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Um … Pork May Actually Be OK Now

New scholarly finding threatens to upend kosher laws

Marc Tracy
April 01, 2011
Maybe we will just be vegetarian now?(Dineto/Flickr)
Maybe we will just be vegetarian now?(Dineto/Flickr)

Hard to know how to preface this, so let’s just dive in: Cliff Stern, an independent scholar based out of Brooklyn, has determined—seemingly conclusively—that pork and shellfish are kosher, while all that we thought was kosher—poultry, red meat, and fish with scales—is not. Crucially, rabbis of several denominations, in both the United States and Israel, have endorsed Stern’s findings. Basically: Scavenging good; chewing cud bad. Get used to it, I guess?

Reached by phone, Stern explained that a newly uncovered document from an archaeological site in the Negev reveals that Jews have been reading and interpreting the laws of kashrut—originally set out in the Torah itself—all wrong, for approximately 2500 years. “Around the time of Ezra, that’s when the misinterpretation occurred,” he said. “Back then, the Jewish tribes would eat pork and forego most other sources of protein. At some point,” he added, “a rather clumsy rabbi misread the injunctions and announced that everyone had been doing it all wrong—at which point he ‘corrected’ things to the way they are now, with pork and lobster and what-not outlawed, and cow and chicken okay.”

Rabbi Judah Rosenthal, an Orthodox scholar in Jerusalem, tentatively confirmed Stern’s finding. “It makes sense, in a way,” he told me. “Now we know why they sacrificed lambs: They weren’t allowed to eat it.”

The good (or bad?) news is that Passover rules are unaffected by this news: During the eight-day festival later this month, Jews are still prohibited from eating dough that has been raised. “Of course that’s the same,” Stern laughed. “That’s just logical.” On the contrary: Nothing seems logical anymore.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.