Jewish philosophy divides the 613 commandments (or mitzvot) into three groups—laws that have a rational explanation and would probably be enacted by most orderly societies (mishpatim), laws that are understood after being explained but would not be legislated without the Torah's command (eidot), and laws that do not have a rational explanation (chukim). Some Jewish scholars say that kashrut should be categorized as laws for which there is no particular explanation since the human mind is not always capable of understanding divine intentions. In this line of thinking, the dietary laws were given as a demonstration of God's authority, and man must obey without asking why. However, Maimonides believed that Jews were permitted to seek out reasons for the laws of the Torah.
Some theologians have said that the laws of kashrut are symbolic in character: Kosher animals represent virtues, while non-kosher animals represent vices. The 1st-century BCE Letter of Aristeas argues that the laws "have been given ... to awake pious thoughts and to form the character". This view reappears in the work of the 19th century Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch.
The Torah prohibits "seething the kid (goat, sheep, calf) in its mother's milk". While the Bible does not provide a reason, it has been suggested that the practice was perceived as cruel and insensitive.
Hasidic Judaism believes that everyday life is imbued with channels connecting with Divinity, the activation of which it sees as helping the Divine Presence to be drawn into the physical world; Hasidism argues that the food laws are related to the way such channels, termed sparks of holiness, interact with various animals. These sparks of Holiness are released whenever a Jew manipulates any object for a holy reason (which includes eating); however, not all animal products are capable of releasing their sparks of holiness. The Hasidic argument is that animals are imbued with signs that reveal the release of these sparks, and the signs are expressed in the biblical categorization of ritually clean and ritually unclean.
According to Christian theologian Gordon J. Wenham, the purpose of kashrut was to help Jews maintain a distinct and separate existence from other peoples; he says that the effect of the laws was to prevent socialization and intermarriage with non-Jews, preventing Jewish identity from being diluted. Wenham argued that since the impact of the food laws was a public affair, this would have enhanced Jewish attachment to them as a reminder of their distinct status as Jews.
There have been attempts to provide empirical support for the view that Jewish food laws have an overarching health benefit or purpose. One of the earliest is that of Maimonides in The Guide for the Perplexed. In 1953, David Macht, an Orthodox Jew and proponent of the theory of biblical scientific foresight, conducted toxicity experiments on many kinds of animals and fish. His experiment involved lupin seedlings being supplied with extracts from the meat of various animals; Macht reported that in 100% of cases, extracts from ritually unclean meat inhibited the seedling's growth more than that from ritually clean meats. At the same time, these explanations are controversial. Scholar Lester L. Grabbe, writing in the Oxford Bible Commentary on Leviticus, says "[a]n explanation now almost universally rejected is that the laws in this section  have hygiene as their basis. Although some of the laws of ritual purity roughly correspond to modern ideas of physical cleanliness, many of them have little to do with hygiene. For example, there is no evidence that the 'unclean' animals are intrinsically bad to eat or to be avoided in a Mediterranean climate, as is sometimes asserted."