Glatt Kosher Meaning, “Treif”

I often see foods and establishments advertised as “glatt kosher.” I know what kosher is, but what is glatt kosher?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

“Glatt” is a Yiddish word which means “smooth”. The Hebrew word for it is “chalak”. Technically speaking, the term relates to the checking of the lungs of a slaughtered animal to determine if it is kosher.

Even a properly-slaughtered animal from a kosher species is not kosher if it has any internal or external defects in any of its major organs. Thus, after slaughtering an animal, certain checks are done on it to determine if it is kosher.

The main organs which are checked are the animal’s lungs. If a lung has any adhesions on it, it is not “smooth”. It might be a sign that the lung has a hole in it, rendering the animal unkosher.

The law for Ashkenazi Jews is that some such adhesions can be checked (by carefully peeling them off and checking for holes) and might not be problematic. Sephardic Jews, however, do not eat animals with such adhesions at all. When an animal is said to be “glatt kosher,” the meaning is that the lungs were entirely smooth without any adhesions, and so the animal is kosher even by Sephardic standards. (This is the preferred standard for Ashkenazi Jews as well.) (See Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 39:13.)

In colloquial English, however, the term “glatt kosher” has become a general term for describing high standards of kashrut – “super kosher,” and is a way of marketing a product (whether animal or not) as unquestionably kosher.

It’s interesting to note that a related technical term too has a borrowed meaning in English. The word “treif” technically means “torn”. The Torah forbids eating animals which were found “torn” in the field – killed by wild animals and not properly slaughtered (Exodus 22:30). (The actual word in the Torah is the feminine version – “treifah”.)

Here too, we refer to any non-kosher food as “treif” – having nothing to do with torn flesh. For example, we refer to pig and lobster as “treif” animals. If a person accidentally cooked meat and milk together in his kitchen, we would refer to the results as “treif”. And likewise, if a person accidentally cooked milk in a pot normally designed for meat, we would say that he “treifed up” his pot.

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