Jewish Dietary Laws

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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These resemble a building of marvellous complexity and great size, soaring towards the sky, yet resting on a few slender bases—like some of the marvels of modern architecture.
The bases are those passages in the Torah (Pentateuch, i.e. first five books of the Bible) which embody, according to the Jewish faith, the commands of God on dietary matters, as conveyed directly to Moses and passed on by him to the children of Israel.
Because the commands are brief, they have invited interpretation and amplification, which have been supplied on a generous scale, and over several thousand years, by rabbinical commentators, notably in the Mishnah and the Talmud. The ratio in size between the original sentences in the Bible and the accretion of the commentaries with which they are now encrusted must be something like one to several hundred thousand.