Eating is something that every human being must do for survival. Without the ingestion of food into our bodies, we will not receive the nutrients that we require to continue living. It may come as a surprise to many of you, but there is no specific commandment in the Bible “to eat.” The fact that people will eat is already assumed by the Biblical authors. However, simply because there is no command “to eat” does not mean that God does not have some specific instructions on how His people are to eat. In the Torah, both Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 lay out the laws of kashrut (pronounced kashrus in the Askhenazic tradition), specifying those animals that are fit for human consumption.
Observing and/or adopting kosher eating habits is admittedly one of the most difficult things for many Messianic Believers to do. There are many theological arguments made from the Apostolic Scriptures (New Testament) that when viewed a particular way, can seem to suggest that the importance of the dietary laws was rendered inoperative via the work of Yeshua the Messiah. Once a person has overcome many of these theological hurdles in his or her Messianic quest, and sees the validity of the dietary laws in the Bible and how the Apostles continued to eat a degree of kosher, the question of how one is to follow them in a Twenty-First Century world needs to be asked.
Transitioning from eating whatever one’s palate desires, to following the guidelines God has laid out in His Word, is admittedly not something that is easy. Many of us have grown up in cultures where the eating of unclean things is simply a given. Common church culture is filled with those special prayer breakfasts where many have had bacon and sausage, as well as those potluck Wednesday night Bible studies with all manner of unclean things. Some of our best family memories may be centered around a ham, or picking apart a crab. When we are convicted that such things are not food, it can be difficult to give these things up—because after all, what is so evil about fried shrimp? It is not as though any of us were consuming illegal drugs and “getting high.” We were just eating what everyone else was eating.
When our family went kosher in 1996, we really did have a great deal to give up. I was raised with a Southern style of cooking inherited from my mother’s family that cooked with bacon fat. My all time favorite food was a pulled pork bar-b-que sandwich. Add to this the fact that my mother was raised in Maryland on the Chesapeake Bay, where the best crabs in the world come from. A great deal of our “tasty treats” were considered unclean by Biblical standards. Pork, crabs, shrimp, and many other things that we liked to eat had to be eliminated from our diet. I will admit to you now that I went kosher “kicking and screaming.” I did not see what was so “wrong” with eating these things. After all, I surmised, many generations of faithful Christians had been eating this before me, and surely they were with the Lord in Heaven. Why do I have to do anything different?
It is possible that many of you coming from an evangelical Christian background have had some of the same thoughts as I had regarding the dietary laws. Perhaps while respecting them when reading Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 in the Bible, knowing that this is why the Jews “don’t eat pork,” you reasoned that since there are so many godly and loving people who eat bacon every day—and surely God would not send them to Hell for doing so—then why does it really matter? This is probably what makes eating kosher so difficult. Because following the dietary laws is not a “salvation issue,” we often miss out on some key lessons that God tries to teach us through obedience to them.
In this article, I will be exploring some of the challenges that we often face as Messianic Believers who want to obey our Heavenly Father to the fullest extent, but also maintain an active testimony to the world around us. We will discuss some of the variance that we see in the emerging Messianic movement regarding adherence to the kosher dietary laws, some things that we have to keep in mind regarding Jewish tradition and Judaism’s general interpretations regarding kashrut, and most importantly the proper attitude that we need to have regarding our observance. Hopefully, this will give you a good overview of many of the issues at hand, and give you encouragement in your Messianic walk of faith.How_Do_We_Properly_Keep_Kosher_KOSHER
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!