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Kosher food (Hebrew Kasher כשר ) is food that is permitted according to Jewish dietary law. Jewish dietary law forbids the following:

Eating of insects, shellfish, lizards, and snakes, with the exception of Arabian locusts. 

Eating of any mammal that does not have a cloven hoof or does not chew its cud (eliminating all carnivores and omnivorous animals like pigs).

Eating of carrion or blood.

Eating certain parts of the animal.

Birds of prey are prohibited and song birds, though not prohibited, are not eaten. 

Eating of meat that has not been slaughtered by a Shochet (ritual Jewish slaughterer) according to the rules of Kashrut set forth in the Halacha is prohibited. Animals must be healthy and must be slaughtered while still living, without stunning, to ensure proper drainage of blood. 

"Boiling a kid in its mother's milk" is prohibited - this is interpreted as a prohibition on eating any dairy dish with any meat or poultry dish, or cooking meat in vessels used to cook dairy dishes or vv, or using dishes or knives, forks and spoons that have been used for dairy on meat or vv. A period of time must elapse following a meat meal before it is permissible to eat dairy foods following. Usually this is taken to be 6 hours following Maimonides, but some believe it is permissible to eat dairy after the blessings have been said and the table cleared from the last meal. The reason for the broad prohibition is to ensure that there is no possibility of committing the transgression, putting a fence ("siyag") around the original commandment.

Fruits of trees that are less than three years old are "orlah" and therefore prohibited.

Most of the prohibitions and permissions of specific animals are listed in Leviticus 11 . The prohibition on boiling a kid in its mother's milk is given in  Exodus 23 :19, Exodus 34:26 and in  Deuteronomy 14:21).[

In addition to the above, it is forbidden to eat any grain grown on Jewish-owned land during a shmeetah (sabbatical year). This prohibition raised a severe problem for early Zionist settlers in Palestine, since they would have been bankrupted by it. A compromise solution allowed them to perform a fictitious sale of their crops to Arabs. This compromise has been in effect ever since, but has been challenged in 2008.

For fruits grown in Israel, different portions are  set aside for charitable purposes - terumah (contribution to the Cohen priests of the temple) Maaser Rishon (first tithe ) and Maaser Sheni (second tithe required in certain years). For dough, a portion known as the Challah must be set aside for the use of the priests in the temple. For private persons who get fresh produce that has not undergone rabbinical supervision, "setting aside" may be fulfilled by discarding a portion of the food, according to some traditions.

Beef must be slaughtered so as to assure drainage of blood, without stunning the animal. This is considered inhumane by some.

Wine or grape products made by non-Jews are not kosher. However, this rule is not followed by at least some Conservative Jews. Whiskey is kosher no matter who prepared it. 

During Passover, it is forbidden to eat leavened bread or any yeast products or fermented drinks such as beer. A special unleavened wafer, the Matzoh, is prepared from flour that has been under supervision. Eastern Orthodox Catholics use unleavened bread for communion, honoring the last supper of Jesus, which was a Passover Seder supper.  Wine and whiskey are permitted. During Passover, Ashkenazi Jews are not allowed to eat legumes (beans) rice and corn  as well. However, some very strict traditions insist that Matzoh that has been broken and become wet, and foods made from such Matzoh, may be unkosher. 

Colloquially, an act that is not ethical or is illegal is often referred to as "not Kosher."

Muslim Halal  laws follow kosher laws in many respects, and therefore at least some authorities to eat Jewish kosher food.

Synonyms and alternate spellings:

Further Information: http://en2.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halakha  http://www.jewfaq.org/halakhah.htm -

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Encyclopedia of the Middle East

Note - This encyclopedia is a work in progress. It is far from complete and is being constructed and improved all the time. If you would like to contribute articles or expansions of existing articles, please contact news (at) mideastweb.org.  Suggestions and corrections are welcome. The concise version of this dictionary is at our Middle East Glossary.

Spelling - Spelling of words in Middle-Eastern languages is often arbitrary. There may be many variants of the same name or word such as Hezbollah, Hizbolla, Hisbolla or Husayn and Hussein. There are some conventions for converting words from Semitic languages such as Arabic and Hebrew There are numerous variant renderings of the same Arabic or Hebrew words, such as "Hizbollah," "Hisbulla" etc. It is not possible to find exact equivalents for several letters. 

Pronunciation - Arabic and Hebrew vowels are pronounced differently than in English. "o" is very short. The "a" is usually pronounced like the "a" in market, sometimes as the "a" in "Arafat."  The " 'A " is guttural.  " 'H "- the 'het ('Hirbeh, 'Hebron, 'Hisbollah') designates a sound somewhat similar to the ch in "loch" in Scots pronunciation, but made by touching the back of your tongue to the roof of your mouth. The CH should be pronounced like Loch, a more assertive consonant than 'het.

The "Gh" combination, and sometimes the "G," designate a deep guttural sound that Westerners may hear approximately as "r." The "r" sound is always formed with the back of the tongue, and is not like the English "r."

More information: Hebrew, Arabic

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