Num: The Biblical Book of Numbers.

Deut: The Biblical Book of Deuteronomy.

MT:  The Mishneh Torah of Maimonides (Code of Maimonides). The names of the specific books and treatises within each book are given according to the Yale University Press translation and also the Moznaim/Touger Hebrew transliterations to facilitate locating the texts posted here. (Book 10, the Book of Cleanness, has not been published by Moznaim.)

F:  indicates page numbers in the Feldheim Publishers, Ltd., translation of Book 1 of the Mishneh Torah of Maimonides, the Book of Knowledge.

M:  indicates page numbers in the relevant volume of the Moznaim Publishing Corporation’s Touger translation. (Some of the books of Mishneh Torah are published in several volumes by Moznaim, so the Moznaim volume numbers do not correspond to the Book numbers of Maimonides’ work.)

Y:  indicates page numbers in the translation of the Yale University Press Judaica Series.

  The sources cited are described on the page Source Texts Used for Laws of Judaism.

 



[1] Lev 11:3, Deut 14:6

[2] Deut 14:4

[3] Deut 12:15, Deut 12:22, Deut 14:5

[4] Deut 14:5

[5] Lev 11:4

[6] Lev 11:4, Deut 14:7

[7] Lev 11:5, Deut 14:7

[8] Lev 11:6, Deut 14:7

[9] Lev 11:7, Deut 14:8

[10] Lev 11:8, Lev 11:26, Deut 14:7-8

[11] Lev 5:2, Lev 11:26

[12] MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 2 on Forbidden Foods, Ma’achalot Assurot; Chapter 1, secs 1-2 (pages 282M 153Y)

[13] MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 2 on Forbidden Foods, Ma’achalot Assurot; Chapter 1, secs 3-7 (pages 282-284M 153-154Y)

[14] MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 2 on Forbidden Foods, Ma’achalot Assurot; Chapter 1, sec 8 (pages 284M 154Y)

[15] MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 2 on Forbidden Foods, Ma’achalot Assurot; Chapter 2, sec 2 (pages 292M 158Y)

[16] MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 2 on Forbidden Foods, Ma’achalot Assurot; Chapter 2, sec 3 (pages 294M 158Y)

[17] MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 2 on Forbidden Foods, Ma’achalot Assurot; Chapter 3, sec 2 (pages 304M 164Y)

[18] MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 2 on Forbidden Foods, Ma’achalot Assurot; Chapter 3, sec 4 (pages 306M 165Y)