Life or Death Pregnancy Cravings


Judaism is full of rules: Rules about holidays, day-to-day rituals, and perhaps most notably, lots of rules about food. The Bible (Leviticus 11Deuteronomy 14) lists animals that are strictly off limits, and later on the rabbis enacted more hard and fast rules about what’s okay to eat and what isn’t.

But the rabbis actually make an exception to these rules, and you’ll never guess for what. In a little known section of the Talmud (Keritot 13a), the rabbis rule that a pregnant woman craving non-kosher meat should first be given a piece of bread dipped in the juice of the meat she wants. If this does not satisfy her, she should be given the non-kosher meat to eat. Why? Because, the rabbis say, all Jewish laws are waived in the face of danger to the mother, or the fetus. (Apparently they believed that pregnancy cravings were a matter of life and death.)

Preserving life is the trump card of Jewish law—nearly everything is allowed if a life is at stake. Most of the time these “life-on-the-line” situations may seem unlikely, but it’s nice to know that the rabbis of the Talmud took the cravings of a pregnant woman so seriously.

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