Shabbat Shalom and welcome to Judeo Talk. The Torah portion for this week is parsha Shemini, Leviticus 9:1-11:47.
For many non-Jews one of the most difficult things to understand about Judaism are its dietary restrictions. Known as kashrut
or "Kosher Laws" these limitations almost all come out of Leviticus, many of them from this parsha. Without prompting or framing of any sort, God dictates a list to Moses of the animals people are allowed to eat and the things they are not, all based a series of seemingly arbitrary standards like the number of legs, the shape of a hoof and the eating habits of the creature in question. Because there is no explanation other than that "they are unclean" it is difficult for many to understand why these creatures were off-limits.
Unlike the dietary laws of some other faiths which prohibit people from eating animals considered sacred, Judaism does not recognize any sacred animals. Rather, the restrictions have to do with health concerns.