Saturday, December 31, 2011

Jews and pigskin

Facebook question I received
So I make leather bags and such for a living and I have run into a problem maybe you could help me with. Some of my customers want to have pigskin as lining for some of my products. Is there any such law that forbids me from using pigskin or touching it?

answer-similar Question:

It says in the Torah that one should not touch the carcasses of swine. Does this mean that we should not wear Hush Puppy shoes (made of pigskin) or play football or rugby with a ball made of pig skin?


In short, there is no prohibition against using or touching such items. Here's the longer version of the answer:

I am assuming that you are taking the prohibition against "touching" a pig – or any non-kosher animal for that matter – from Leviticus 11:8, where it states: "You shall not eat of their flesh, and you shall not touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you." Understanding this verse in its most literal sense leads one to the conclusion that it is forbidden to touch any part of a non-kosher animal's carcass.

Rashi, the classic commentator to the Scriptures, foresaw this misunderstanding. He explains that this verse is referring only to the three pilgrimage festivals – Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot – when all Jews were required to maintain a state of ritual purity in order to be allowed entry into the Holy Temple and be present when their festive sacrifices were offered.1 During the rest of the year, there is no prohibition against coming in contact with animal carcasses.

Now, the above is true regarding the flesh of the animal. Animal hide, however, does not carry impurities, especially when it is tanned.

So, when the Temple is rebuilt, I guess we might find some people ascending on their pilgrimage to the Temple wearing their Hush Puppies—though all shoes are forbidden on the actual Temple Mount. And I should also mention that according to the Midrash, pig will be a kosher animal when Moshiach comes. But that's a discussion all for itself...

I hope this helps,

Rabbi Shmuel Kogan,

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