kosher [Heb., = proper, i.e., fit for use], in Judaism, term used in rabbinic literature to mean what is ritually correct, but most widely applied to food that is in accordance with dietary laws based on Old Testament passages (primarily Lev. 11 and Deut. 14). Kosher meat is the flesh of animals that both chew the cud and have cloven hoofs (as the cow and sheep); the animal must have been slaughtered with a skillful stroke by a specially trained Jew; the meat must be carefully inspected, and, unless cooked by broiling, it must be salted and soaked to remove all traces of blood. Kosher fishes are those that have scales and fins. The rules that apply to the slaughter and preparation of animals are the same as those for the slaughter of fowl. The cooking and eating of milk products with, or immediately after, meats or meat products is unkosher; even the use of the same kitchen and table utensils and towels is forbidden. The cleansing of newly acquired utensils and the preparation of articles for Passover use are also called koshering. The antithesis of kosher is tref [Heb., = animal torn by wild beasts]. Reform Judaism does not require observance of the kosher laws.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.