How can one explain Kashruth to a curious colleague without too much complexity?

I get curious questions all the time, mostly about the laws and about rabbis blessing the food, which is, of course, a myth that I have to dispel. I generally try to keep it simple, but it invariably becomes complicated, as you might expect. Any advice on how to keep it as simple as possible would be welcome.

  • 3
    Explain what about it? What the rules are? Why we follow them? What the reason for them is? Something else? (As you know, you should, please, edit your reply to me seamlessly into the question instead of replying in a comment.)
    – msh210
    Feb 19, 2013 at 20:48
  • For understanding of what they can offer us to eat, I have said "raw food vegan, no spicy, onions, garlic, or lemons."
    – yoel
    Feb 19, 2013 at 20:48

4 Answers 4


I find it best to break the idea up into general categories and stress 2 things: 1. there are loads of laws 2. we take adherence as an object of faith, not to be rationalized or justified.

the categories are

  1. selection of food
  2. preparation of food
  3. mixtures of food

and explain that for most foods, there needs to be an expert who can supervise the various aspects to make sure that each step conforms to the complex laws.

there's more, and there are some websites that go in to some depth. Mostly, I try to answer specific questions with specific answers because the general topic is so broad.


How's about something along the lines of "There are many rules, and it's very complex. But in a nutshell, certain animals are kosher, others are not kosher. The kosher animals must be killed and processed in a specific way in order to remain kosher. Dairy products and their derivatives must not be mixed with meat/chicken and its derivatives. These rules also apply to the equipment used to prepare and serve food. If the equipment was used for non-kosher food it may not be used for kosher food, and if equipment was used for dairy it may not be used for meat, and vice versa. Most food products require certification by an independent agency to ensure that all of the rules have been followed."


Usually I explain that is a jewish diet which cover several rules for the best connection with G'D. So we can only eat animals considered pure.


I usually just say "Jewish dietary laws," if a short explanation is required, and that usually suffices.

If they want more information, you can start explaining that there are certain things that Jews are not allowed to eat -- pork and milk+meat being the most widely known examples.

That's usually (IME) the farthest that this will go. If they ask you why this is the case, you could explain, very simply, that there are some foods which have a negative spiritual effect on a person (מטמטם את הלב), and if you know that something is kosher, you know that none of these are in this food.

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