Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #26: Sh’mini (Eighth) Vayikra (Leviticus) 9:1-11:47
Haftarah: Sh’mu’el bet (2 Samuel) 6:1-19
B’rit Chadashah: 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1
Today we are going to take a look into the dietary laws. Some may already be of the opinion they understand all there is to know about these very important laws that Yahshua followed and taught. However, there is always something new to be learned for those who have not closed their minds to new information, as long as it is consistent with G-d’s Torah.
Holiness and separation as G-d’s people extends to what they eat as well as thoughts and behaviors. Addressing animals of the land type, they had to chew the cud and have a divided hoof so that the hoof was split (v.3). Animals that chew the cud are not carnivorous but eat vegetation. This is a significant distinction. Think for a moment about some of the animals eaten in the Pacific Northwest such as bears, wolves, beavers, otters, and seals. None of these animals fit G-d’s criteria for permitted land or sea animals. The hood had to be completely split. This rule eliminated the option of lions, bears, and dogs who have a membrane that unites the claws. These animals are generally carnivorous.
Considering marine life, only animals that have fins and scales are permitted. Again, this eliminates seals, otters, turtles, and whales. This law was necessary because many of the tribes lives near a body of water such as the Mediterranean, the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan River, and other tributary streams.
Concerning birds, every clean bird was fair game. To make it easier to know which birds can be eaten, the Torah eliminates those considered unclean ( also Deut. 14:11-20). The fouls listed as unclean are also carnivores. It was and is also forbidden to eat birds that eat other creatures or fed on dead flesh or had unclean practices such as vultures, eagles, and seagulls to name a few.
There are some insects that are also permitted although the choice is limited. Permitted insects are those that were winged, walked on four legs, and had jointed legs above their feet, enabling them to hop ( v.21). So, these permitted insects were limited to some types of locusts, crickets or beetles, and grasshoppers. All other insects were and are unclean. Reptiles and worms are also forbidden for food. Insects that move on all four legs, those with many feet or those that move on their bellies are also forbidden.
G-d in His mercy also clarified situations where there may be doubt. Such things would include those animals that may chew the cud but not have a completely split hoof or the other way round. Animals in this category include the camel and pig.
The purpose of the dietary laws includes the fact that meat that is fit for human consumption comes from animals that do not eat meat. The main reason for the dietary laws is theological, We have already discussed that life and blood are synonymous and that to consume blood is considered a heinous practice. The blood of any animal represents its life. So, an Israelite then and now does not eat a creature that ate bloody prey. There was a high regard for life not easily found in our society today. G-d expects man to respect the life of other life, and this figured in what was to be considered clean, which related it to holiness.
Dietary laws were developed to include the way clean animals were to be killed or eaten; that is what is considered kosher. These rules are generally followed today by the Orthodox Jewish communities who hire a specially trained individual in the art of killing and inspecting a clean animal before it is prepared for human consumption. The animal had its jugular vein cut, and the blood of the animal is drained. Before the meat is processed, it is inspected for any disease or condition that would render it unfit for consumption. The process of killing the animal is most humane as well. Typically, the animal is led around slowly until the individual who will kill it uses a knife twice as long as the neck of the animal is wide. With one swift cut, the animal is killed, causing no pain, and preventing the release of toxins into the tissue. There are even laws that forbid stopping and starting the cut. It must be made in an uninterrupted motion until the trachea and esophagus are severed. The knife cannot be stabbed into the animal and the esophagus and trachea cannot be torn in the process.
This humane way of killing animals is very different from the way they are killed in the United States where they are herded into a small space which frightens them, causing toxins to be released into their bodies before they are killed. There re three steps to killing an animal for consumption use in the United States that I am going to discuss because it has an effect on the health of the individual who eats meat prepared this way and the discomfort and/or pain the animal may endure during the process.
Preslaughter is the first step. This process is done to hopefully reduce the stress of the animal. Different groups of animals are mixed together, ventilated to keep cool, and kept in low numbers to prevent overcrowding. The animals are supposed to have access to water but no food for 12-24 hours to assure complete bleeding and to make removal of the internal organs easier.
Next comes stunning. The animals are restrained in a chute and restricts their movement. They are then stunned to supposedly prevent pain and stress which is meant to increase the quality of the meat. However, the stunning process can be carried out in various ways such as mechanical, electrical, or through the use of carbon dioxide gas. This renders the animal unconscious. Mechanical stunning involves firing a bolt through the animal’s skull using a gun or pneumatic pistol.
Next comes the slaughter. After stunning the animal, it is usually suspended by a hind leg and moved down a conveyor for the slaughter procedures. The animal is bled out by inserting a knife into the thoracic cavity and cutting the jugular vein. From this point, the process varies by species. By learning the differences in the process of animal slaughter between Judaism and other cultures and or religions, we can better appreciate the detail with which G-d explicates the slaughter of animals bot for Temple sacrifices, and for human consumption. If we are to be a holy people, we must also follow the dietary laws and prepare the food taken from live creatures in a holy way.
Another important purpose for distinguishing between what is clean and unclean concerns the hygienic and sanitary issue. Many forms of life do not prey on other animals, but because of the eating and living habits of the animal, they are rendered unkosher. One example is a lobster. If lobsters are not killed properly, the meat can become contaminated. Shellfish by nature are unclean because they filter toxins from the water and store them in their bodies. These toxins can become harmful to those eating them. This information comes from the national Center for Biotechnology Information as just one source found in the research.
Regardless of the reasons precented for not eating unclean food, serving G-d and remaining a holy people included then as it does today, doing what is best for our bodies, allowing us to serve Him at our best. It makes no sense for Christian clergy to teach that humans can eat whatever they want under the “Freedom of Christ” when eating forbidden foods are detrimental to human health. Would such behavior be sanctioned by a G-d who wants the best for His people? Think about it.
Haftarah: 2 Samuel 6:1-19
The haftarah provides us another example of the seriousness of modifying our worship of G-d. King David decides to transport the ark of G-d on a new cart. It is as if David thought a new cart; a foreign fire would be an acceptable way to transport it. However, G-d made it very clear how the ark was to be transported, on the shoulders of man, not beasts, or in a cart. We read in Exodus 25: 13-15: Make poles of acacia-wood and overlay them with gold. Put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark; you will use them to carry the ark. The poles are to remain in the ark; they are not to be removed from it.” David violated this protocol and it cost Uzah his life when he tried to steady it on the cart. For the new Torah student or for those who disregard the Old Testament with the original Constitution of G-d, it would seem unreasonable for G-d to kill a man for what seems such an innocent action. The same could be said for Nadav and Avihu. However, when we come to the truth of G-d’s Torah that specifically instructs us on everything from worshipping YHVH/Yahshua to not picking up lizards, we had best pay attention and engrave “these words which I have commanded you this day, be upon your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, speak of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you retire and when you arise. You shall bind them as a sign upon your hand and let them be frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house, and upon your gates “(Deut. 6:6-9). David was very well aware of this instruction and the protocol for transporting the ark. This is the reason he became frightened of Adonai and did not bring the ark to Jerusalem for three months. Instead, the ark was taken to the house of Oved-Edom where G-d blessed him and his entire household. Who was Oved-Edom and why would David trust him to keep the ark? His name means Servant of Edom. He was considered a native of Gath-rimmon, thus the designation Gittite. He was a Levite of the family of Korhites. He had taken up residence in Judah, perhaps a convert to Judaism and the worship of the G-d of Avraham, Isaac, and Jacob. David had many followers from the Gittites. This may explain why the ark was taken to Oved-Edom’s house for three months and merited G-d’s blessing over him and his entire household.
B’rit Chadashah: 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1
This passage reminds us of the stark differences between true believers and unbelievers, clean and unclean epitomized by Avraham and Lot. “Do not yoke yourselves together in a team with unbelievers. For how can righteousness and lawlessness be partners? What fellowship does light have with darkness? What harmony can there be between the Messiah and B’liya’al? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement can there be between the temple of G-d and idols? For we are the temple of the living G-d- as G-d said, ‘I will house myself in them… and I will walk among you. I will be their G-d and they will be my people.’ Therefore, Adonai says,’ Go out from their midst; separate yourselves; don’t even touch what is unclean. Then I myself will receive you. In fact, I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters.”
It is important to understand that the word son in Hebrew has several meanings. It does not always mean a biological son, or a son-type relationship in any way equivalent to Yahshua to G-d the Father. I submit in this passage, sons and daughters takes on one of the alternative meanings of disciples.
The directions are clear, and we do not have the liberty to modify them in any way. This passage may sound easy to follow, but anyone who is in the process of ascending to G-d is in the process of learning how involved this process of separating ourselves becomes as we grow. Oh, it may be easy to forego bacon, or not. However, it’s required. Then we learn of the tithe; it’s required. Then we learn that not working on Shabbat is not an option; we are to rest for 24 whole hours and not think about what we are going to do tomorrow or watch our clocks so we can start a project at the moment Shabbat is over. Then we realize our relationships with our families and friends must change; it’s required. What about potential companions or spouses? They must take second place to our obedience to G-d’s Torah (Matt. 10:34-37; Luke 12:51) But whoever disowns me before others I will disown before my Father in heaven. Don’t suppose I have come to bring peace to the Land. It is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword! For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, so that a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household. Whovever loves his father or mother more than he loves me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than he loves me is not worthy of me.”
Our G-d is a jealous G-d Who demands allegiance to Him only (Ex. 20:5). Think back about the story of Abraham and Lot. Is not Lot comparable to a pig? He seemed kosher on the outside as he initially followed Abraham. The Hebrew translation of this story portrays Lot as a person who initially revered Abraham as a great teacher and mentor. However, as time passed, Lot lost all respect for Avraham through familiarity and greed. Remember the account in Genesis 13:8-11 where Avraham, ever the hospitable one offered Lot the choice of land. Lot in his greed perceived the whole plain of the Yarden that was well watered everywhere. As the younger of the two and out of respect for Avraham, he should have insisted Avraham choose first, or believing the plain of the Yarden to be the choicest land, chose to go in the other direction. Lot was greedy. He ended up in an idolatrous city of S’dom and ‘Amora that was so filled with greed an inhospitable people that G-d destroyed it. Lucky for Lot, G-d allowed him to live anyway.This illustrates the emphasis on the pig as the epitome of uncleanliness in the eyes of G-d. Just as a pig looks kosher from the outside with the split hoof, Lot belonged to the family of Avraham and initially chose to leave his home and follow Avraham, making him appear righteous and clean. However, like the pig who does not chew the cud which makes it unclean on the inside, Lot was filled with greed and compromise. It was for Avraham’s righteousness that G-d physically separated Lot from S’dom and ‘Amora before destroying them (Gen. 19:29).
We all have a choice. May we choose the path that will lead us to eternal life with YHVH/Yahshua, no matter the perceived hardships including social isolation or even martyrdom endured for His glory. It can be done by learning and living G-d’s Torah. This is the will of G-d, that the world will know that “I am Adonai” (Ezekiel 35:15; 26:38; 37:28; 38:23).
Rabbi Tamah Davis -Hart