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What Does "Kosher" Mean?


If you're not Jewish, "kosher" is a word you've probably used only in the context of things being OK, as in, "Is everything kosher for the party tonight?" Or, "You don't look so well, is everything kosher?" Outside of that, most goyim (that's non-Jews, for all you non-Jews) probably have some vague impression that kosher refers to food that has been blessed by a rabbi or something. It's not quite that simple.

Kosher is a Hebrew word that means fit or proper. Although the word usually refers to food, it may apply to anything considered ritually correct or acceptable according to Jewish law. For example, a witness in a trial conducted under Jewish law may be called a kosher witness.

Kosher food is food prepared according to Jewish dietary laws, which are based on passages from the Biblical books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy. For example, the laws specify that bread is kosher if it contains no forbidden fat and was not baked on the Sabbath. The laws also forbid foods from animals considered impure, including pork and shellfish. In addition, only certain parts of the acceptable animals, such as cattle and sheep, may be eaten. Also, to be kosher, animals must be killed by ritual slaughter, called shehitah. This method is designed to kill animals as quickly and painlessly as possible. Before the meat is cooked, it must be drained of blood by being soaked in cold water, and then salted. It is not kosher to eat certain foods together. For example, milk and other dairy products may not be eaten with meat. Jews who keep a kosher home must have one set of dishes and cooking utensils for meat meals and another set for meals that include dairy products. *

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