Do your friends keep kosher: why or why not. In small groups, create a campaign to inspire others to ponder these questions. Possible projects: TV/Radio Ad script, pamphlet, magazine ad, billboard, social media campaign.

Ethics in Kashrut


  • Warm up questions: How do laws communicate values? Are humans and animals equal? What products come from animals other than food? How does Judaism determine our care for animals?
  • Debate: Make notes either pro or con animal rights/protection using Sifrei Kodesh and other sources as evidence. Next consider modern examples and applications. Hint: PETA, make-up industry, furs, ASPCA.
  • Make a commercial / youtube video / other storyboard about animal rights and its basis in Jewish Text. What quotes do you include? What is the tone? Who is your audience?


Rabbi David Wolpe (Jewish Journal, 03/05/2010)

I have not eaten chicken or meat for decades. I readily acknowledge that Judaism does not ask this of me. Kashrut is not vegetarianism. But kashrut is a reminder of Judaism’s concern with animal suffering.... Many biblical heroes are shepherds; animals too must rest on the Sabbath (Ex. 20:20) and the bible legislates many other protections for animals. We are the custodians of creation. Our first responsibility is to be kind.

Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo (Times of Israel,)There is little doubt that one of the functions of the kashrut laws is to protect the animal from pain even during the slaughtering. ... Still, we cannot deny that in our own slaughterhouses, where proper shechita is done, there have been serious violations of another law –- tza’ar baalei chayim (the Torah’s prohibition against inflicting unnecessary pain on animals). How are these animals handled just before the shechita takes place? Are they treated with mercy when they are put on their backs so as to make the shechita easier? The laws of shechita and tzaar ba’alei chayim were meant for Jewish communities who would eat meat occasionally, not for the huge industry we have today where these laws can no longer be properly applied.

Kli Yakar, Shlomo Ephraim ben Aaron Luntschitz, 17th century on Lev. 11:1

The reason for the laws of kashrut is not for physical health benefits, as the Ramban (Nachmanides) explains. We see that non-Jews eat non-kosher foods and are healthy. Rather their purpose is for the well-being of the soul, since unkosher animals remove the spirit of purity and holiness, and create a blockage in the intelligence, and bring cruelty.

Deut 14:19 All winged swarming things are unclean for you: they may not be eaten.

20 You may eat only clean winged creatures.

21 You shall not eat anything that has died a natural death; give it to the stranger in your community to eat, or you may sell it to a foreigner. For you are a people consecrated to the LORD your God. You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.

From Project Etgar:

Talmud: Rabbi Yehuda haNasi’s illness struck him because of a certain incident, and departed from him because of a certain incident.

'They came to him through a certain incident.' What is meant by this? — A calf was being taken to the slaughter, when it broke away, hid his head under Rabbi's skirts, and lowed [in terror]. 'Go', said he, 'for this you were created.' Thereupon they said [in Heaven], 'Since he has no pity, let us bring suffering upon him.'

'And departed from him....' How so? — One day Rabbi's maidservant was sweeping the house; [seeing] some young weasels lying there, she made to sweep them away. 'Let them be,' said he to her; 'It is written, and his tender mercies are over all his works.'10 Said they [in Heaven], 'Since he is compassionate, let us be compassionate to him.' and Rabbi Yehuda recovered.

Mishnah: All these laws not only apply to an ox, but for all other animals concerning these categories:

    1. Falling into a pit
    2. Protection from harm at Mt Sinai
    3. Paying a double fine to the rightful owner when a thief is caught
    4. Returning a lost animal
    5. Unloading packs from an animal
    6. Muzzling an animal
    7. Mixing different species of an animal to do a task together
    8. Working on Shabbat

Torah: You are not to muzzle an ox while it is threshing grain.

Shulchan Aruch: Do not recite the blessing [shehechyanu] when wearing a new fur or leather shoes, for this enjoyment cost an animal its life.

Food and Values

Students will learn that the choices we make related to food can reflect our values.

The Jewish Food Taste Test (stop and start to avoid inappropriate moments: stop at 1:45, start at 2:17, stop at 3:49)

This is a short video of people who are entirely unfamiliar with 'Jewish' foods, tasting them for the first time. Their reactions are simultaneously hilarious and thought-provoking. Particularly interesting are the blurbs with info on each food.

Discuss: the video shows us a variety of reactions, and a few reasons that some of the foods are eaten. What are some that you noticed? (gefilte fish: not wanting to transgress Shabbat; chopped liver: not wanting to waste chicken; Manischewitz: ritual and sweet!)

  • Why do the people react to the food the way they do?
  • What are some of the reasons they give for wanting to/or NOT wanting to eat the food given to them?
  • When have you eaten some of the foods shown? What are your memories of them?

What We Eat Activity

Ask students to think about their last few meals. Pick one to focus on for this activity.

Question: What did they eat, and WHY did they eat it? Students should take a few minutes to think, draw, and pair to share with a partner. Finally, discuss as a class. What are some of the reasons you ate the food that you ate? Teacher will summarize and review, showing that our reasons for eating food are multifaceted: tradition, pleasure (it tastes good!), not wanting to waste (leftovers, anyone?) and social (eating like those around you).

Beit Midrash Activity

Students will rotate in groups of 3 so that they can study each group of texts below.

Questions to consider for each text:

  • What does the text have to do with food?
  • What makes the most sense in the texts you read?
  • What ideas seem weird, wrong, or backwards?
  • What is the moral or message that these texts teach us?
  • How can you see these texts influencing the food choices you make?

Text examples that show God brings forth food:

  • Genesis 1:29: "See, I give you every seed-bearing plant that is upon all earth, and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit; they shall be yours for food."
  • Deuteronomy 8:7-10: "(7) For Adonai your God brings you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths, springing forth in valleys and hills; (8) a land of wheat and barley, and vines and fig trees and pomegranates; a land of olive trees and honey; (9) a land wherein you shall eat bread without scarceness, you shall not lack any thing in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you may dig brass. (10) And you shalt eat and be satisfied, and bless Adonai your God for the good land which God has given you."
  • Exodus 16:35: "And the children of Israel did eat the manna [a special food rained down from the heavens by God], forty years, until they came to a land inhabited; they... did eat the manna, until they came unto the borders of the land of Canaan."
  • Maimonides, commentary on Pesachim 4:9: "God created food and water; we must use them in staving off hunger and thirst."

According to these texts, why should we be grateful to God for our food?

Examples of humans also bringing forth food:

  • Genesis 2:15: "And God put Adam in the Garden of Eden to work it and guard it."
  • Genesis 3:23: "Therefore the Eternal God sent him forth from the Garden of Eden to till the ground from whence he was taken."
  • Genesis 2:5: "... for the Eternal God sent him forth from the Garden of Eden, and there was not a human to till the ground..."

According to these texts, why should we be grateful to our fellow humans for our food?

Our relationship to our food:

  • Ecclesiastes 2:24: "There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink, and make his soul enjoy."
  • Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot De'ot: "When one eats and drinks, one should not be doing so just for the benefit of the sweetness and for the joy of it, but one should eat and drink just for the sake of one's body and limbs. Therefore, one should eat only what the body will use, whether it bitter or sweet, and one should not eat those things which are bad for the body, even if they are sweet."
  • Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot De'ot: "Bodily health and well-being are part of the path to God, for it is impossible to understand or have any knowledge of the Creator when one is sick. Therefore one must avoid anything that may harm the body and one must cultivate healthful habits."

According to these texts, what should our relationship to food be?

Questions for students to take home and think about:

  • How do you decide what food to buy and prepare?
  • What things do you keep in mind?
  • How does being Jewish factor into your choices?

(Credit to Jewcology and Hazon's Jewish Food source book for inspiration and texts.)

Kosher Riddles

Question: I am an extraordinary factory that processes ordinary grass and plants into a common drink and food products. Ironically, Jewish tradition tells us that you cannot consume my food products at the same time you are enjoying my drink. What am I?

Answer: a cow

Question: What is the largest kosher animal still roaming the wilds of North America?

Answer: The moose (up to 1500 pounds)

Question: What is the large kosher animal that roamed this country in herds of millions of animals and was nearly exterminated?

Answer: Buffalo, Bison

Question: What is the tallest kosher animal in the world

Answer: Giraffe

Question: What are two kosher food items never come from kosher animals?

Answer: Human milk & Bee honey

Online Resources

Need more online resources for Kashrut? Check out our Online Resources page by clicking the blue button below!

Kashrut Kahoot

Kashrut Kahoot: students must have internet access on electronic devices; recommend no more than 3:1, students to devices. Students will select from multiple-choice answers.