The first part of this Parashah has Aaron completing the offerings he is to make as his entry into the priesthood, and his sacrifice is accepted by God, as evidenced by God’s fire coming down to burn up the offering. This miraculous event was witnessed by the people. Then God sends His fire, again, but this time to burn up Aaron’s two oldest sons, who have acted wrongly by offering their fire before the Lord in a way that was disrespectful and unwarranted.
We don’t really know exactly what they did; it seems clear that they were drunk when they did it because the very first thing God says after destroying them is to Aaron, and He says that Aaron and his sons should never have intoxicating drink when serving the Lord. Aaron and his remaining sons were not even allowed to mourn, but the people were allowed to mourn for them. I believe this shows that those of us who are to serve the Lord are to be separated from the people to serve only the Lord, so even our most personal connections are secondary to serving God.
The last chapter of this parashah defines the laws of Kashrut, the Kosher Laws. I believe that too often people think Kosher means clean, and that is the general understanding and meaning, but these laws go beyond just clean and unclean. These laws are part of the Chukim: ordinances and regulations that are supra-natural, meaning these are regulations for which we don’t or can’t understand the reason why God gave them to us. To remain Kosher is more than a physical clean- it is spiritual. To disobey is a violation of everything that God stands for.
Just because we don’t understand the reason for these laws doesn’t mean they aren’t to be obeyed. If you allow me to paraphrase: Ours is not to reason why, ours is to obey or die.
Thanks to Yeshua, the absoluteness of the prior statement is somewhat reduced, since His sacrifice keeps us from the death we deserve for violating Torah.
The Kosher Laws are simple when you break it down to it’s base components: don’t eat any mammal that isn’t a ruminant, and only eat fish that have scales and fins. For birds, no raptors, no ratites, just stick to ducks, chickens, turkeys and pigeons.
All the more difficult regulations, no meat and dairy together, separate dishes, specially prepared, etc. are Rabbinical and although they are not bad, in and of themselves, they are much more difficult to observe than what God says we are to do.
The Rabbinical laws are not Chukim, Mishpatim or Mitzvot- they are human in origin and not God-given. They are the same sorts of things that Yeshua had trouble with: human regulations made more important that God’s commandments. God said don’t boil a calf in it’s mothers milk; He never said eating a cheeseburger is a one-way ticket to hell. These extreme Rabbinical regulations do have a good purpose- they are there to help prevent us from trespassing the law. It is called “Building Fences Around the Law”: let’s say you have a law which you don’t want to disobey, or trespass against, so, nu? How do you keep out trespassers? You build a fence. Well, as we are Jewish and one question with one answer is just never going to be enough, we need another question: “What if I accidentally tripped over the fence?” The answer: build another fence around the fence so it is harder for you to get past them both. This is then repeated, and repeated, ad infinitum, until we end up with the plethora of kosher regulations we have today, which are so numerous and complicated that the simple rules of “no shellfish, no pork: only ruminants, chicken, duck and turkey, and nothing else” have gotten completely lost. We are so concerned about which fences we should build that we have lost sight of the laws they are designed to protect.
The real issue with Leviticus 11 is the teaching in the Christian world that it is not important anymore. Misinterpretations of Acts 10 and Mark 7 have been used to teach people that Yeshua told us that you don’t need to be Kosher anymore. I devote an entire chapter in my book about this, and have mentioned it often in blogs. Essentially, it comes down to this: if Yeshua is the living Torah and the Word that has become flesh, then how can He tell us to do anything that is against what the Torah says? It is the same as denying Himself. It also means that, since God the Father said these commandments are to be throughout your generations, if Yeshua taught to ignore them then He is calling God a liar and going against the word of God. Does that sound like Yeshua, to you?
Kosher laws are as valid today as they have always been: following them won’t get you into heaven, and ignoring them won’t send you to hell (any faster than violating any of the other 613 commandments in Torah, at least a few of which we all violate every day.) I am not condoning ignoring Kashrut, or any commandment from God. When I say not obeying will not send us to hell, it is only because we disobey something in the Torah every day, every one of us. Yes, if you were perfect in every other commandment but you had pork rinds last night watching the game, and if you died prior to being able to offer a guilt sacrifice to be forgiven for eating pork rinds, you would die in your sin. God doesn’t grade on a curve- if you sin, any sin, you are a sinner and unable to be in His presence.
That’s how Yeshua’s sacrifice works for us- His once and for all sacrifice is what keeps us close to God so if we die in our sin, His righteousness will cleanse us before the Lord.
Kosher is still valid, as are all the other mitzvot, mishpatim and chukim in Torah. All valid, all required, none to be ignored. Yeshua did NOT do away with the law- He confirmed it, He explained it to us so we could could understand the deeper, more spiritual nature of these laws, and He lived them to demonstrate what we should be doing.
If you have time, go to the Search button at the bottom right of the page and search for “WWJD?”, then read that blog to see in more detail what I am talking about, and please consider taking the simple challenge I offer there. I truly believe that if you accept my challenge it will make a major difference in your life, even if only to help you better understand Yeshua.
Please don’t think I am saying you need to be “under the law” to be saved; you don’t. On the other hand, that is no reason to disobey them.