Here begin the dietary laws, of kosher kitchens. This runs beyond the exceptional treatment of sacrifices, to be eaten by specified persons under specified circumstances. What follows here are temporary restrictions for all, and foods designated as unclean, prohibited unconditionally. It’s not just pigs – but the entire range of creatures on land, in water, or flying in air! How do you feel about eating bugs, or infested groceries?
Food is kasher, or kosher, and terefah, or treif, or torn, according to Talmud and traditions. Complex dietary practices can be reduced to public health and quaint anthropological custom. That’s another commonplace of glib liberals. Better, let’s engage this possibility of discipline and conscious restraint on consumption, seeking purity. Google ‘Sarah Coakley’ as an accessible scholar reclaiming ancient Christian asceticism, primarily in relation to sexuality and gender, but extending to all our appetites and excesses.
The chapter starts with the unconditional prohibitions of some kinds of animals, fish, birds, and insects, and is paralleled in Deuteronomy 14. You’ll recognize some: pigs, fish without scales, shellfish, rodents, insects. It seems deceptively similar to some of our own taboos, but it is more, and less, than such subjectivities. Think about your tastes – and those of children you know!
The chapter continues by rules about defilement by contact with the unclean, such as touching carcasses of unclean animals in disposing of them. It seems deceptively similar to infection control practices to avoid contamination by contagious disease. But it is more, and less, than those modern scientific protocols. In the language of psychotherapies, we’re talking about boundaries – and boundary violations. ‘Get thee apart and be holy’ is at best aspirational for anybody other than a ‘stylite’ or cenobitic monastic living in isolation!
Rabbinic wisdom in Talmud associates these mediating norms with intelligent choice, self-control and restraint, disciple-ing our natural appetites. Which governs the other: appetite and impulsivity, or mind and will? Is it possible that our popularized ‘empiricism’ distorts what David Hume meant about reason alone being a slave of the passions? Does the behavioral economics of Kahneman ring truer to you than older utilitarian assumptions?
Metaphors of ‘getting some on you’, of electrical charge, or of ‘ragged and mended’, only begin to allude to the underlying concepts of ritual purity, which is associated with ethical morality, but both much narrower, and far wider. What is it that ‘bugs you’, or ‘rubs your fur wrong ways’? This visceral response is worth more attention, not only to repress it!
1 The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying to them:
2 Speak to the people of Israel, saying: From among all the land animals, these are the creatures that you may eat.
3 Any animal that has divided hoofs and is cloven-footed and chews the cud— such you may eat.
4 But among those that chew the cud or have divided hoofs, you shall not eat the following: the camel, for even though it chews the cud, it does not have divided hoofs; it is unclean for you.
5 The rock-badger, for even though it chews the cud, it does not have divided hoofs; it is unclean for you.
6 The hare, for even though it chews the cud, it does not have divided hoofs; it is unclean for you.
7 The pig, for even though it has divided hoofs and is cloven-footed, it does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you.
8 Of their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch; they are unclean for you.
9 These you may eat, of all that are in the waters. Everything in the waters that has fins and scales, whether in the seas or in the streams— such you may eat.
10 But anything in the seas or the streams that does not have fins and scales, of the swarming creatures in the waters and among all the other living creatures that are in the waters— they are detestable to you
11 and detestable they shall remain. Of their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall regard as detestable.
12 Everything in the waters that does not have fins and scales is detestable to you.
13 These you shall regard as detestable among the birds. They shall not be eaten; they are an abomination: the eagle, the vulture, the osprey,
14 the buzzard, the kite of any kind;
15 every raven of any kind;
16 the ostrich, the nighthawk, the seagull, the hawk of any kind;
17 the little owl, the cormorant, the great owl,
18 the water-hen, the desert-owl, the carrion vulture,
19 the stork, the heron of any kind, the hoopoe, and the bat.
20 All winged insects that walk upon all fours are detestable to you.
21 But among the winged insects that walk on all fours you may eat those that have jointed legs above their feet, with which to leap on the ground.
22 Of them you may eat: the locust according to its kind, the bald locust according to its kind, the cricket according to its kind, and the grasshopper according to its kind.
23 But all other winged insects that have four feet are detestable to you.
24 By these you shall become unclean; whoever touches the carcass of any of them shall be unclean until the evening,
25 and whoever carries any part of the carcass of any of them shall wash his clothes and be unclean until the evening.
26 Every animal that has divided hoof but is not cloven-footed or does not chew the cud is unclean for you; everyone who touches one of them shall be unclean.
27 All that walk on their paws, among the animals that walk on all fours, are unclean for you; whoever touches the carcass of any of them shall be unclean until the evening,
28 and the one who carries the carcass shall wash his clothes and be unclean until the evening; they are unclean for you.
29 These are unclean for you among the creatures that swarm upon the earth: the weasel, the mouse, the great lizard according to its kind,
30 the gecko, the land-crocodile, the lizard, the sand-lizard, and the chameleon.
31 These are unclean for you among all that swarm; whoever touches one of them when they are dead shall be unclean until the evening.
32 And anything upon which any of them falls when they are dead shall be unclean, whether an article of wood or cloth or skin or sacking, any article that is used for any purpose; it shall be dipped into water, and it shall be unclean until the evening, and then it shall be clean.
33 And if any of them falls into any earthen vessel, all that is in it shall be unclean, and you shall break the vessel.
34 Any food that could be eaten shall be unclean if water from any such vessel comes upon it; and any liquid that could be drunk shall be unclean if it was in any such vessel.
35 Everything on which any part of the carcass falls shall be unclean; whether an oven or stove, it shall be broken in pieces; they are unclean, and shall remain unclean for you.
36 But a spring or a cistern holding water shall be clean, while whatever touches the carcass in it shall be unclean.
37 If any part of their carcass falls upon any seed set aside for sowing, it is clean;
38 but if water is put on the seed and any part of their carcass falls on it, it is unclean for you.
39 If an animal of which you may eat dies, anyone who touches its carcass shall be unclean until the evening.
40 Those who eat of its carcass shall wash their clothes and be unclean until the evening; and those who carry the carcass shall wash their clothes and be unclean until the evening.
41 All creatures that swarm upon the earth are detestable; they shall not be eaten.
42 Whatever moves on its belly, and whatever moves on all fours, or whatever has many feet, all the creatures that swarm upon the earth, you shall not eat; for they are detestable.
43 You shall not make yourselves detestable with any creature that swarms; you shall not defile yourselves with them, and so become unclean.
44 For I am the Lord your God; sanctify yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. You shall not defile yourselves with any swarming creature that moves on the earth.
45 For I am the Lord who brought you up from the land of Egypt, to be your God; you shall be holy, for I am holy.
46 This is the law pertaining to land animal and bird and every living creature that moves through the waters and every creature that swarms upon the earth,
47 to make a distinction between the unclean and the clean, and between the living creature that may be eaten and the living creature that may not be eaten.