Religious Taboos in Judaism

Many Jews keep kosher.
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A religious taboo is a custom adhered to by a particular religion that restricts or prohibits a certain action. Religious taboos in Judaism date back centuries and continue to evolve with rabbinical teachings. The foundation for Jewish conduct can be found in the Torah, or Jewish written law. Any violation of halakhah, or Jewish religious law, is considered taboo. Guidelines cover many aspects of daily life, with diet being one of the most noted. Dietary restrictions include foods that are prohibited as well as the combination of certain foods.

1 Dietary Restrictions

According to Jewish dietary law found in the Torah, all food must be kosher. The term is derived from a Hebrew word meaning “proper [for consumption].” Despite popular belief, kosher food does not need to be blessed by a rabbi; the designation simply means that it is permissible. For example, pork and shellfish are not kosher. Beef and cheese prepared in accordance with Jewish dietary law are independently kosher, but a cheeseburger isn't because it is not kosher to mix meat and dairy products. The consumption of non-kosher food items is taboo particularly among Orthodox Jews.

2 Sociocultural Taboos

While Judaism is considered a major world religion; it is also frequently viewed as an ethnic identity. This identity is associated with a variety of cultural norms and taboos regulating interpersonal relations. For example, Jews are expected to wed other Jews. Jews are also expected to be honest in their dealings as explained in the Torah in Exodus 23; 4-13. Violations of these practices, be it marrying a non-Jew or dishonesty, would be considered a violation of halakah and taboo.

3 Dress Etiquette

Dress etiquette varies greatly among Jews. It is common for Jewish men to wear a small hat called a yarmulke, this is particularly true during religious services. Strict Orthodox Jews have more distinguishable garments where men may wear dark pants and long overcoats over white shirts. Men may also grow their sideburns. Orthodox women may wear particularly modest clothing that usually consists of a head covering and a long, dark skirt. Among strict Jews, particularly Orthodox Jews, violation of these dress standards may be taboo.

4 Variations

As with any religious group, Jews do not all hold the same beliefs. There are various divisions including Orthodox, Conservative and Reform. For example, it is not unusual for reform Jews, to consume pork products; whereas Orthodox Jews adhere closely to the literal interpretation and adhere to the strictest standards of Kosher. There are also secular Jews that do not believe in the spiritual dimensions of the faith but practice Jewish rituals. What may be taboo for one, may be acceptable to another.

Ahmed Ismail holds a Bachelor of Science in both the physical and social sciences. He has worked in marketing, health care, education and technology.