Years ago, I was once teaching biblical Hebrew in an Amish farming community. During that time, I was walking with a 10-year old boy, named Samuel, through the cow pastures. I am originally from New York City and not used to walking near cow excrement. Therefore, I was not walking straight through the fields, but rather in zig-zagged fashion so to avoid stepping in the doo. Suddenly, Samuel could no longer contain his laughter. He started pointing at me, snickering, and said that I was such a sissy that I didn’t even want to step in the doo, when someone could even eat it. Then, in front of my eyes, as a daredevil, he bent down, picked up a dried piece of cow excrement and took a bite!

I was shocked by what I saw, until I realized that cow excrement is just compressed grass. It must have been that Samuel and his friends had many times played in the fields, when they had slipped, fell, and some doo got in their mouths. Or, there were even times when they threw it at each other. “No worry,” the boys’ mothers’ must have said, as it was just compressed grass.

From this I realized a reason why the Torah, from the Creator of all, commands only to eat animals which chew their cud: Any animal which chews its cud is a vegetarian, as cud chewing is done in order to process hard-to-digest plant cellulose that we and other non-cud chewing animals cannot digest. Hence, the excrement from non-cud chewers can be a biological hazard unlike the finely processed, grassy product of a cud chewer. Now consider that when a society eats meat, there is going to be a lot of whatever livestock they are eating. Thereby, there is also going to be a lot of poop! It is then in everyone’s best interest, and obviously so, if this poop can safely be used as manure, as opposed to having to deal with a more hazardous waste product. In contrast, if pigs or other non-cud chewing animals are raised for food, there can be far more danger to the environment, especially for kids. Raising swine also means that there is more stress for persons as well as the animals, as more fences and factory-farming practices are required so to keep society at a sufficiently hygienic standard.

Also, vegetarian animals have flatter teeth than meat-eating animals. They are then safer to be around than carnivores with sharp teeth. Vegetarian animals, naturally defensive, are also less likely to attack. In contrast, meat-eating animals can even turn on their owners and eat them! A news search on “pigs eat owner” will sadly reveal evidence for this concern!

Why an obligation for split hooves? 1) Animals without claws are safer to be near. 2) An animal with a hoof can be taken on a long journey, and one with a split hoof can also be taken up to the mountains with more rocky terrain.

What about fish? Why must kosher fish have scales? Scales on a fish means that the fish is defensive, as it has a natural shield, a natural protection. Fish with scales are lower on the food chain. The top-of-the-food-chain fish have no need for scales. Whales and sharks, for instance, have no scales. Therefore, restricting ourselves to scaled fish means that we do not deplete the oceans of the largest, most important fish. Whale depletion, for instance, is so dangerous to the environment that there are organizations devoted to stopping it, and governments have rules against it or limiting it.

Rabbi Chaim Yehudah Gruber specializes in Hebrew letter meanings and in revealing the Torah’s eternal relevance. As Rabbi Gruber does not control all other articles or the advertisers on this website, he therefore may, but does not necessarily endorse them. He works at both ends of the political spectrum. On the left, tent and all, he was the rabbi of Occupy Wall Street. More recently, and on the right, days after Israeli Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger spoke at Jerusalem’s Yeshurun Central Synagogue, Rabbi Gruber was invited to there speak at the synagogue’s large, communal, Passover seder (2013). He spoke of the contrast between being a servant of Pharaoh to being a servant of Hashem. Rabbi Gruber also specializes in the Rambam’s (Maimonides’) teaching that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam will combine into one religion in the time of the Messiah. More at

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