4-5771 Mitzvah N-93
Negative Mitzvah 93– This is a negative commandment: do not eat meat from a non-kosher domestic or untamed animal.
Hafetz Hayim – As Scripture says: “But these you shall not eat, etc….” (Leviticus 11:4); and whatever does not chew its cud or does not have a parted hoof is non-kosher. If anyone eats an olive’s amount from a non-kosher animal, whether domestic or untamed, he should receive whiplashes. Human flesh is under a prohibition derived from a positive commandment since it not within the scope of the instruction, “These are the living things which you may eat …” (Lev. 11:2) [The Torah did not include it among the permitted kinds]. Whatever comes out of the forbidden kinds, such as milk from non-kosher domestic or untamed animals is forbidden to be eaten by the law of the Torah. However, honey from bees or wasps is permissible since they do not emit it from their bodies. Human milk is permissible: but a grown person is forbidden to suckle at the breast. If there is milk in a heathen’s possession and no Jew saw him doing the milking, it is forbidden, since he may have mixed into it milk from a non-kosher kind of animal. The cheese of a heathen is permitted by the law of the Torah, because we are not apprehensive that perhaps it came from a non-kosher animal, since the milk of a non-kosher animal cannot be made into cheese. Only the Sages of blessed memory forbade the cheese of a heathen for many reasons.
This applies everywhere and always, for both men and women.
The Hafetz Hayim is all over the place in this lesson and there is a lot to cover. Non-kosher animals are different from kosher ones for a number of reasons. In the category of large four legged mammals, kosher animals must have both a fully split hoof and must chew its cud. In the category of fish, the kosher fish must have fins and scales. Kosher birds have no sign if they are kosher or not. We don’t eat birds of prey and the kosher birds appear on a list in Leviticus chapter eleven. Reptiles cannot be eaten and only kosher locusts can be eaten but since we don’t know which locusts are permitted, we just don’t eat them anymore. (Most people are happy about this!) These rules apply to both domesticated animals and wild animals. [There are also rules as to how the animals are slaughtered but that is not part of this Mitzvah]
If the animal is not kosher, then the products of the animal are not kosher. You can’t use the milk from non-kosher animals and you can’t eat the eggs from non-kosher birds. Bees are not kosher but you can use the honey since the sages did not consider honey to be in the same category as eggs and milk. I am not sure if they are correct in this assessment of bee anatomy but I am not going to be the Rabbi who declares honey treif.
Human flesh is not listed in these categories and so we are reminded that human flesh cannot be eaten because of a different Mitzvah. Just because it is not listed here should not tempt you to give human flesh a try. Human milk is permitted for everyone to drink but simple morality tells us that grown human beings have no business suckling at the breast. This should be obvious but I guess it has to be stated somewhere and here, in the laws of Kashrut, it can be found.
As usual, Kosher laws prohibit us from buying milk from a non-Jew if we don’t know where he got his milk. It is possible that he may have milked a non-kosher animal and mixed it in with the other milk. Since milk today is regulated and must state where it is from, we don’t usually have to worry about this prohibition. I am not an expert in cheese production so I can’t vouch for the fact that cheese cannot be made from the milk of non-kosher animals. I have never heard of horse cheese or pig cheese, only cheese from cows and sheep and goats. If any of my readers know of cheese from non-kosher animals, please let me know.
Cheese today is or is not Kosher because of the use of rennet as a catalyst for cheese making. Rennet comes from the stomachs of animals and if those animals are not kosher or slaughtered in a kosher manner, the rennet is not kosher and in any event it can’t be used in milk to make cheese. There are other ways to make cheese that does not involve rennet that are used in kosher and vegetarian cheeses. There are some authorities in Conservative Judaism who see rennet not as a meat byproduct but as a refined chemical and therefore can be permitted in all cheeses. There is not a lot of uniformity in our movement about this so one should check with your Rabbi as to whether or not non-hekshered (unsupervised) cheeses are permitted. In any event, the problem with cheese is not the source of the milk but the process of making the cheese.