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Laws of Religion

Laws of Judaism Concerning Food

 

8.  Other Rules Concerning Animals on Land

 

from the Biblical Books of Moses (Torah)

and the Code of Maimonides (Mishneh Torah)

 

 

Other Rules Concerning Animals on Land

From the Biblical Books of Moses (Torah)

 

Israelites do not eat the sinew that covers the hollow of the thigh of an animal.[1] (Editor’s note: This is based on the text of the story of Jacob wrestling with God rather than on an explicitly recorded “commandment” from God.)

 

Animals that go on their paws, among those who go on all four, are unclean* to an Israelite and touching the carcass of one of them makes the person impure until the evening.[2] An animal that goes on its belly, goes on all four or has many feet is an abomination.[3]

 

Creeping animals are unclean to an Israelite and not permitted for eating.[4] Such forbidden creeping animals include the weasel, the mouse, the lizard (or tortoise), the gecko and the chameleon.[5] (Editor’s note: The names of these creeping animals vary from translation to translation because their identities are not completely known.)

 

An ox that gores a person to death must be stoned; its flesh may not be eaten.[6]

 

 

Other Rules Concerning Animals on Land

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

 

The punishment for eating the sinew in the hollow of the thigh of a clean* animal, but not an unclean one, is flogging.[7] This punishment is applicable only if the quantity eaten is at least the size of an olive or if the whole sinew is eaten even if the whole sinew is smaller than an olive.[8] An additional flogging is warranted for each sinew eaten either whole or in excess of an olive’s bulk.[9]

 

Eating a creeping animal violates a negative commandment of the Torah (Leviticus 11:41). Therefore the punishment for eating an amount of such a creeping animal equal to the size of an olive is flogging. These creeping animals are things like snakes, scorpions, beetles and centipedes.[10] If a person eats one or more of the creeping things listed in the Torah (Leviticus 11:29-30), then flogging is the punishment if the total quantity of all of them eaten is equal to the size of a lentil.[11] (Creeping animals are also a source of ritual impurity.)

 

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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.

 

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

 

Updated October 15, 2016

 

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Food Laws of Judaism, Table of Contents

 

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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.

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] Gen 32:32

[2] Lev 11:27-28

[3] Lev 11:42

[4] Lev 11:29, Lev 11:41

[5] Lev 11:29-30

[6] Exod 21:28

[7] MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 2 on Forbidden Foods, Ma’achalot Assurot; Chapter 8, secs 1-2 (pages 360M 190-191Y); MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 2 on Forbidden Foods, Ma’achalot Assurot; Chapter 8, sec 5 (pages 362M 192Y)

[8] MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 2 on Forbidden Foods, Ma’achalot Assurot; Chapter 8, sec 2 (pages 360M 191Y)

[9] MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 2 on Forbidden Foods, Ma’achalot Assurot; Chapter 8, sec 3 (pages 360M 191Y)

[10] MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 2 on Forbidden Foods, Ma’achalot Assurot; Chapter 2, sec 6 (pages 294M 159-160Y)

[11] MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 2 on Forbidden Foods, Ma’achalot Assurot; Chapter 2, sec 7 (pages 296M 160Y)