– a Definition
"Kosher" is a Hebrew word that literally means "fit" or "proper." When used in relation to food products, "kosher" means that the item in question meets the dietary requirements of Jewish law.
The principles governing what is kosher and what is not, are rooted in the Written Torah (the Bible) and the Oral Torah. These laws have been observed by Jews for over 3,000 years. Over the centuries, the Rabbis have explained, detailed and organized these Divine laws, applying them to ever-changing situations and developing technologies.
Although, as we mentioned above, Kosher Laws are complex and could many book shelves, the basics can be broken down into the following categories:
Permitted and prohibited food sources
Preparation of meat
Separation of meat and dairy
Kosher ingredients and utensils/equipment
Kosher for Passover
We will address each of these areas in brief.
Why do Jews eat kosher? Through the years, people have suggested theories about the health benefits of kosher food. Some say that kosher food is less vulnerable to parasites and bacteria. Others theorize that the non-permitted species of animals are hunters whose natures might affect the characters of the people who consume them.
Be that as it may, the bottom line is that Jews eat kosher because G-d told them to do so, whether or not they understand the whys and wherefores. If this is what G-d commands, the observant Jew trusts that this food is the best nourishment for him, body and soul.
It is easier to understand that foods may have latent physical benefits or dangers of which we are unaware. Who imagined a century ago that animal fat would be regarded as a hidden killer? And who would have guessed that the humble carrot was really a cancer fighter in disguise?
From the Jewish point of view, kosher food is the optimal diet for our spiritual health, while foods prohibited by the Torah are the trans fats and refined sugars of our unique spiritual metabolism. We may not understand exactly how it works – but we know that "kosher" is the ultimate Jewish regimen!
Each kosher certification agency has its own symbol, which you may have noticed on food packages. The symbols are registered trademarks and cannot be placed on a food label without the organization's authorization. The letter "K" by itself is generally an unreliable identifying mark, since it often has no Rabbi or certifying organization backing up the company's claim to kosher status. A majority of all prepackaged foods today have some kind of kosher certification, and most major brands have reliable Orthodox certification.
It is interesting to note, a significant sector of the market for kosher products is composed of people who are not interested in the kosher aspect at all. Kosher certification is a buying card for many Muslims, Seventh Day Adventists and vegetarians. People who are allergic to grain products stock up each year on the grain-free Kosher for Passover products available. In addition, many people prefer kosher products because they believe them to be cleaner, healthier or better than their non-kosher counterparts.