Ask The Rabbi

Butter Fat

The Color of HeavenArtscroll
Topic: Animal Fats, Kosher?

Hazel Moeller from Nelspruit, South Africa wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

The Bible says that one should not eat animal fat (Leviticus 7:23). I would like to know in which category does butter fall - an animal fat? Do orthodox Jews use butter, and on which scriptures do they base their choice? Thank you for this service!


Dear Hazel Moeller,

Yes, Torah Jews use butter; and no, butter is not an animal fat, in the sense of the verse you refer to.

Actually, your question is based on a misunderstanding of the word "chelev." The Torah forbids eating "chelev." Chelev refers only to specific fats found in certain places on the animal's body, such as the fat on the stomach, kidneys and liver. Thus, the vast majority the animal's fat is permitted. So, even if butter were considered an "animal fat," it would still be permitted, as are most animal fats. In reality, though, butter is considered milk.

For Biblical indication that butter is permitted, Deuteronomy (32:13,14) says: "[G-d] nurtured them [the Jews]...with butter from cows and milk from sheep." Would G-d give us food that wasn't kosher?

Sources:

  • Leviticus 7:23-25
  • Leviticus 3:3,4


 
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