Can pork ever be kosher?

March 12th, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 24 comments

Jews can’t eat pig because it’s a scavenger and eats the dead therefore unclean. If the pig is farm raised it doesn’t eat the dead so would it be clean to eat?

Miguel

Dear Miguel,

We are choosing to answer your question because you are in not alone in your misconception about kosher food. The mistake you make is quite common, but it is based on a completely incorrect basic premise.

Not eating pig has nothing to do with it being a scavenger. The prohibition is based on Leviticus 11:7 where God specifically forbids it with no reason given. That animal is singled out and mentioned by name because it has one of the two signs that mark an animal as kosher.  Pigs have split hooves but do not chew the cud.

This prohibition is, for example, different from the injunction not to harvest the produce of the land of Israel during the Shmittah cycle every seven years (Exodus 23:11). In that case, Israel has developed a healthy industry in hydroponics growing crops in glass houses and in large trays of water. Carrots, as one example, aren’t the problem; the problem is only carrots grown in the earth during that special seventh year. Not so with the pig —regardless of how it is raised, the animal is forbidden, end of discussion.

Ancient Jewish wisdom explores the difference between God’s laws that a rational society might eventually understand on its own and those laws that human beings would never intuit. Laws against stealing or murder seem to make sense to us, while committees could meet for years and not come up with not mixing wool and flax (Leviticus 19:19). The important thing to understand is that, whether or not we understand or can think of benefits of these laws, we follow them because they are God’s laws.

We find it interesting that today there is even controversy over those laws that civilized people once upon a time accepted.  As our society moves further from the Biblical vision we find much discord about abortion, euthanasia,  capital punishment and increasingly vocally about redistributing property.  We don’t all intuitively know and agree on the correct paths.

The bottom line is that we try, to the best of our abilities and to the extent that we can control our weaknesses, to follow God’s word. Part of that word tells us that no matter how healthy, clean, tasty or economical pork is, it is not going to be part of our diet.

Hoping that, like us, you get to enjoy all the wonderful and tasty food permitted,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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24 comments

Carl Schleg says:

Thanks

Thanks for the post Daniel. I think our all-knowing, wise God knew before microscopes and high-tech medical devices were invented that trichinosis was in pigs flesh, and when humans ingest pig it’s impossible to dispel this disease from the body. I refer to pigs, crabs, lobsters, flatfish etc and all those sea creatures that feed on the ocean floor as the oceans vacuum cleaners, cleaning up the dirt and waste of other creatures, like pigs on land they are like vacuum cleaners, so why should we eat such creatures, full of dirt and waste. Now I will read your post and wonder if you raise any of this stuff in it?

Mike shick says:

Terrific response!

Duane Solley says:

I am interested in your lectures but since I know nothing about Jews I would like to start with a very basic one. Please recommend one to me.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear Duane,
Thanks you for your interest. It helps us know that we are writing in a way that captures attention. I think an excellent place to start is our Ancient Jewish Wisdom TV shows you can watch here http://www.tct.tv/watch-tct/on-demand-ajw
And also our weekly Thought Tools you can read right here on our website.
See how that goes and if your interest persists visit our store and invest in one of the learning resources that sings to your soul.
Cordially
RDL

Carmine Pescatore says:

Rabbi and Mrs. Lapin, don’t feel like you are missing out on anything by not eating shrimp or lobster. Both are tasteless and are just eaten with butter or sauces to give them flavor.

The Lord has given all of us rules to live by. Considering all the blessings he gives us daily, following a few rules is a bargain.

Karen Hightower says:

I’m the personality type that has always asked ‘why…’. As I’ve gotten older and understood more of God’s Word…I’ve come to the conclusion that… if God says it, that settles it’. God always has our best interest at heart, even if we don’t understand why. God made us and he knows best what is good for our health. He even went to the trouble of writing it down for us so we could remember and pass the information down for future generations. That is what I call a caring Heavenly Father. Always looking out for his children. I truly appreciate this attribute (among others) that God is truly a good God.
Karen H

Susan Lapin says:

Karen, what you write is so true. Trying to second-guess God is like a young child second-guessing loving parents. What seems to be onerous and incomprehensible ends up being for our benefit.

Alissa says:

Yes! Amen! There’s a song we sing as children in Sunday school with the line, “…for the Bible tells me so…” This is in reference to Jesus’ love for us, but I wonder why we, as Christians, generally don’t follow as many of the laws in the Torah as we can, “for the Bible tells me so.” It seems illogical that we would would believe one thing because the Bible says so, but not another. My hope is that more and more Christians come to know the joy and completeness of faith that lies in obeying God’s laws! He sure does love His people!

Catherine Alexander says:

I always enjoy reading your posts and the answers you provide. Thank you for all you do, you inspire me to do better.

Susan Lapin says:

What a lovely thing to say, Catherine. Thank you.

Renae Martinelli says:

Not sure if you are messianic Jews and accept the new testament. My question would be for you to explain the scriptures where Peter (I think) is corrected for not eating pork when the Jews were watching. God stated quit calling unclean what I have deemed clean?

Susan Lapin says:

Renae, we are Jewish without any qualifying terms. We only speak about Torah and have no familiarity with Christian sources.

David J says:

Rabbi Lapin brings up a great point that some things have become controversial about which there once was general consensus. As I grow in experience, knowledge, and (I like to think) wisdom, many concepts have become very clear that were not so clear cut to me at an earlier age. I remember clearly this one particular incident in a circuit analysis course in college where one student commented, “That isn’t intuitive.” To which the professor replied, “That is because you don’t know anything.” I can still hear that professor in my mind in his voice. I realized that intuition is not intuitive. It actually develops with knowledge and experience. If we were to require justification for every principle from the Bible, we would be in danger of rejecting or perverting its principles, since it is demonstrable that our understanding changes over time.

Susan Lapin says:

David, we’re so glad that you appreciated that point in the answer. Our ‘intuition’ is often based on what we have been taught and learned from experience. It used to make sense to us that everyone would agree, for example, that theft was wrong, but that simply isn’t true. Most people will give it another name rather than theft, like redistribution, but that doesn’t really change things.

David J says:

I just noticed in the by line that both Rabbi and Susan Lapin are the authors of the response to the question about pork. I apologize, Susan, for not also crediting you for that point I mentioned.

Susan Lapin says:

That’s sweet of you, David. While we read and discuss our other individual writings, ‘Ask the Rabbi’ is the one teaching that we completely work on together.

Brian F. Tucker says:

God is always looking out for us. While he don’t always give us reasons for his prohibitions. Like when my parents gave a command and I would ask why. “Because I said so, that’s why”. I learned later that eating pork could lead to a disease called tricenoses. Especially if under cooked.
Love you folks,
Brian

Janet McIntosh says:

Dear Rabbi and Susan
I always find the way you explain concepts of the Bible as refreshing as a drink of water!!!! The way you explain the reason for the prohibition of eating pork as related to scripture. I have come to an understanding after being a long time watcher of your show, receiver of your thought tools and many of your books along with daily study of the word of God. That fact that faith is not just believing without questioning but trusting in the answer and ultimately in the source of the answer. Amen

Dane says:

Didn’t I read that in the Messianic Age, that pigs will change their behavior to the righteousness of chewing cud, rather than their hypocrisy of showing off their feet but refusing to behave as they should? I refer to the works of Rav Menachim Azarya DeFano, Rav Chaim Ibn Attar, and the Chatam Sofer.

Susan Lapin says:

Dane, if the time comes that, after the Messiah’s arrival when no one questions what the word of God is, and God tells us that pigs are now kosher, we will be happy to eat them.

Minister Annette Jackson says:

I enjoy yalls teaching so much . I’ve watched you two for years . Y’all are such a blessing with encouragement in each show . Thank you so much for sharing yalls wisdom with us . I’m from Tennessee .
Minister Annette Jackson

Susan Lapin says:

We’re delighted you like the show, Minister Annette. (http://www.tct.tv/watch-tct/on-demand-ajw). We love hearing from people in different parts of the country and the world.

Robert Brants says:

I think part of the problem modern Christians have understanding these laws lies in the practice of trying to separate cultural norms mentioned in the Bible from what are truly “God’s laws.” For some it is confusing. I even find myself asking if I am “dividing” scripture correctly sometimes. On this issue I agree 100%, God’s law is God’s law, enough said. What is hard for us to remember is that even with all we know today, we do not know everything. While we walk this Earth God will always know more than we do. God is all knowing and all seeing. We are not. I “believe” there is still more we do not know about the world than we do know. We must remember the science we are taught is always changing. God already knows, and always has known, all the answers. We do not. As hard as it is to accept we still do not know all there is to know about pigs and pork. On this issue I have it a little easier. I cannot digest any pork product and medicine has yet to be able to explain why. The reason for the prohibition against pork is really unimportant. What we should remember is that this law is for our benefit, given by an all knowing, loving Abba. There is a reason they call it faith.

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