Parashat Sh’mini (Eighth) Leviticus 9:1-11:47


Parashat Sh’mini (Eighth) Leviticus 9:1-11:47

Haftarah: 2 Samuel 6:1-7:17

Unless you live in Israel, you will be reading a different Torah portion this Shabbat than the one on which I am writing. Outside of Israel, there is an additional day given to most holidays (according to the sages). Since the last day of Unleavened Bread falls on Friday this year, those who dwell in exile will observe what is known as the eighth day of Passover. This day is treated as a Holiday in and of itself and therefore has its own special readings (Deuteronomy 14:22-16:17, Maftir: Numbers 28:19-25, and the Haftarah: Isaiah 10:32-12:6). Please be aware that we will follow the schedule of readings for those who live in the Land of Israel. On Shabbat May 16, those residing outside of Israel will read two Parshiot— B’har and B’chukotai, while in Israel, only B’chukotai will be read. Hence, on that Shabbat all synagogues will return to reading the same Torah portion.

In Parashat Sh’mini, there are passages relating to Kashrut (dietary laws). Often I am asked the question, “Does G-d want me to keep Kosher?” The first thing one must discern is the standard of Kashrut to which one is referring? Is one speaking about Kashrut according to the Rabbinical law or the Biblical law? Although Kashrut, according to Rabbinical law is more complex to that of the Biblical Kashrut, what the Bible actually says about Kashrut is much more involved than what most people think. Setting aside those issues, let us return to the heart of the question, “Does a believer have to keep the dietary laws of the Torah today?” It is important to pay attention to the phrase “have to” very closely. What is the intent of this phrase? If the intent of the phrase “have to” is in regard to salvation, then the answer is obviously “No he does not!”  What about if the intent of the question is to be pleasing to G-d? That is, “Are those who follow the Scriptural commandments concerning Kashrut more pleasing to HaShem than those who do not, everything else being equal?”  If the answer were to be “Yes” then the implications to such an answer would mean that the Law is binding upon believers as a mandatory lifestyle today. Such a condition would truly have major implications. Such as, believers would have to set up courts in order to measure out punishments, even the death penalty upon those who transgress the Shabbat, who commit adultery, and who engage in idolatry.

The problem is that the Law / Torah cannot be mandated today as a binding set of commandments because much of it cannot be observed. The Torah is a unit, as James 2:10 clearly states, and without a Temple (and there are additional factors as well) the Torah is not binding upon individuals today. This by the way is the position of Orthodox Judaism today, which proclaims that this is the reason (no Temple etc.) why Rabbinical law is the binding today.

The point which must be understood is one must hold to a methodology for interpreting the Scripture that works for all the verses in the Bible. The study of interpreting Scripture is called Hermeneutics. I know one of the major reasons why there is so much confusion among believers concerning what Biblical passages mean, is simply because most people have not studied how to interpret the Bible. In returning to our primary question concerning Kashrut, it is so interesting to me that this issue seems to draw the most questions. The answer which I am going to provide, not only works for Kashrut, but for every commandment which is stated in the Bible. The proper objective that each believer should have is to apply truth to one’s life in order that the glory of G-d is manifested and others will see one’s good deeds and give honor to our Father in heaven.

The hermeneutical principle which I am suggesting to you is so simple. It is that each person should read the Scripture and study every verse. In studying the various Biblical laws, the believer should ask the Holy Spirit how He wants the believer to apply the truth of the commandments to his or her life. The mindset of the believer should be to submit and obey the will of G-d, realizing the freedom and liberty that we have received by the grace of Messiah Yeshua is the freedom and liberty from the bondage of sin, in order that we can obey the word.

All too often believers think they know the answers to spiritual questions, even before asking the Holy Spirit and studying the relevant texts on a given issue. I have found that my initial response to most of the Scripture was wrong and that only through applying proper exegetical tools and much prayer I was able to arrive to the Mind of Messiah.

Shabbat Shalom


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