The kosher laws were commanded by G‑d to the children of Israel in the Sinai Desert. Moses taught them to the people and wrote the basics of these laws in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14.
The details were handed down through the generations and eventually written down in the Mishnah and Talmud. Various ordinances were enacted through the generations by the rabbinical authorities as safeguards for these biblical laws.
Throughout our 4,000-year history, the observance of kosher has been a hallmark of Jewish identity. Perhaps more than any other mitzvah, the kosher laws emphasize that Judaism is much more than a religion in the conventional sense of the word.
To the Jew, holiness is not confined to holy places and times outside the everyday; rather, life in its totality is a sacred endeavor. Even the seemingly mundane activity of eating is a G‑dly act and a uniquely Jewish experience.
The Hebrew word “kosher” (כָּשֵׁר) literally means “fit.” It has come to refer more broadly to anything that is “above board” or “legit.” The laws of kosher define the foods that are fit for consumption for a Jew.