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Judaism Questions


So, over the time the two of us have been on NMG, we've gotten a few questions about Judaism. We decided to start a Message Board to try and answer your questions. We are not Rabbis, and don't claim to have any kind of a degree in Jewish law; however, we're both observantly Jewish and would be happy to answer your questions to the best of our abilities.

Ask away! :)

Rina and Sarah

NOTE: The wonderful Shira has joined the question-answering team! Proceed with questions. :)

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  • can i help with this i am jewish
    • Mod S2S Mentor
      If you see any questions you'd like to answer, by all means, go right ahead! :)
  • Other than like pork and stuff, what is considered non kosher?
    • Mod S2S Mentor
      I'm assuming you're asking in the context of food? (Technically, the term "kosher" simply refers to anything considered "proper" according to Jewish law, whether in regard about food, homes, services, or anything else—but people use the word most in conjunction with food, I believe.)
      There are a number of requirements and rules to determine whether food is kosher or treif (nonkosher), so I'll just try to write up a list of criteria as simply as I can—keeping in mind that this is not at all a simple topic, so that's easier said than done. xD)

      - As Shira said, fish/sea creatures must have both fins and scales to be kosher (So, again as Shira said, shellfish are not kosher—but, for instance, salmon is.)

      - Land animals must both have split hooves and chew the cud. (So, by these criteria, pork is treif, because while pigs do have split hooves, they don't chew cud. To be honest, I'm not entirely sure why pork is so much more well-known for being nonkosher than other types of animals, but there you go. xD)

      - For birds, unlike with land animals or sea creatures, there's not really a specific set of criteria to determine whether a given bird is kosher or not; instead, there's pretty much a list of kosher birds, and any other bird (including all birds of prey, as rule of thumb) are treif by default.

      - Animals have to be slaughtered according to specific laws, or they are automatically treif, even if the animal itself does fit the criteria of chewing cud and having split hooves.

      - Food is divided into three categories: milchig (dairy products), fleishig (meat products), and parev (for the most part, this category includes anything that's vegan, plus eggs and fish—fish aren't viewed as meat according to Jewish law). Milchig and fleishig products cannot be mixed or the food becomes treif, even if originally, on their own, the products in question would be kosher. Parev is neutral, and can be eaten with either milchig or fleishig food.

      - As an overarching rule, any food that comes into contact with treif food, notwithstanding whether it was kosher originally, becomes treif itself. "Coming into contact" includes not only the food touching other food, but even indirect contact through something like cooking utensils or dishes—so if someone eats shrimp (treif), and then later on there's a vegetable dish on the same plate that held the shrimp, the vegetables become treif. (Even though there's nothing wrong with vegetables in and of themselves.) For this reason, most Orthodox/observant Jews will actually have two completely sets of dishes (my family doesn't, but that's because we don't eat meat or dairy in the first place!), one which they use for milchig meals, one for fleishig, and keep them entirely separate so as not to risk "contaminating" any of their dishes or food by accidental mixing.

      I'm sure there are more criteria that I'm neglecting to mention here, but hopefully I got most of them! Because I'm vegetarian and also don't eat dairy, my diet is actually exclusively parev, so many of these rules aren't quite as relevant to my personal life. xD
      • Okay. thanks! That is very interesting and thanks for writing it all up :)
    • Fish must have fins and scales to be kosher, I know that. So, shellfish are not kosher aka treif. To tell you the truth, I don't keep kosher (although I am vegetarian so that takes care of a lot) so I'm not very educated on the topic
      • ahhh ok
        • I know that horse is not kosher so therefor jello is not kosher because it is made of horse bones
  • Soo, what makes observant Judaism different than other types? (Mostly for Sarah)
    • Mod S2S Mentor
      Hmm... let's see. *tries to think of a way to answer this question without using the word "observant" in my answer* xD

      To some extent, the definition of the term "observant", in the context of religious observance, can be rather subjective anyway. That said, the best way I can think of to explain it (or at least, to explain how I use the word) is that it's a matter of how strictly someone adheres to Jewish law. Judaism (in its most traditional form) involves a myriad of mitzvot and halachah (basically, laws)—many of them very complex—that influence pretty much every aspect of life, on the personal level, the family level, the community level, and the universal level. Some examples of these laws (but certainly nowhere near a summation!) might be keeping kosher (I think I remember answering a question about that a while ago on this discussion?), not cooking, doing work, writing, etc. on Shabbat (known as being "shomer shabbos"), saying brachot (blessings) on the many occasions when they are relevant throughout the day, and so on and so forth.

      However, especially in modern times, many Jews do not observe (whoops, there I go again with that word :P let's say, they don't follow) all of these rules anymore; some are completely or almost completely secular, and even among those for whom Judaism still plays a religious role, many consider the laws flexible (or even outdated), and so either don't adhere to them at all or are less strict about how close they follow them.

      For the most part, I'd say that observant Judaism refers to Jews on the Orthodox area of the spectrum (Orthodox being a "branch" or group of Judaism that is generally very strict about adhering to all aspects of the halachah), although there are also some individuals who live observant lifestyles but are affiliated with another, overall less strict group, such as Conservative Judaism.

      I'm not at all sure if I understood/answered your question correctly, so if this doesn't make sense, or if I didn't really answer what you were wondering, feel free to clarify and I'll try to give a better response! And of course let me know if you have any other questions about observant Judaism. (Or anything else.)

      (Also, Shira, feel free to chime in if you have anything to add from your perspective as a Reform Jew. :))
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