Q. Why is eating pork so repugnant to Jews?
A. Though the pig is not the only animal which the Torah forbids us to eat, it has come to be the ultimate symbol of what Jews don’t do. Historically, a Jew who threw off Jewish restraints would show his defiance of tradition by eating pork and advertising the fact.
In Marrano history Jews who maintained a secret loyalty to Judaism found pork-eating the hardest thing to contemplate; indeed the word “Marrano” itself means “swine”. Christian depictions of their dominance over the scorned and hated Jews showed Jews suckling the teats of a pig.
To tell me how assimilated his family had been in prewar Europe, someone once said to me, “Already a hundred years ago in Germany my ancestors were eating chazzir!” Even people who are not so particular about eating kosher food tend to draw the line at chazzir. There is even a folk saying, “Don’t be a chazzir!”
The implication is that the pig is objectionable – and also mean. The cow and lamb both give during their lives and after their death, but the pig gives only after its death. Applying this to human philanthropy, some people are generous while they are alive and do not merely leave money in their will; others give nothing in their lifetime but only when they are dead.