Laws of Religion
Laws of Judaism Concerning Food
from the Biblical Books of Moses (Torah)
and the Code of Maimonides (Mishneh Torah)
From the Biblical Books of Moses (Torah)
It is permitted to eat animals from seas or rivers that have fins and scales. It is forbidden to eat animals from water that do not have fins and scales; they are unclean* to an Israelite and an abomination.
Jewish Law (Halakha) from the Code of Maimonides (Mishneh Torah)
The only requirements for permitted fish are fins and scales. There are procedures, described by Maimonides, to be followed if the scales or fins are not yet grown in, if the scales have been temporarily shed or if the scales do not cover the whole body.
Eating an unclean* animal from the water is a violation of both a positive (Leviticus 11:9, Deuteronomy 14:9) and a negative (Leviticus. 11:10, Deuteronomy 14:10) commandment. Therefore, (since it violates a negative commandment) eating a quantity of such an unclean animal equal to the size of an olive makes a person liable to flogging.
* We use the words "clean" and "unclean" to refer to animal species that are permitted (kosher) or forbidden for eating; other things or people are referred to as being "pure" or "impure" or, occasionally for more clarity, as "ritually pure" or "ritually impure." A separate section of this website is devoted solely to the issue of ritual purity in Judaism.
Abbreviations used in footnotes:
Gen: The Biblical book of Genesis.
Exod: The Biblical book of Exodus.
Lev: The Biblical book of Leviticus.
Num: The Biblical Book of Numbers.
Deut: The Biblical Book of Deuteronomy.
MT: The Mishneh Torah of Maimonides (Code of Maimonides). The names of the specific books and treatises within each book are given according to the Yale University Press translation and also the Moznaim/Touger Hebrew transliterations to facilitate locating the texts posted here.
F: indicates page numbers in the Feldheim Publishers, Ltd., translation of Book 1 of the Mishneh Torah of Maimonides, the Book of Knowledge.
M: indicates page numbers in the relevant volume of the Moznaim Publishing Corporation’s Touger translation. (Some of the books of Mishneh Torah are published in several volumes by Moznaim, so the Moznaim volume numbers do not correspond to the Book numbers of Maimonides’ work.)
Y: indicates page numbers in the translation of the Yale University Press Judaica Series.
● The sources cited are described on the page Source Texts Used for Laws of Judaism.
 Lev 11:9, Deut 14:9
 Deut 14:10
 Lev 11:10-12
 MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 2 on Forbidden Foods, Ma’achalot Assurot; Chapter 1, sec 24 (pages 292M 157Y)
 MT Book 5, The Book of Holiness, Sefer Kedushah; Treatise 2 on Forbidden Foods, Ma’achalot Assurot; Chapter 2, sec 4 (pages 294M 159Y)