Within the Orthodox, and some conservative Jewish homes, there is a strict observance to certain Biblical dietary laws, which are found in Leviticus 11. The obedience to these dietary rules has become understood by the universal term, “keeping kosher”. The distinction between the forbidden and the unforbidden food was defined by allowing only those animals that chewed their cud and had cloven hooves. There were animals that chewed their cud, but didn’t have cloven hooves, and they were eliminated from the list of allowable foods. The meat of animals that masticated their cud many times, regurgitating from one stomach into another, where the enzymes could break down and tenderize the food, are considered more nutritious and digestible for human consumption.
Only in recent years has research revealed what God knew all along! Any animal with a cloven or separated hoof had more open pores so that excess water had an outlet to drain off toxins from within the body. Animals without these pores in their feet stored these potentially harmful toxins. This, too, was a recent discovery which could possibly explain why God made these specific rules.
Some of those animals not acceptable were: the camel; the coney, (or rock badger); the hare; and the swine. They were admonished in 11: 5: “ you may not eat their meat or even touch their dead bodies; they are forbidden foods for you.” Among the allowed fish, from any body of water, they had to be defined by having fins or scales, which eliminates all shell fish. The shell fish were considered to be scavengers of the ocean floor, and contaminated with the garbage of the sea. The forbidden birds included the eagle; osprey; galcon; kites; ravens; ostrich; nighthawk; seagulls; owl; pelican; stork; vulture; heron; and bat, among others. Flying insects with 4 legs were forbidden, with the exception of those that jump; i.e. locusts, grasshoppers, crickets, etc. Any animal that walks on paws was forbidden, as well as animals that crawl on the ground: the mole; the rat; the gecko; lizard,; mouse; snail or chameleon, and snakes. This is an abbreviated list, and more detail may be found within this 11th chapter of Leviticus, as it was given from the LORD to Moses and Aaron to relate to the nation.
Not only were these animals forbidden to eat, but as well, to touch, with instructions of how to cleanse the contamination they caused. There was also a criteria for how the clean acceptable animals, birds and fish were to be killed and cooked under these kosher rules.
In efforts to observe these strict dietary rules, other man made customs became a part of kosher observance, such as extremes which included using several clean plates for each course according to whether it was fish, or meat or dairy, in order to insure that no part of one animal would ever contaminate the other, even though the plate had been washed. The extreme washing procedures, using separate soaps for the separate plates became part of the dietary rules, although not by Scripture, but by custom.
This practice of rigid dietary control, food preparation and ritualistic cleansing is regarded as “keeping kosher”. There is no doubt that the strict observance of these laws have contributed much to the health and well-being of Jews for hundreds of years, and many of these laws have been validated by medical science, in this century, as being proven scientifically sound. As an example, the method of draining the blood from an animal in the quickest way possible as it is killed, and then drained from it’s body before it is cooked and eaten, has proven the best method to insure disease control.
Deuteronomy 12:16: “Only be sure that thou eat not the blood; ye shall pour it upon the earth as water”. The draining of animal’s blood before preparation reduces the bacteria/disease factor that lives in the blood stream, thereby separating the animal’s possible impurities from it’s edible meat. The Jewish law prohibits the consumption of fat, and directs the burning of the fat only for sacrifices unto the Lord on the altar, ( Leviticus 7:23-24 ).
Medical science has made us aware of the high cholesterol content in fat, and the use of low cholesterol diets in combating heart disease and distress related problems. Plaque and triglycerides, culprits in clogging heart arteries, were recent discoveries in meats with high cholesterol and fat content. Only in the last 50 years was it proven that pork products are one of the most indigestible meats, and subject to a most harmful bacteria called trichinella, which, if not destroyed by high heat during cooking, can cause devastating intestinal pain and problems.
So, what was not written in fine print and between the lines in the Old Testament was covered and protected by the “thou shalt not” clause for those that were obedient to “keep kosher”.
There have been extensions of the Biblical kosher laws, based on man’s interpretations, that have been incorporated into the kosher regime that have made it far more tedious and laborious to maintain. Separating the dishes according to the meat used on it; using separate soaps to even wash them, separate cabinets, etc. defy Biblical validation, and this is why it’s necessary to be able to discern man’s rites, and rituals from actual command. In order to understand the spiritual application, it’s necessary to know what is Biblical command separated from man’s opinion, for truly, man doesn’t live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God, (Deut 8:3).
Understanding and applying God’s word and its principles to the spiritual man is far healthier for our soul than keeping a kosher diet! In explaining the basis of kosher observance, the noted Jewish educator and writer, Joseph Hertz stated, “such careful observance to these laws is demanded and required of Jewish religious practice and are based on the Scripture text Leviticus 11:44, ‘sanctify yourselves and be ye holy, for I am holy’.
The effort to make one holy by observing a certain dietary regime is commendable, but surely, one cannot believe that God is holy because of what He eats! The Old Testament bares us record in Genesis 18:1-4, that God and 2 angels, appearing as 3 men, came as visitors to Abraham’s tent door. In greeting them, Abraham bowed himself toward the ground, and said, “ My lord, If I have found favor in thy sight, pass not away your face from thy servant. Rest a while, I pray thee, be fetched and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree: and I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts....and Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah and said, make ready three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth. And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetched a calf tender and good, and gave it to a young man; and he hasted to dress it, and set it before them. And he took butter and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat.”
Now then, this was a description of a fine meal Abraham set before the 3 visitors, (who in reality), were 2 angels and a manifestation of God..all of them eating. Vs: 22 validates the guest list when it says “..and the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom; but Abraham stood yet before the LORD”
The LORD stood there and talked with Abe after He had a meal that consisted of meat and milk together!! A non-kosher meal, breaking all the rules! This is to say it’s not about bread and meat and butter and milk all in the same meal, on the same plates...God is Spirit, and not subject to human passion and hunger as we are. The holiness He refers to is far removed from anything as mundane as diet control! The only way we can relate to God’s holiness is through a spiritual separation from worldly contamination. We cannot approach God through the flesh, or through denial of the flesh, but only through Spirit and truth.
To keep our bodies from contamination and defilement is our reasonable service before God, but the Lord is more concerned about the status of man’s soul than He is of the flesh! The flesh shall die, “and return to dust from whence it came”; the Psalmist, David, said “ behold, thou desireth truth in the inward part and in the hidden part shalt thou make me to know wisdom”. David, obviously, was not satisfied in his soul or deep within his heart at that time, in spite of keeping a kosher palace! How well the palace chef separated the milk from the flesh didn’t seem to penetrate through to David’s soul! Psalms 51:7, he cries out “ purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean. Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow”. (The hyssop is a plant used in religious services to cleanse objects and people defiled from having contact with the dead. It is significant that David chose to use the hyssop with which to cleanse his spirit, feeling he was symbolically dead.)
In spite of David’s ritualistic observances, his spirit was dead...disconnected from God, until he came before the Lord in repentance. Again he cries out, “create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me”. What is David asking? wash me...cleanse me... purge me..a right spirit..” Soul food! No kosher foods..ritualistic menus...no rites. He asks God for the menu of Salvation God has prepared for humanity’s soul and spirit..purge, wash and filled with His Spirit.
This was an Old Testament type of what would become the menu for man’s salvation in the New Testament day...repentance, water baptism and the infilling of the Spirit! ( compare Psalms 7,10 with Acts 2:38) David was calling out to God for the need of his soul, not for his stomach..the fulfillment of this need could not be met by kosher foods, but only by the Spirit, which came through Yeshua, the Messiah of Israel.
The Lord God instituted the kosher law for His people so that they might learn the principles of separation from the unclean and defiled. It was a shadow of things in the future, to prepare His people for a more meaningful type of separation, from the world, so they could become a holy and spiritual nation. Adam and Eve once had this spiritual status. They walked in the presence of the Lord, but they fell from this relationship through disobedience, and only through restoration can humanity enter into the presence of God again.
Can this state of restoration be reached with kosher law? Never! The rites and rituals of sacrifices? Never! Not according to the word God anointed Isaiah to write, “ to what purposes are the multitude of the sacrifices unto Me. Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto Me; the new moon and the sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moon and your appointed feasts My Soul hateth: they are a trouble to Me; I am weary to bear them.” How can that be? It was the Lord, Himself, that instituted these holy days...why would He hate them now? The sacrificing is no longer pleasing to Him, and our Purims and Passovers are meaningless to Him. If our fasts and our “davins” are without blessing, what will be accepted by God, and pleasing to Him? Can I believe, as a Jew, that God chose us, kept us, delivered us from bondage, revealed His law unto us, gave us precious promises of a Messiah, and now He would abandon us? Would He revoke His promises and turn away from us to a Gentile nation? No...Never!
I assure you, God is still keeping us, but by grace, not by law. He is still leading us, no longer by the pillar of fire and cloud as He did our ancestors, but by His Spirit, indwelled within the heart of the believer. He has kept His word of a promised Messiah, in that He manifested Himself and walked in this world as the a Man called Yeshua, just as He once manifested Himself at Abraham’s tent door. And when He came, He came for the Jew and the Gentile.. no longer a separation...no longer the distinction of the “clean and the unclean” because salvation is not of the flesh, but of the Spirit, and the Word tells us “ there is one God, Father of all, Jew and Gentile, Who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Jehovah became Salvation for everyone on Calvary, that we might become spiritually kosher for the kingdom of God! He came expounding the law, bringing understanding of the spiritual principles that were embodied within that law.
In dealing with observing man’s rules added to the kosher law, Yeshua presented this commentary on their priorities, in efforts to awaken them to their mistake of regarding man’s ritual above the understanding of types and shadows of the law, which implied true spiritual conditions.
One day some Jewish religious leaders arrived from Jerusalem to investigate Him, and noticed that some of His disciples failed to follow some of the usual Jewish rituals before eating. (For the Jews, especially the Pharisees, will never eat until they have sprinkled their arms to the elbow, as required by their ancient traditions. So when they come home from the market, they must always sprinkle themselves this way before touching any food. This is but one of many examples of laws and regulations they have clung to for centuries, and still follow, such as their ceremony of cleansing for pots, pans and dishes.) So the religious leaders asked Him, “why don’t your disciples follow our age old customs? For they eat without first performing the washing ceremony.” Jesus replied, “ you bunch of hypocrites! Isaiah described you very well when he said, ‘These people speak very prettily about the Lord, but they have no love for Him at all. Their worship is a farce, for they claim that God commands the people to obey their petty rules.’ How right Isaiah was! For you ignore God’s specific orders and substitute your own traditions. You are simply rejecting God’s law and trampling them under your feet for the sake of tradition.
Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “All of you listen”, He said, “and try to understand. Your souls aren’t harmed by what you eat, but by what you think and say!” “..for food doesn’t come in contact with your heart, but only passes through the digestive system.” (by saying this, He showed that every kind of food is kosher). and then He added, “ it is the thought-life that pollutes. For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts of lust, theft, murder, adultery, wanting what belongs to others, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander pride and all other folly.
It is my hope and desire that I have been able to share with you the desire of God’s heart..that you “be ye holy as I am holy”, and enter in to a place where you can approach God, and by and through His Spirit, keep a kosher heart...far more important than a diet.