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Ask the Aish Rabbi a Question

Recent Questions:

Have Her Convert?

I’ve been dating a young woman for the past two years and we are starting to think about marriage. The problem is that she is not Jewish. I would want her to convert, but in a way where there would be no doubt about its validity, so that we and our kids don’t have problems later on. How do you recommend that I proceed?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

I appreciate your desire to do the right thing and proceed in an authentic way.

The process of conversion is challenging and involves a process of a year or two. This benefits the person converting, to ensure he fully appreciates the responsibilities he is taking on.

According to the Code of Jewish Law (Shulchan Aruch), a valid conversion replicates the experience at Mount Sinai of 3,300 years ago, when the Jewish nation accepted the Torah. For your friend to convert, she must:

  • believe in God who gave the Torah to the Jewish people
  • believe that Judaism is the true religion, not just accept it by default
  • study what it says in the Torah
  • commit to observe all the Torah's commandments

Further, a conversion must be motivated for the sincere purpose of getting close to God and His Torah, not for ulterior motives. Thus, your friend would have to embrace Judaism and the Torah for its own sake, not in order to marry you. She should have the exact same desire to convert even with you entirely out of the picture.

If your friend studies Judaism and feels it is right for her, she would then approach an Orthodox conversion court and explain her situation. The court would then decide if it feels she is a sincere candidate for conversion. If yes, she would begin the lengthy process of studying and practicing to become a true convert.

Of course, to have a successful relationship, you will also need a high level of appreciation and commitment to Judaism. Perhaps you could begin your own study program to discover how Torah values enhance our lives and form the bedrock of civilization.

You should endeavor to live near a Jewish community which has adult education programs, rabbis you can consult with, Shabbat hospitality programs, etc.

Also, you should get a basic Jewish library started in your home.

See also our basics section, as well as our more advanced sister site, JewishPathways.com.

For one-on-one Jewish learning – by phone or in person, for free, at a time that's good for you – contact jinspire.org.

Kosher Species

Has anyone ever published an exhaustive list of all the kosher species?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

The Torah (Leviticus 11:3) lists the characteristics of permitted animals as those with fully split hooves, who also chew their cud (ruminants). Kosher animals are always mammals and herbivores. The kosher animals commonly eaten today are the cow, goat and sheep. Buffalo meat, which has higher protein and lower fat content than cows, is becoming increasingly popular. Deer meat (venison) is a delicacy, but is rare to find due to the difficulty in properly containing the deer in order to shecht it (kosher slaughter).

As for birds, the Torah enumerates 24 forbidden species, and the Talmud explains that, among other signs, all birds of prey (vulture, hawk, eagle) are forbidden. In practice today, we eat only those birds for which there is an established tradition that the bird is kosher – e.g. chicken, turkey, duck and goose.

As for "kosher eggs," they must come from a species of kosher bird (e.g. chicken).

Pareve Food

Please could you explain to me the origins of the term Pareve and how this came to refer to food that is neither dairy nor meat? Thanks very much.

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

The Yiddish word "Pareve" may have its roots in the Hebrew word "Pri" – meaning fruit. Fruit is, of course, neither dairy nor meat. In Yiddish, "ve" is frequently added when turning a noun into an adjective.

Alternatively, in old French, "parevis" is the term used for a vacant lot in front of a Temple. This vacant lot stands between the mundane street and the sanctified house of worship. Similarly, Pareve food lies between the two extremes of dairy and meat.

A few more suggestions:

The Latin word "par" means "pair." Pareve foods can be "paired" with either milk or meat.

The Latin "parus" means "equal," neither more to one side or another.

In the Holy Temple, a chamber called the Bais HaPareve was located half in, and half out of the Kohanic section. It was "neither here nor there," so to speak, just as pareve food is neither meat nor dairy.