A Summarization of Jewish Kosher Traditions

To most outsiders who encounter the Messianic Jewish movement, when hearing something about kosher or kashrut, what they mostly think about are instructions within the Torah or Law of Moses which prohibit the consumption of unclean meats such as pork or shellfish. Much of the Messianic community has promoted what it considers to be “Biblically kosher,” which primarily begins and ends at not eating pork and shellfish. In traditional Judaism, however, what it means to be kosher is much more involved than observant Jews not eating certain meats labeled to be “unclean.” Kashrut involves classification of unclean meats to be sure, but also involves some significant traditions regarding the butchering of animals, how meat is to be prepared, what can and cannot be eaten together, separation of utensils and cookware—as well as a variety of theological and philosophical reasons proposed for the institution of these Biblical instructions, and their subsequent interpretation and application over the centuries by Jewish religious authorities and diverse Jewish communities.

Much of the broad Messianic movement considers kosher to just involve not eating pork or shellfish, yet it is clear even from a reading of instructions in the Torah, that this is a rather simplistic and under-developed approach to this issue. Likewise, even with a diverse number of internal Messianic views on the theological aspects of the Torah’s dietary laws—but ones which are more positive than not regarding their continued validity in the post-resurrection era—there is not a huge amount of understanding for what it means to be kosher in much of traditional Judaism. Even if many Messianic people, for example, do not think that it is necessary to separate meat and dairy, or have multiple sets of dishes or utensils, or that most food items that they purchase have an hechsher or official symbol of kosher approval—they still, as members of a movement with an explicit mandate to declare the good news of Israel’s Messiah to the Jewish people, need to know a few things about Jewish kosher traditions and observance. Given the importance of the kosher dietary laws for Judaism and the Jewish people throughout the centuries, every Messianic person, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, should have a familiarity with how the Torah’s dietary laws have been interpreted and applied over the centuries.

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reproduced from the Messianic Kosher Helper

When the subject of kosher, kashrut, or the dietary instructions of the Torah or the Law of Moses come up in various contemporary Messianic settings, there can be a tendency for some strong emotions to arise. The broad Messianic spectrum represents a diversity of views on “kosher”—ranging from the dietary laws being abolished and only to be observed as a part of Jewish culture, to people advocating a strict adherence to many Orthodox Jewish rulings and practices, to a kosher style diet where people mainly avoid pork and shellfish. At times, there has been an over-amount of attention given to the minutiae of keeping kosher, and not enough time given to some of the significant Biblical passages which either inform us about kosher or have been traditionally interpreted to say that kosher has been abolished for the post-resurrection era. And more than anything else, maintaining an appropriate, Messiah-centric attitude toward all of this, is most imperative. There have been far too many extremes represented regarding the issue of the dietary laws, at times, and not enough reasoned discussion. Too many people have issued accusations against others, and not enough have tried to inquire of both the Holy Scriptures and the Holy Spirit, what is perhaps important about this issue. Human beings have to all eat, after all!

The Messianic Kosher Helper includes a wide breadth of material, addressing a wide array of topics associated with the Torah’s dietary laws. This publication has been divided up into two main parts: The Significance of Kosher and A Theology of Eating and Kosher. You will be able to detect a progression of sorts, in our family’s own approach to the subject matter, as some things are addressed first more generally and then more specifically. In our experience, we ourselves have certainly had to move from a more elementary view of the issue of kosher, to a more developed view, and we recognize how the Messianic community needs to do the same.

It is important to remember how Leviticus 11:44 says, “For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy” (cf. 1 Peter 1:16)—a concept which is directly connected to clean and unclean meats. But, if following this is not enjoined with a better appreciation and understanding of a steadfast mandate for all of us to have clean minds and hearts, imbued with the presence of God’s Holy Spirit, demonstrating the love of Yeshua to all—then outward holiness will not have been joined with the more critical inward holiness. If, however, we learn how to separate external things which are clean and unclean—then perhaps we can also learn, with God’s help, how to separate clean and unclean thoughts, ideas, and attitudes, being mature men and women in Him, and empowered on many different levels for service to His Kingdom!

This is a massive collection of material, well needed for every Messianic home and congregational library!

676 pages