The Bizarre Origin of Kosher Rules

The Bizarre Origin of Kosher Rules March 5, 2019

Today is Customer Appreciation Day, since this blog just passed another milestone! There are now more than 1200 posts, more than four million pageviews, and almost 350,000 comments. Thanks, everyone! Without your interest, this blog wouldn’t exist.

I didn’t know the basis for all the kosher rules, so I thought I’d find out.

Where do kosher food laws come from?

Part of the source of kosher food laws is the distinction between clean and unclean animals as specified in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Kosher land animals must have a divided hoof and chew its cud. Kosher fish must have fins and scales. Birds, insects, and reptiles are also enumerated. Anthropologist Mary Douglas has found some logic in what, at first glance, seems arbitrary (discussed here).

Things can get complicated. What about seaweed? Seaweed is kosher, but any microscopic crustaceans on the seaweed are not.

What about gelatin, which can be made from the skin and bones of both kosher and non-kosher animals? Some rabbis play it safe and label it non-kosher, though others say that it has been so completely processed that it no longer fits into the “meat” category.

What about honey, eggs, and cheese? What about food prepared by non-Jews? What about eating meat and fish together? Opinions vary.

The rules are many, and most come from later debate rather than directly from the Bible.

Meat and dairy

This is the “no cheeseburgers” rule, where beef (meat) and cheese (dairy) can’t be eaten together. Of course, the Bible doesn’t specifically say, “thou shalt not eat cheeseburgers.” What’s odd, though, is that it also doesn’t say, “thou shalt not mix meat and dairy.” What it does say (three times) is, “You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk,” and from this odd demand comes the no-mixing rule.

(This was the tenth commandment in the second ten commandments. You remember how Moses got one set of stone tablets, smashed them on the golden calf, and then went back up for a second set? Exodus 34 gives the second set, and it ends with the kid rule. The two very different sets of Ten Commandments are discussed here.)

Ever careful to avoid pissing off Yahweh (or perhaps just eager for an intellectual conundrum to wrestle with), Jewish scholars have spent gigajoules of mental energy through the centuries thinking up the correct resolution of many special cases. Out of caution they interpret the rule as much more than a demand to avoid that single dish, but where precisely in that command is the problem—is it the boiling? The specific animal (newly born goat)? The vehicle (milk)? The relationship (mother/offspring)? Which of these could be changed to bring it in line with Yahweh’s wishes?

Some have said that this was a popular dish among neighboring tribes. Many of the Old Testament rules strive to differentiate the Israelites from their neighbors—how hair is to be cut, mandatory circumcision, and no ritual prostitution, for example. Kosher food rules were just another way the Chosen People could set themselves apart. There’s more evidence for this separation in this rule: “Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land” (Exodus 34:15), which is in the same chapter as the Ten Commandments instance of the kid rule.

Some have said that this was a pagan fertility ritual and that the dish wasn’t meant to be food but was to be poured on fields for the benefit of crops or flocks. Since this ritual was an appeal to some other god, not Yahweh, it broke the no-idolatry rule.

Some have focused on the relationship—it pushes the cruelty button by cooking the kid in the substance meant for its survival. The mother has become an instrument in the destruction of her offspring, and the milk that gives life participates in death. Or maybe it pushes the incest button to mingle the life substances of mother and son.

Some say that mixing meat and milk was thought to be unhealthy.

One scholar has collected the various arguments into eleven categories (source, p. 120). All authorities agree that there is no consensus. Perhaps the origins of the rule were lost in time even to the original Bible authors.

Like the unclean animals rule, the no-mixing rule has gloriously complicated special cases. Does cheese or yogurt count as dairy? What rules apply to substitutes like almond milk? Can you cook meat and dairy for someone else to eat? Suppose you inadvertently mixed a tiny bit of meat in a dairy dish or vice versa—how much must you add to break the rules? Can plates, cutlery, and cooking pots be used for dairy and then cleaned and used for meat? Suppose you eat a kosher meat dish and then a kosher dairy dish—since meat and dairy are mixing in your stomach, is that a violation?

That’s a lot of hand wringing from the simple command to not make one particular dish. You’d think that if this is where God had wanted the Jews to go, he would’ve made that clear.

There is nothing the god you imagine
can do outside your head that I can’t do, too.
And there are many things I can do
that your god pretty obviously can’t. . . .
Outside your own imagination
your god is utterly powerless.
— commenter Max Doubt


Image from Eneas De Troya, CC license

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Doubting Thomas

    When religious people are in such vast disagreement about something so simple, I always like to ask “Why don’t you just ask God who is right?”

    You would think that this would be the first way to resolve such issues, but I’m guessing that even people who claim to talk with God have some understanding that they’re just chatting quietly with themselves.

    • Or, they take your suggestion seriously, have a good old pray with God, and come away with certainty that their opinions are now doubly correct–and that other bastard is a sinner.

      • Pofarmer

        Not only that, the other fellow needs to be smited, right now!!!!!

        • RichardSRussell

          I miss God Alsmitey since he ported his website over to Twitter.

    • Cynthia

      Nope. Jews don’t do the whole chat with God thing.

      There is a great midrash (religious story/explanation) about a case where scholars had a dispute. Most said the answer was A but one said it was B. Totally convinced that he was right, he appealed to God who confirmed that B was correct. The majority protested and argued that God had given the power to interpret to humans, and that there were specific rules like following the majority opinion to be followed. God then agreed with that argument.

    • carbonUnit

      God is a crappy communicator. Expect no guidance. (If God does offer guidance, it will be via some poor Jewish chef somewhere who will have the Truth reveled and then be left to convince the rest of us that this bit of divine revelation is the Real Thing.)

    • Jack the Sandwichmaker

      Why wouldn’t a god want to stick around and give us updates about these rules, if they’re so important?
      At least every time there’s a shift in the dominant languages, give an update so people don’t have to worry about translation issues.
      When new technologies or customs crop up, how about let us know how you feel, God?

      • A clear and unambiguous rulebook would be nice.

        • Cynthia

          This is where my legalistic Pharisee comes out.

          Coming out of this tradition is an approach which recognizes that laws are not always black and white. Which values debate and discussion about multiple approaches and layers of meaning. Which deeply considers all the implications of how a law would be applied and all the details.

          It is pretty much the opposite of the Protestant sola scriptura approach.

          Why care about this in 2019? Because this approach actually shapes modern legal thinking. It is what allows the Supreme Court to say that same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional, even if the Constitution itself never says such a thing.

      • ThaneOfDrones

        Updates? That would imply that the original list was incomplete or outdated. Which would imply that the listmaker was not omniscient and omnipotent.

    • Anat

      Well, the rabbis forbade Yahweh to intervene in their interpretation of his laws sometime in the late first century CE, so now they are stuck.

      • Cynthia

        Not so much stuck as free to handle interpretation issues themselves. The Talmud and the rabbinic tradition were able to update the law for a radically different context (Greco-Roman world and exile, as opposed to Canaanite world in a specific location).

        Like I said below, it is an approach that shapes how people today approach other lega texts. Even if people don’t consciously frame it as a religious argument, much of the debate about Constitutional interpretation and the degree to which you consider original meaning echoes this discussion – and in many cases, the preferred approach lines up with someone’s religious background.

      • ThaneOfDrones

        Well, the rabbis forbade Yahweh to intervene…

        Hilarious. As if that were a problem.

        • NS Alito

          “Don’t interrupt us, Yahweh, while we’re arguing over what you meant.”

  • It’s so weird that a tribe of people wanted to differentiate itself so much from neighbors that it devised all these bizarre rules.

    • Pofarmer

      Read Greg G’s thoughts below. I think he’s kinda onto something.

    • Chuck Johnson

      That might not be the motivation for these laws.
      Ignorance combined with blind obedience to authority might have caused a lengthy evolution of nonsense to happen.

      In fact, that might explain a large portion of what’s in the Bible.
      Foolishness so compounded that it caused apologists to come into existence.

    • Lark62

      Being able to differentiate “my group” versus “not my group” is important to knowing who you can attack and kill when you need more land and concubines.

  • Polytropos

    It seems like the context for the “no cheeseburgers” rule must have been something that was well understood when the Torah was written, and has since been forgotten. To me, this raises a whole other set of questions: is it actually possible for us to know what this rule is about? Does it apply in the modern context at all? Does it apply to something non-food related in a modern context, if it was originally meant to be a prohibition against non-Jewish rituals? It all gets very complicated very quickly.

    • Cynthia

      Jews actually have a category of laws which means “no obvious rationale”. A lot of the laws on kosher foods and purity and mixed fiber cloth, etc are in this category.

      • Polytropos

        Interesting! Thanks for making me aware of this.

      • Alle_1

        if that is so, it sounds like someone/somewhere got FINALLY TIRED of arguing their position i.e. “I GIVE UP…never mind…carry on…”

        • Alle_1

          IMHO, a smart move.

    • Lurker111

      It was probably a tribal thing that prevented tribe members from spending money on food from non-tribe vendors. Remember that the Abrahamic god was, in the original incarnation, just a tribal god.

  • nevbig

    cheese burgers typical of unhealthy n american diet .

    • Too many cheeseburgers are indeed a problem, though kosher laws aren’t the route to better health.

    • Jack the Sandwichmaker

      Removing the cheese doesn’t really fix the problems with burgers.

  • Aloha

    I married into a religion, Seventh Day Adventists, that also keep these food laws. Just that we don’t also have the Talmud, so it tends to be less strict. I’ve never heard anything about little crustaceans on your seaweed — and please, no one tell this to SDA’s and get them started!
    SDA’s promote being a vegetarian as the best path … then you don’t have to be so concerned about which foods are allowed or not.

    • Cynthia

      I hadn’t heard that microscopic crustaceans thing either, and I’ve actually studied kosher dietary laws.

      Now; what has actually become a thing is worrying about bugs on produce. Aphids apparently love romaine lettuce, and bugs are not kosher, so there are rules about how well you need to wash and check the leaves. Although to be honest, read enough about infested produce and you’ll start obsessing over it too. Organic produce is also more prone to bugs (no pesticides) so things like strawberries are apparently bug-prone as well.

    • Chuck Johnson

      Microscopes did not exist when the kosher laws were invented.
      This seems to be a comment added much later, not a part of the ancient laws.
      This seems to be Bob’s comment.

    • Jack the Sandwichmaker

      I remember hearing that New York City tap water was not Kosher because of tiny crustaceans in the water. Not sure if that’s true or not

  • eric

    I always figured some of the rules were of the “rabbi Bob got food poisoning when he did this, so nobody do this any more” variety.

    IOW the tribal elders were honestly trying to give good advice on avoiding risky foods, couched it in religious terms to give it extra cultural ‘oomph,’ and the reason they ended up with a long list of arbitrary rules is simply because of the vagaries of food quality and preparation.

    • Aloha

      I recently read that ancient Egyptians were also against pigs and pork. So maybe the Israelites got that prejudice from them.

      • Greg G.

        Do you know if that was Egyptians in general or just followers of Ahkenaten or some other group?

        • Aloha

          The book I read was just a survey. They didn’t specify which group. Although it couldn’t have been only during Akhenaten’s time … it was a long-established tradition.

        • Greg G.

          Thanks. I have a little pet theory that when Ahkenaten’s priests were run out of Egypt, they settled in Israel and convinced some Canaanites that they were descended from Abraham. I have read that circumcision may have been an Egyptian custom resulting from the story of Osiris being chopped into 13 pieces, then reassembled by Isis without his penis. They may have thought having an incomplete penis when being judges by Osiris in the afterlife might be beneficial in swaying the judgement. Or something like that.

        • Greg G.

          I did a simple search on my phone and it appears that ancient Egyptians did eat pork and domesticated pigs. Eventually, the habits of the pig became associated with Seth when he fell out of favor with some religions, so it might be possible that as Egyptians gods became manifestations of a single god, that might have been carried over.

          Seth was occasionally given the form of a pig. Given the ambiguous role Seth played in the order of things, knowing the correct formula to ban pigs may have been of some importance to the deceased trying to win his way through the Underworld:
          Another charm to repel the pig:
          To be spoken by Osiris NN in the presence of Osiris.
          Do be distant, lips of metal!
          I am Khnum, Lord of the Shenu, who transmits the words of the gods to Re. I make the message ready for the lord from. (sic)

          After a transliteration and German translation on the Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae website: Totenbuchprojekt, Nordrhein-Westfälische Akademie der Wissenschaften => pLondon BM 10793 => Tb 036 I

          The Middle Kingdom tale of Horus and the Pig attempts to explain why some Egyptians did not eat pork.

          O Batit of the evening, you swamp-dwellers, you of Mendes, ye of Buto, you of the shade of Re which knows not praise, you who brew stoppered beer – do you know why Rekhyt (i.e. Lower Egypt) was given to Horus? It was Re who gave it to him in recompense for the injury in his eye. It was Re – he said to Horus: “Pray, let me see your eye since this has happened to it” (i.e. since it was injured in the fight with Seth).
          Then Re saw it. Re said: “Pray, look at that injury in your eye, while your hand is a covering over the good eye which is there.”
          Then Horus looked at that injury. It assumed the form of a black pig. Thereupon Horus shrieked because of the state of his eye, which was stormy (i.e. inflamed). Horus said: “Behold, my eye is as at that first blow which Seth made against my eye!”
          Thereupon Horus swallowed his heart before him (i.e. lost consciousness). Then Re said: “Put him upon his bed until he has recovered.”
          It was Seth – he has assumed form against him as a black pig; thereupon he shot a blow into his eye. Then Re said: “The pig is an abomination to Horus.”
          “Would that he might recover,” said the gods.
          That is how the pig became an abomination to the gods, as well as men, for Horus’ sake…

          Source: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook
          A. de Buck, The Egyptian Coffin Texts ,Chicago, 1918, p. 326.

    • Cynthia

      “Ancient food safety or health code” tends to be a popular theory but there is really no evidence for it. Rather, it seems to be an explanation that fits modern concerns and some people want to see the text being logical to their modern minds.

      The cheeseburgers part is derived from something that might have some moral symbolism (not cooking a goat in its mother’s milk), but other prohibitions have no rational basis at all. Other ancient cultures ate the forbidden foods with no problem.

      They were the only group to declare that some things are taboo while other things are sacred. It is fairly common among Pacifuc Islanders, for example.

      • Mary Douglas makes some sense of the kosher animal rules. In short, you can eat “proper” animals, not weird ones–cows, not lizards; fish, not lobsters.

        • Cynthia

          But why would cloven hooves and cud chewing define a proper animal? Pigs and horses and camels, for example, would seem to be logical animals to eat. I don’t think it is particularly obvious and it also isn’t a prohibition for anyone but Israelites.

        • Rachel

          Over the years I read some practical and economical explanation of why ruminant animals are permissible but pigs are not. The early Israelites were desert nomads. They needed to move to where grazing was good for their flocks. Goats, sheep, and cows are not only herbivores, but they eat grass and scrub that humans can’t easily eat or digest. They aren’t in competition with people for food resources. In some ways their relationship was symbiotic. Humans who ate the meat and drank the milk of herbivores were absorbing the nutrients their animals could absorb from inedible plants that they themselves could not. Pigs are omnivorous and require a varied diet and are in competition for food with humans. A pig wouldn’t do well eating desert scrub nor do they do well in hot desert climates. It would take a rich man with plenty of land and resources to be able to keep a pig and gorge on its rich fatty flesh. Kosher rules were an ecomoic necessity and social equalizer. Egyptians had a more agrarian society more suitable to raising pigs, so they were more likely to eat them.

        • Greg G.

          Or they may have been listening to some lost or exiled Egyptian priest. The Egyptians had domesticated pigs but Set was associated with the pig. When a new religion rejected Set, they may have rejected pigs, too.

        • I believe cloven hooves and cud chewing = familiar and domesticated = normal. But, yeah, why not pigs, since they’re domesticated?

          You’ll have to read her article for an adequate explanation.

        • Kodie

          Similar reason we don’t eat dogs and cats? Similar reason you don’t find raccoon meat and swans in the butcher case at your grocery store?

        • Ignorant Amos

          It depends who the “we” are though.

          We don’t eat alligator here, but it is on the menu in the southern U.S., I’ve had it, to the amusement of my friends here.

          We don’t eat horse here, but it is fashionable in other parts of Europe, South America and Asia.

          We don’t eat dog meat, but the Chinese, Koreans, and Vietnamese among others, see no problem.

          There’s a company called Kezie that imports “exotic” meats into the UK. A High Street chain called Iceland is their main distributor. Among the products on offer are camel, kangaroo, ostrich, in an extensive list of products.

          We used to eat swan meat, but because all swans are the property of the queen, it is a big no-no. By law it was treason to eat swan up until 1998, but they became a protected species in 1981 anyway.

          There is a growing popularity for squirrel meat. Not the native red, but the American grey, which has run amok in the UK.

          Rabbit has always been on the cards as meat for food for we to eat.

          There are a lot of “we” that eat monkey meat. Though not here in the UK, but I read it was popular in the US in certain cultures…illegal to import, but that hasn’t prevented it. Mexico has Spider Monkey meat on the menu. In other parts of the world the meat of the monkey is considered a must have delicacy.

          We even eat rat meat. It is eaten in a stew in West Virginian cuisine and is a staple of some parts of the world. Apparently it tastes like pork. Street vendors sell roast rat on a stick in some parts.

          Frog and snails are still eaten in France.

          Snake meat is eaten in some places.

          Where we would have a KFC or Maccie D’s drive through, roast mice on a stick in Malawai is the thing.


          Cat meat, while still being eaten in some places, seems to be the one that has really fallen out of favor in recent times.

          What I’m trying to say is the “we” is a parochial thing. We eat what we can/could get our hands on. What medieval Britain ate and thought it perfectly normal, we Brits today find highly eccentric, even disgusting.

          When cattle, pig, sheep, chicken, is in abundance and the cheaper option for the common man, that’s what will fill the shelves in the west. All the rest will be fad, called exotic, or deemed eccentric tastes.

          Greg G is a regular visitor to Asia…Vietnam, so I’m sure he has a tale or two to tell about foods we wouldn’t dream of eating…scorpions or tarantula on a stick for example.

        • Kodie

          I know that people eat whatever, but the queen doesn’t own every swan in the world, so why in the US we don’t eat swans. And why swans? I mean, it’s arbitrary reasoning that the monarchy decides you can’t eat a particular animal, it’s like saying I like tigers, don’t eat tigers, but lions I don’t give a fuck. People start talking about ostrich steaks maybe 30 years-ish, and it’s become less like eating a pigeon, but still not widely found. Hunters might eat a raccoon on a camping trip (such as they might catch fish to survive on), but probably still isn’t sold as raccoon steaks at the supermarket. There is an Asian market near me that sells eels… there is a tank on the ground of eels and they are swimming around alive. It’s a good place to get exotic stuff you can’t or wouldn’t find in a typical supermarket that is for cooking Asian, or buying their weird grape kit-kats or aloe soda. I bought a jar of something eggplant something and it was so foul smelling when I opened it, that I bagged it up and immediately brought it downstairs to the dumpster. We got so used to sushi but it used to be considered gross, and yet, oysters are still gross and everyone here has always loved oysters. Nobody took a lot of arm-twisting to eat squid as long as it was deep-fried in batter, either. These are all in the same family to me – but if you watch some 80s tv and movies, there is always someone chic who reads magazines eating sushi, and someone else finding that disgusting, who would presumably eat oysters or calamari (since no tv show ever made fun of anyone eating those).

          I think the point is, different cultures like different things, and make cultural prohibitions against eating certain animals or even plants. Some things are just not easy to get, and some just sound gross. The way we approach what kinds of foods are good and which are nasty is a cultural meme. This one region and time preference got codified into the bible, but another thing I notice is, many Jews ignore these tricky rules. Whatever their branch has decided that it doesn’t apply in modern society, in another country, or whatever.

        • Ignorant Amos

          A can’t disagree with much of what you say.

          The queen doesn’t own all the swans in the world, of course not, but the reason they don’t get eaten here is because they belong to the monarchy going back to the 12th century and were only for the dinner table of royalty and a few other exceptions. If that had not been the case, perhaps swan would be as popular as chicken, duck, goose, or turkey.

          In some parts of the states, swan numbers are so high that they are considered a pest. Like the example of the grey squirrel, if they are to be culled to preserve the environment, then it seems a waste to not use the meat for food…if there are those wishing to partake.

          Religious dietary laws are a loada ballix and only for the most fundamental. Even Catholics don’t stick to fish on a Friday.

          The main gripe here is the way the animals are slaughtered. There is just no call for it anymore. If some rituals can be ignored or conveniently replaced, the need for kosher and halal meat should be top of the list. The “civilized” world shouldn’t be pandering to such nonsense.

          The latest thing that experts are saying will be a source of future protein, are insects. One mainstream major supermarket chain is already stocking the crispy critters…who knows.

          As to eels, they are historically a local food. Not at all seen as an Asian specialty. The largest eel fishery in Europe is less than 30 miles up the road from where I live. But like a lot of our fishing industry, the majority of product is now exported, because that’s where the money is at.

          Some foods seem to cross cultures better than others, but even within cultures certain foods are either loved or hated. Offal being a prime example here in the UK.

          P.S. a forgot to say, nice to see you commenting, even if it is only going to be a fleeting visit again.

          ETA link

      • ThaneOfDrones

        They were the only group to declare that some things are taboo while other things are sacred. It is fairly common among Pacific Islanders, for example.

        Is there supposed to be a “not” in that first sentence? That would make much more sense.

        Otherwise: who are “they”?

        • Cynthia

          Sorry, the boy is missing. “They” are ancient Israelites. My point was that there seemed to be some old human impulse to have ritual prohibitions, because Pacific Islanders and ancient Israelites wouldn’t have had contact.

  • aCultureWarrior

    I’m glad to see that you’re doing your assigned homework on Jewish dietary and ceremonial laws Bob. Perhaps you’ll be able to differentiate between universal moral laws and dietary laws the next time you delve into the subject of homosexuality.

  • Cynthia

    Just looked up what you wrote on the 2nd Ten Commandments thing. Interesting, but I noticed that this might be a translation issue.

    If you look up a side by side Hebrew-English version of the text, what is called the Ten Commandments in English is actually called the Ten Utterances (Dibrot) in Exodus 33:28. This refers back to the text saying that these statements were made to the entire people, not just Moses. The word for commandment is mitzvah, and that is the word used in Exodus 33:11. As you noticed, there are a ton of commandments other than the Ten Commandments.

    (This is just one of MANY lost in translation examples. I have no clue how anyone thinks that KJV only or any other scholarship based solely on translations is a thing.)

    The main duplication is with the Exodus version vs the Deuteronomy version.

    • I think you mean Ex. 34, not Ex. 33?

      I’m not sure exactly what you’re correcting. I appreciate that “commandment” may not be the best translation, but the ten whatever-they-were in Ex. 34 were a replacement for the original ten in Ex. 20, right?

      • Cynthia

        Just read it over again. I don’t agree.

        The Ten Commandments /utterances at the beginning of Exodus 20 are 10 statements made to the entire people.

        They aren’t the only commandments. The text continues to talk about more and more commandments for a few chapters.

        Then, Exodus 24:12 talks about the writing of the laws, and this seems to refer to EVERYTHING, not just the Ten Commandments.

        There are other points and questions with this whole narrative, but I don’t see the Exodus 34:11 stuff treated like Exodus 20 stuff. The language and description is clearly different.

        • I guess our point of disagreement is on Ex. 34 being version 2 of Exodus 20.

          I agree that it sounds like everything was written on the first 2 tablets, so that’s a difference. But we do have two tablet-writing instances, separated by one tablet-breaking instance. Ex. 34 sounds like a recreation of that first set (or a subset of it).

        • Ignorant Amos

          Definitely two different sets of “Ten Sayings”…I think this is a Christian fuck up in interpretation. The Jews don’t have much of a problem. The thing is, if Christians agree they are commandments like the first ten, cheese burgers are off the menu and they’ll have to concede Mr. Deity isn’t perfect after all.

          Jews know they are two different sets. One in Exodus 20, repeated again in Deuteronomy 5, is on ethics, the one in Exodus 34 on rituals.

          No excuse, the bit about writing the the same words on the second tablets is the problem. The scholars think this is because it is two authors work being sewn together…poorly.

          Whatever way one tries to square it all, it’s a balls up to be sure. But that’s the buybull for ya. The inspired work of a perfect being, my arse.

        • I’m happy with a ritual vs. ethical decalogue, but the core problem remains: the Bible doesn’t make this distinction, and the second set (Ex. 34) is very clearly a replacement for the first (smashed) set in Ex. 20.

          Indeed, this isn’t a matter of interpretation, because the first verse of Ex. 34 makes this clear: “The LORD said to Moses, ‘Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones, and I will write on them the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke.’”

        • Michael Murray

          The inspired work of a perfect being, my arse.

          You wouldn’t think that if you’d ever had hemorrhoids.

    • Ignorant Amos

      Quite right.

      Aseret ha-Dibrot: The “Ten Commandments” should really be the “Ten Sayings”.

      But what about the so-called “Ten Commandments,” the words recorded in Exodus 20, the words that the Creator Himself wrote on the two stone tablets that Moses brought down from Mount Sinai (Ex. 31:18), which Moses smashed upon seeing the idolatry of the golden calf (Ex. 32:19)? In the Torah, these words are never referred to as the Ten Commandments. In the Torah, they are called Aseret ha-D’varim (Ex. 34:28, Deut. 4:13 and Deut. 10:4). In rabbinical texts, they are referred to as Aseret ha-Dibrot. The words d’varim and dibrot come from the Hebrew root Dalet-Beit-Reish, meaning word, speak or thing; thus, the phrase is accurately translated as the Ten Sayings, the Ten Statements, the Ten Declarations, the Ten Words or even the Ten Things, but not as the Ten Commandments, which would be Aseret ha-Mitzvot.

      The Ten Commandments [Sayings] actually represent category headings.

      There are really 613 mitzvot [commandments]…all with equal status. It’s not the place of humans to apply severity to one over the other.

      According to Jewish tradition, G-d gave the Jewish people 613 mitzvot (commandments). All 613 of those mitzvot are equally sacred, equally binding and equally the word of G-d. All of these mitzvot are treated as equally important, because human beings, with our limited understanding of the universe, have no way of knowing which mitzvot are more important in the eyes of the Creator. Pirkei Avot, a book of the Mishnah, teaches “Be as meticulous in performing a ‘minor’ mitzvah as you are with a ‘major’ one, because you don’t know what kind of reward you’ll get for various mitzvot.” It also says, “Run after the most ‘minor’ mitzvah as you would after the most ‘important’ and flee from transgression, because doing one mitzvah draws you into doing another, and doing one transgression draws you into doing another, and because the reward for a mitzvah is a mitzvah and the punishment for a transgression is a transgression.” In other words, every mitzvah is important, because even the most seemingly trivial mitzvot draw you into a pattern of leading your life in accordance with the Creator’s wishes, rather than in accordance with your own.

      And most of those commandments are ridiculous, or self evident. What should of concern is the important stuff that is missing.

      • Cynthia

        Thanks. Pointing out inconsistencies in a Christian translation is fine, but I just have a bit of a pet peeve about anyone doing Biblical criticism of the OT but getting basic stuff wrong, like translation issues. There is more than enough oddities, duplications and other fun stuff to deal with in the actual text. I took a (secular) university course on Ancient Israelite History that got into the Documentary Hypothesis and deep into some text analysis, but it was made very clear that we were working with translations and we needed to look things up in sources like the Anchor Bible (scholarly side-by-side translation with original text) to check the actual wording.

        There’s so much stuff that is actually fun to point out and deal with based on the actual original text, stuff based on bad translation is just a distraction. Here’s one if you want some fun: the book of Deuteronomy seems to be a book written in the time of King Josiah, and then passed off as having been “lost” until it was found by some workers doing reno work in the Temple. Really. Does it make any sense that people who revere a book as being given by God would simply misplace it? But that’s what 2 Kings 22:8 seems to be saying.

        • What a coincidence, because a similar thing happened to me! God told me just last night that he’s been guiding my hand in creating this blog and that everyone should read it religiously and treat me as a prophet.


        • Greg G.

          Christianity is founded more on the Septuagint than the Hebrew. Jerome assumed that the Hebrew would be more directly from God so Christians started to favor the Hebrew version around the 5th century, except where they likecthe Septuagint better, like the virginity implied in Isaiah 7:14 LXX but not in the Hebrew.

        • epicurus

          And then again in the Renaissance and Reformation period when they were getting back to the Greek and Hebrew after just having Jerome’s Latin. You’d think they’d say – hey why are some things like Isaiah 7:14 and the many Jesus “prophecies” importantly different in the Hebrew? I guess it’s obvious why they wouldn’t want to go too far down that road.

      • human beings, with our limited understanding of the universe, have no way of knowing which mitzvot are more important in the eyes of the Creator.

        You mean the human beings who are created in the image of God?

        Humans are like God or unlike God as suits the situation, I suppose.

    • Michael Murray

      There also remains the question of what the 5 commandments on the missing tablet were

  • Chuck Johnson

    They seem to have been started to insure healthy food practices, but the ancient experts were not as scientific as modern food preparation experts.
    They also seem to have been distorted after being passed down for generations.
    The ancient writings were based upon earlier oral traditions.

    So we seem to have healthful eating advice passed down for generations like a game of telephone.
    It’s no wonder that the resulting food laws appear bizarre and nonsensical to modern science-educated observers.

  • Chuck Johnson

    “There is nothing the god you imagine
    can do outside your head that I can’t do, too.”

    God-the-fictional-character can do all sorts of things.
    He can cause religions to come into existence, he can inspire the construction of vast cathedrals.
    You haven’t done anything like that, Max.

    But then the way that God works is quite different than the way that you work.
    Your efforts are physical and mechanical.
    God must have human hands to accomplish any kind of goal.

    And the thoughts of God are an illusion.
    God’s thoughts consist of the collective thoughts of humans. Those thoughts are then projected onto God.

    So when you consider him as a thought, God is a powerful thing.
    But as a physical being, well there’s no such thing.

    • epeeist

      He can cause religions to come into existence, he can inspire the construction of vast cathedrals.

      You have it the wrong way round, it is religions that invent gods, not gods that invent religions.

      • MR

        Such a simple explanation that explains and neatly resolves the inconsistencies and paradoxes. A simple shift in perspective and it all becomes clear and so obvious.

        • Pofarmer

          I’m trying to be charitable to Chuck, but he really seems like a dumbass.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Seems like?


        • epeeist

          I’d go further. At least part of the reason gods were invented was because we have what Justin Barrett calls a “hyperactive agency detection device”, a built in mechanism that causes us to see agency in everything.

          Secondly, I am with Jared Diamond, religions and gods come about when civilisation generates a surplus which allows the formation of a kleptocracy. Two things will work, “Give us part of your production and we will intercede with our god on your behalf.”, but more likely, “Nice little shack/family/cow you have there, give us some of your production and we’ll make sure that our god doesn’t take against you.”

      • Chuck Johnson

        It’s people that actually and really do the inventing.

        Religions inspire the invention of gods and gods inspire the invention of religions. Both religions and gods are ideas.

        All of this is the inventing done by humans.

        • epeeist

          It’s people that actually and really do the inventing.

          Well it is people that invent religions of course.

          Both religions and gods are ideas.

          The question is whether one is realist or a nominalist when it comes to ideas.

          EDIT: Of course if religions and gods are simply systems of ideas then one has to ask why they should be privileged over other systems of ideas.

        • Chuck Johnson

          “EDIT: Of course if religions and gods are simply systems of ideas then one has to ask why they should be privileged over other systems of ideas.”

          As an atheist, I know that those are just ideas.

          The religionists have been indoctrinated to know that those special religious ideas are sent to us from a super-being far more knowledgeable and moral than we poor humans are. – – – So don’t challenge those ideas.

          Instead, children need to be taught critical thinking.

  • epicurus

    Whew, no mention of Honeycomb cereal. Gorging on it while binge watching a Great Courses lecture series is one of my favourite pastimes.

    • Michael Murray

      As long as you aren’t sitting there in track pants made from a mix of fibres. That could lead to you being stoned.

      • epicurus


  • RichardSRussell

    Kosher rules are just an innovative way of diverting money from suckers into the hands of the rabbinate.

    But at least the rabbis had to deal with real, physical objects to get it. Christians one-upped them with promises of many post-mortem invisible intangible abstractions per dollar donated: nothing for something.

  • ThaneOfDrones

    Halal Pastures: Where Faith “Meats” Family Farming

    If anyone were to pay complete attention to the animal they are going to eat, from how it was raised to how it died, they would naturally gravitate to halal.

    Anyone – that would include me, a godless person, right?

    before slaughter … a prayer is said in recognition of the sacrifice the animal is making…

    While 90–95% of our customers are Muslim, we do have non-Muslim customers. The consensus seems to be that halal meat is cleaner, because the blood gets drained from the animal before processing. People seem to look for that…

    It depends on the Islamic scholar you speak to, but the person who is doing the slaughter has to believe in one God. So, the personal belief and the intention of the person performing the slaughter is very important. The person who does our slaughtering here at Halal Pastures has a deep understanding of our religion. I believe there is a spiritual element that gets transferred between the person and the animal—it all counts.

    Editor’s Note: All of Halal Pastures’ meat is hand-slaughtered by trained, Muslim slaughter professionals

    I, a godless person, would like to state the following for the record:
    * I do not care that a prayer is said before or during the slaughter of the animal.
    * I do not believe that meat is “cleaner” with the blood drained. Blood sausage, anyone?
    * I do not care about the religious inclinations of the person who slaughters the animal I am going to eat.

    • Isn’t kosher/halal slaughter more cruel to the animal? That’s my biggest objection.

      But I could be misinformed.

      • Herald Newman

        My understanding is that the animal must be conscious before you slit the throat and let it bleed out. I would call that cruel!

      • Ignorant Amos

        The holy rollers argument is, that if done by an expert, that it is not. They’re talking ballix of course.

        Say what ya like about Hitler, but he made it illegal to kill animals without prior stunning.

        The majority of Rabbi’s and Imam’s refuse to accept stunning as a prerequisite to ritual slaughter.

        The legislation pertaining to the practice in Europe are set out here…

        • Michael Murray

          he made it illegal to kill animals without prior stunning.

          Non-human animals presumably 🙁

        • Ignorant Amos

          Of course….he was a vegetarian apparently…wouldn’t doubt he could’ve been a vegan ffs…the way they get on.

        • Susan

          could’ve been a vegan ffs…the way they get on.

          Be careful. All of the vegans I know personally I know are quiet about it. Two of them worked in abattoirs and decided they couldn’t be part of our standard food system.

          The other five based it on learning about our food system.

          I think Kodie (I hope she comes back soon. I miss her) made an excellent point about vegans and atheists running into the same problems.

          Just stating that you are one invites accusations of arrogance.

          But most of those who accuse people of arrogance can’t support the systems that are expected to be taken for granted.

          That is not to say that there can’t be arrogant versions of people who hold those positions.

          But holding that position does not make a person arrogant.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Obviously not all of any group are, or behave, the same. But there is a problem with a growing number of militant vegans here in the UK. Hence my quipping analogy to Hitler.

      • islandbrewer

        Yes. Animals must be bled out while conscious, so they aren’t stunned, according to both sets of rules.

    • Herald Newman

      As somebody who doesn’t eat anything that shits, I don’t care how you killed it, I’m not going to eat it!

      Regarding Halal slaughter, I find it rather repugnant that an animal must be conscious while it bleeds out and dies. At least have the decency to stun the thing into unconsciousness before you slice its throat.

      • Ficino

        I saw a video of a young camel being slaughtered. The pain and terror that they forced upon the camel was horrific.

      • Agreed very much. Since it’s gonna die to feed us give at least the poor animal a death as fast and painless as possible.

        Halal looks very much like a sacrifice, especifically one as bloodthirsty as much sacrifices were everyday stuff in many other faiths back in the day.

        • Arpit KUMAR GAHLOT

          It is a blood sacrifice. Hence the prayer to Allah.

    • Greg G.

      If anyone were to pay complete attention to the animal they are going to eat, from how it was raised to how it died, they would naturally gravitate to halal.

      I think it would tend to drive one to vegetarianism.

      • Cynthia

        FWIW my husband had a research summer job in university that required him to collect cow cells from an abattoir. He saw both regular and kosher slaughter – and was totally unable to face the idea of eating beef after that. We were pescatarian for the first years of our marriage. I went back to beef while pregnant due to cravings (and anemia) but he still tends to avoid it.

        • I’m hopeful that synthetic meat will be the answer.

        • Cynthia

          As long as it tastes better than some of the tempeh stuff they serve at the vegan places my oldest insists on going to. Raising a gluten-free vegan makes kosher rules look like nothing.

    • Cozmo the Magician

      Hmmm.. sounds like they are in direct violation of federal employment laws. Since they state that ONLY a person of a one god faith can butcher their meat.

      • Cynthia

        No, it’s a bona fide occupational requirement so it is permitted.

    • Ignorant Amos

      Blood sausage, anyone?

      Fried black pudding with a breakfast fry up…can’t beat it.

      Of course that’s pig blood sausage…I’ll be burning in Hell for that double bumper.

      • Greg G.

        Doesn’t the product of two kosher negatives make a kosher positive?

        • Jim Jones

          Like bacon wrapped scallops? Yeah, no.

  • Lurker111

    It’s all tribal propaganda.

  • Cozmo the Magician

    I’ve said sooo many times. If god really existed and gave a shit about the human race he would have given us a recipe for SOAP and told people to bathe and make sure the BOIL drinking water. But nooooo, he was more concerned about telling people not to look at the nice ass on the neighbor’s wife (or something like that).

    • No, he was focused on important things like “don’t plant different crops in the same field.”

      • Greg G.

        The Native Americans did it differently. They planted corn, beans and squash together. The squash shaded the dirt to keep it from drying too much. The corn stalks were for the beans to grow on, and the beans fixed nitrogen in the soil.

        The corn and beans made complete proteins and the squash provided vitamin C.

        • I saw a demonstration farm in E. Africa. They also mixed crops deliberately. One interesting addition: marigolds to keep away bugs.

        • Greg G.

          When I was a kid, we had green onions and marigolds planted around the perimeter of the garden to keep the rabbits out.

          I saw an article on the internet a few days ago that marigolds interfere with white flies’ ability to smell. (Too brain-dead to recall the crop they were studying.) It said the scientists thought the flies would not develop an immunity because it didn’t kill them.

        • Perhaps you remember a commercial (in the 70s?) that mentioned “the deadly pyrethrum daisy.” And, of course, by that they mean “the daisy,” since Pyrethrum is the (now outdated) genus of the common daisy.

          There’s apparently some kind of natural pesticide in daisies.

        • Jim Jones

          There are natural pesticides in many or most plants. Opium, morphine and nicotine are well known examples.

        • Morphine is a pesticide for the opium plant? That’s a nice way to go, I suppose.

      • Arpit KUMAR GAHLOT

        That entire injunction, which also prohibits ox and ass yoked together, and linen and wool woven together, is entirely theological. Basically meaning Israelites shouldn’t mix with their neighbors, else the “crop will be defiled”. Hebrews sure had third rate advice on agricultural matters. After all, the more intelligent ones sat their entire lives sifting through theology.

        • I see the higher-level point, but it wasn’t just metaphor, right? Those were actual laws.

    • Cynthia

      You have to at least admit that Deut. 23:13 is decent advice for pooping in a desert.

      • Cozmo the Magician

        Ya know, even the cats I have been owned by knew that idea. They still never came up with the idea of soap.

      • Greg G.

        I have read that if they had left the turds on top, it would have dried out and killed the parasites. But burying it allowed the parasites to survive and enter the next person’s foot through an abrasion or something. So maybe they should have buried it after it dried out.

  • I’ve also said it several times: the all-mighty God creator of an Universe as vast as this one that works under rules as bizarre as quantum mechanics, and is so concerned about what to eat and what not as well as other things so typical of a Bronze Age deity. Odd at least.

    Since He supposedly created everything maybe either should not have made things He dislike or them inedible.

  • Jim Jones

    I suspect that most of these rules were made up by people who had personal preferences. They either became, or those people claimed they were, god’s rules when in reality they were mere idiosyncratic rules.

    I don’t care for corn nor for Brussels sprouts however I doubt this will become the law of any religion any time soon.

    OTOH, Mormons won’t drink tea which makes them insane lunatics to me.

    • Ignorant Amos

      OTOH, Mormons won’t drink tea which makes them insane lunatics to me.

      I thought it was any caffeine based drink?

      There’s more than that foible that makes them insane lunatics as far as I’m concerned. Magic underpants has to be up there.

      • Technically (and originally), it’s hot drinks. That’s been interpreted as “no caffeine” today. I don’t know how they got from A to B.

        Mormon Mitt Romney, when on the campaign trail, raised some eyebrows when he ate some coffee ice cream. He was using the old rule–it was coffee, but it wasn’t hot, so it was OK.

        • islandbrewer

          The original justification (as I recall) had something to do with the “brewing of potions” which, in the 19th century, was interpreted as forbidding coffee, and secondarily tea. Some alternate non-mormon theory was that Joseph Smith hated coffee, and made up a rule forbidding it.

          Aaaand generations of mormons have been fucked out of enjoying beverages ever since.

          Edit: I used to work with a mormon (rather devout, respected in his … precinct? temple, whatever …) who drank hot chocolate (hot AND caffeine-containing). I never asked him about it.

          Edit: The LDS organization owns a BUTTLOAD of Coca-Cola stock, btw.

        • Jim Jones

          They built and own a mall in downtown SLC were stores sell all sorts of forbidden stuff.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Well whata ya know.

          Doctrine and Covenants

          Section 89

          9 And again, hot drinks are not for the body or belly.

          A wonder how that works out in practice?

          Seems interpretation has slackened that Doctrine and Covenant a wee bit.

          In the Word of Wisdom, the Lord commands Mormons to abstain from harmful substances. Mormons are taught not to drink any kind of alcohol (see D&C 89:5–7). Mormons are also taught not to drink “hot drinks,” meaning coffee or any tea other than herbal tea (see D&C 89:9), and not to use tobacco (see D&C 89:8). Latter-day prophets have also taught that Mormons should abstain from using illegal drugs and abusing legal drugs (see For the Strength of Youth [booklet, 2011], 26).

          Wtf is all tea if it’s not herbal?

        • “no hot drinks” ==> no caffeine is an illogical progression very similar to to “don’t boil a kid in its mother’s milk” ==> “don’t mix milk and meat.”

      • Pofarmer

        Pretty sure it’s colored drinks of any kind.

        • Brian Davis

          I don’t think this is correct. I spent some time living in Provo UT. I knew plenty of people there who would avoid any drink containing caffeine. But none of them had a problem with drinking root beer. It’s a very popular fountain drink there.

        • Pofarmer

          Apparently It’s tea and coffee. Now they even say coke and pepsi are ok. Next they’ll be dispensing with the nagic underware.

    • Ralph Meyer

      Yeah, Mormonism is the religion created by a NY jerk who was a known charlatan and a convicted con-man. It’s been conning fools and stupid nitwits ever since. Interesting: one professor at a Mormon college went on a several year search for evidence of what the Book of Mormon says…and found:..absolutely NOTHING. It’s just a bunch of crapola foisted on the unthinking by Joe Smith.

    • Connie Beane

      I seem to remember when I was in high school (eons ago) that my Mormon classmates were forbidden to drink Cokes. Rumor has it that that restriction was quietly done away with when the LDS heavily invested in Coke stock.

      • Jim Jones

        > Joseph Smith owned a bar in Nauvoo (after the Word of Wisdom was received).

        I hear.

  • Ralph Meyer

    This is just another example of a religion setting up hoops for unthinking people to jump through to get the fools to believe they’re something special and that their non-existent deity likes them where she/he/it doesn’t like others who are unlike them. It’s just a bunch of the usual horse puckey!!!

  • Connie Beane

    Here are a couple of thoughts.

    On the meat/dairy thing, supposedly an interpretation of the “Thou shalt not seethe the kid…, etc.” This admonition may well be at its heart simply an instruction to treat animals humanely. In order to cook a young animal in its mother’s milk, you have to separate a nursing calf from its mother, an act that could cause her physical and emotional distress.

    As far as the distinction between animals as being kosher or non-kosher, the key factor may not be hoofs or cud-chewing but whether the animal is (or was believed to be) a herbivore, a carnivore, or an omnivore. Pigs and lobsters, for example, will eat flesh–including human flesh–and may have been avoided by the early Hebrews for that reason.

  • stevie68a

    I read somewhere that the real reason pork is not eaten be many religions, is that it tastes like human flesh!
    It’s probably true.

  • Jim X

    Real atheists don’t eat animals. Kosher and Hallal are as stupid and cruel as the false, non existent gods they represent.

    • Aram

      Not sure what atheism has to do with being vegetarian. Perhaps you meant sentientism. Not saying you’re wrong about eating meat, just quite a leap you made in logic there.

    • Ignorant Amos

      Wtf is a real atheist? What has eating animals got to do with beliefs in gods?

  • Mamacat90807

    It all boils down to the same thing: MEN making up stupid sh!t as they go along. Then they make up ways to get around their own rules.

  • Fred Rickson

    What?…something stupid in religious law. Who would have guessed? And, don’t forget, the big rabbi honchos get paid to make such decisions.

  • Jill F

    Many atheists eat meat, probably most.

    • Agreed. Are you going anywhere with this?

      • Aram

        I think Jill F meant to reply to Jim X below. (or, based on the similarities between their call signs, it’s Jim X’s carnivorous alter ego acting out – who can say?)

      • Jill F

        I was actually replying to another comment but it got posted in the wrong place, as an answer.

  • Nica

    The 1992 British comedy “Leon, the Pig Farmer” about a mix-up in artificial insemination has fun w/ some kosher rules. In one scene particularly, when rabbis try to figure out whether the meat from a cross-bred animal (clean/unclean) can be eaten!