Do Jews Eat Shellfish?

Most people are somewhat familiar with the kosher diet as being something relative to Jewish tradition.

The foods that are considered kosher and the rationale behind what’s considered kosher aren’t as well-known.

For instance, do Jews eat shellfish?

No, Jews do not eat shellfish as it’s not considered kosher. For something to be kosher, it has to be a food or a dish that complies with the traditions of Jewish law.

When it comes to seafood, there are some very specific rules in Jewish culture that regulate what can and cannot be eaten. 

Not all seafood is considered off-limits for those who follow Jewish tradition. However, there are other types of sea dwellers that, while edible, are avoided in Jewish culture. 

Why Don’t Jews Eat Shellfish?

Jews don’t eat shellfish because according to kashrut rules, it’s only permitted to eat animals from the water that possess both scales and fins. Since shellfish have neither of these, they are not considered edible. 

It’s also speculated that shellfish was avoided due to how unsafe it would have been to eat back when the rules were written in scripture.

Outside of shellfish, Jews are also not permitted to eat other sea creatures such as swimming mammals or crustaceans. 

Is Any Shellfish Kosher?

Shellfish by their very nature don’t fall into the kashrut laws that dignify a food as kosher. Since they’re covered in a shell, they can’t have scales. Rules regarding both the proper way to slaughter animals and what animal-based foods can be eaten are pretty strict in Judaism, though not all Jews follow the rules to the letter. 

What Kind Of Seafood Are Jews Permitted To Eat?

Any fish that has both fins and scales can be eaten according to Jewish tradition. This would include fish such as salmon, tuna, whitefish, cod, and halibut.

One thing to be cognizant of surrounding the fins and scales rule is that fish aren’t required to be covered in scales with two fins to be indulged in; one fin and one scale are good enough. 

Are There Other Rules Regarding Fish In The Jewish Diet?

Kashrut rules don’t only revolve around what can be eaten, but how certain foods should be prepared and indulged in.

When it comes to fish, it can be eaten alongside other types of animal products that are allowed to be eaten. 

Fish dishes also don’t need to be cooked with different utensils, but the utensils used in all Jewish cooking are expected to be kosher. This is true no matter what kind of dish is being made. 

Why Don’t Jews Eat Certain Foods?

The rules that many Jews follow regarding diet is called kashrut. The kashrut has been guided by various sections of scripture.

Many are familiar with the term kosher, which means that food is safe and permissible to eat under kashrut rules.

Foods that aren’t allowed to be eaten are known as trefah or treif. 

Outside of what foods Jews may or may not eat, there are also different ways that Jews will prepare, plate, or enjoy certain foods.

Those who observe more traditional Jewish practices do so because they appreciate the more disciplined approach to certain ways of life as dictated by scripture, which they hold to great significance. 

Is Shellfish Forbidden In The Bible?

There is scripture within the Old Testament of the Bible that does make reference to shellfish, specifically in the Book of Leviticus.

However, the Bible doesn’t say the word “shellfish.” Instead, it references that animals in the sea must have fins and scales, which eliminates shellfish and crustaceans like shrimp, oysters, crabs, and lobster among others. 

The scripture goes on to say that these creatures are to be viewed as “detestable” and only ones with fins and scales can be eaten. 

Final Thoughts 

Not all fish is off limits in the traditional Jewish diet, but shellfish is.

Shellfish are not considered clean as they are animals that live in the water, but they also don’t produce the necessary traits under kashrut law.

The rules around food may not be followed strictly by all those who practice Judaism, but for the ones that do follow them, the rules are considered sacred and divine.