Object of the Month - January - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
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Object of the Month - January

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January 2018

Stamp for Marking Kosher Meat Wood and brass Italy, 19th century Gift of Joseph B. and Olyn Horwitz B'nai B'rith Klutznick Collection of the Skirball Museum

This rare stamp was used to indicate that meat was judged Kosher. A blue or purple food-safe dye would have been used to stamp this mark directly onto meat at the shochet, or Kosher butcher. Kosher foods are those that conform to the regulations of kashrut, or Jewish dietary law, which are primarily derived from Leviticus and Deuteronomy.

The laws of kashrut prescribe what foods may be eaten, as well as how those foods must be prepared. The word "Kashrut" comes from the Hebrew meaning fit, proper or correct. Although the specifics of kashrut are quite extensive, the laws all derive from a few fairly straightforward rules:

  • Certain animals may not be eaten at all. This restriction includes the flesh, organs, eggs and milk of the forbidden animals.
  • Of the animals that may be eaten, the birds and mammals must be killed in accordance with Jewish law.
  • All blood must be drained from the meat or broiled out of it before it is eaten.
  • Certain parts of permitted animals may not be eaten.
  • Meat (the flesh of birds and mammals) cannot be eaten with dairy. Fish, eggs, fruits, vegetables and grains can be eaten with either meat or dairy.
  • Utensils that have come into contact with meat may not be used with dairy, and vice versa.

Land mammals must have split hooves and chew their cud (cow, sheep, goat, and deer). If an animal does not fulfill both of these requirements, it may not be eaten (pig, rabbit, etc.). Fish must have both scales and fins and also not be a bottom feeder to be considered Kosher.

On three separate occasions, the Torah says not to "boil a kid in its mother's milk." This passage generally explains the prohibition of eating meat and dairy together. The rabbis extended this prohibition to include not eating milk and poultry together as well. It is, however, permissible to eat fish and dairy together, as fish is considered parve, neither meat nor dairy. This separation includes not only the foods themselves, but the utensils, pots and pans with which they are cooked, the plates and flatware from which they are eaten, as well as all kitchen appliances. A fully kosher kitchen will have at least two sets of pots, pans, dishes, and appliances: one for meat and one for dairy.

This stamp is featured in our exhibition Drawing from the B’nai B’rith Klutznick Collection, a selection of 18 acrylic and colored pencil drawings inspired by Judaica from the Klutznick collection by world-renowned Jewish artist Mark Podwal.