This parashah continues to teach the relationship between the Priests and the holy things, as well as rules regarding cleanliness when approaching, and appropriate condition of sacrificial animals for, the Altar.
Chapter 23 is the chapter that defines the Festivals of the Lord. These are the only Holy Days, as I define them, in all of Judaism or (frankly) any religion that professes to worship the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob. All other days of celebration are holidays- meaning they are man-made, not God declared. That is my personal way of identifying the difference between, say, Yom Kippur and Hanukkah: the former is a Holy Day, the latter is a holiday.
What I want to talk about today is not the obvious “juicy” topic- Chapter 23-but one of the last lines in this parashah. The final verses recount a non-Israelite cursing God and being stoned to death for it, and God giving us the following commandment regarding how we are to administer justice in Leviticus 24:22:
“Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for the home-born; for I am the Lord your God”
If you were to ask me what is the one, defining difference between Christianity and Judaism, with respect to the bible, I would answer with this verse. That’s because, as a general rule, Christianity has rejected their need to obey the Torah, citing the forgiveness given by Yeshua (Jesus) as over-riding the Torah.
There is a truthfulness to the statement that Yeshua is the means of our salvation; it is by forgiveness of our sins, which His sacrifice made possible.
But that doesn’t mean Torah is not important, valid or necessary anymore. Yeshua, Himself, confirmed Torah observance throughout His ministry and after every healing, and His Talmudim (Apostles and Disciples) that followed Him also confirmed Torah in their teachings. It has been the misinterpretations and wrongful teachings over the past 20 centuries that have caused such a rift between Christianity and Judaism with regard to the ways in which we are to worship God.
One rule for everyone, one law administered justly to everyone, whether a natural Jew, or a convert, or a non-Believer, or an agnostic, or a Satanist: all people are God’s children, and under God’s authority, and as such are to be treated the same with regards to the administration of God’s justice, which He defined and outlined in the Torah. And why should everyone be treated the same way? Because “I am the Lord, your God“, meaning that there is one God, and what He says is right for someone, is right for everyone.
Obey the Torah, or not obey the Torah?: that is the question. The answer is: both. Huh? Both? מה עשה אתה אומר? (What did you say?)
Both, because we are all commanded to obey the Torah, but none of us can (completely) obey the Torah. As hard as we may try, still, we fail. That is when we sin (when we fail to obey, whether by attempting and failing, or by simply not even trying), and that is when the forgiveness for sinning (assuming you are repentant) is made available. It is available because God loves us all enough to want to forgive us, and Yeshua’s sacrifice made it possible to be forgiven without having to obey one part of the Torah; specifically speaking, the laws involving bringing our sacrifice to the Temple, which doesn’t exist anymore.
Yeshua told us that those who sin and teach others to sin would be better off if they threw a millstone around their necks and jumped in the river. I am sorry to say that teaching others to sin is exactly what “The Church” (meaning most of Christianity) has been doing since Constantine’s day. The prominent teaching that “Torah is for Jews and Christians have the Blood of Christ” is, essentially, teaching people to ignore the Torah. And the next step is to be unrepentant about ignoring the Torah.
Now, it’s bad enough to ignore God’s commandments, which is a sin, but to go as far as to teach to sin and not concern yourself about it?; that it is OK to ignore God’s commands?; that you are going to heaven no matter what the Torah says? Well…woe be to you, Church Fathers, for you have sinned and caused others to sin. And when we sin and don’t care that we sinned, isn’t that is being unrepentant? And if you are unrepentant, do you really think you will be forgiven?
This is a scary thought for me, and I try to obey Torah. If you are reading this and have been taught to ignore Torah, then this thought should give you reason to change your underwear!
I am not saying everyone has to get circumcised, or start to eat according to Kashrut (Kosher) laws, or wear Tzit-tzit (although none of that would hurt anyone), but I am saying that we should realize God has told us how we all are supposed to live and worship Him, and that even if we do not follow all His commandments, we should try to. Eating ham will not send you to hell and refusing to eat ham will not guarantee heaven, whether you have accepted Yeshua or not. As I have said many times, Yeshua’s sacrifice has made forgiveness possible, but we have to be repentant, we have to perform T’shuvah, and for our repentance to mean anything we have to demonstrate it’s legitimacy through our good works. Obeying Torah as best we can is as good a “good work” as you can perform.
It boils down to this: one God with one set of laws for everyone; one Messiah providing the only means of salvation for everyone; and what you will do is your choice.
Just don’t forget that God will hold you, alone, responsible for your choices- “just following orders” will not count for anything come Judgment Day.