Tzav

Tzav

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Leviticus 6:1[8]-8:36
Jeremiah 7:21-8:3; 9:22-23

“Sacrificial Aroma”


by Mark Huey

The previous week’s Torah reading, Vayikra (Leviticus 1:1-5:26[6:7]), encompassed the first five chapters of Leviticus, continuing God’s instructions to the Ancient Israelites on the various sacrificial offerings that were to be presented to Him. Now as we turn to Tzav, the emphasis is seen on specific commands to Aaron and his sons, who constituted the Levitical priesthood, and how it was to prepare, handle, and offer the different sacrifices. Details are given regarding not eating animal fat or blood, with Tzav concluding with a description of the actual consecration of Aaron and his sons. Providentially perhaps, this week’s study precedes the annual commemoration of the Passover. Allow this timing to seriously prepare your hearts to obey the instruction for God’s people to remember the Passover—and by extension, all of His appointed times. After all, Tzav ends with the admonition that Aaron and his sons complied with all of these ancient commands of the Lord:

“Thus Aaron and his sons did all the things which the LORD had commanded through Moses” (Leviticus 8:36).

From a relatively passive explanation about how individuals were supposed to offer up sacrifices in Vayikra (Leviticus 6:1-7), our Torah portion describes an imperative command that was to be adhered to by the Levitical priesthood (Leviticus 6:8-9). We then see meticulous details specified for the different offerings, which include: the burnt offering (Leviticus 6:10-13), the grain offering (Leviticus 6:14-23), the sin offering (Leviticus 6:24-30), the guilt offering (Leviticus 7:1-10), and the peace offering (Leviticus 7:11-16). While there might be some different classifications provided by readers for the different offerings or sacrifices to be made in Leviticus chs. 6-7, one overarching theme really struck me in reviewing them all. The Holy One desired His chosen people to be continually offering different sacrifices from evening to morning:

“Command Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the law for the burnt offering: the burnt offering itself shall remain on the hearth on the altar all night until the morning, and the fire on the altar is to be kept burning on it’” (Leviticus 6:9).

The Lord was very particular about how the Levitical priesthood was to maintain the sacrifice, and He reiterated the command to keep the fires burning without interruption:

“The priest is to put on his linen robe, and he shall put on undergarments next to his flesh; and he shall take up the ashes to which the fire reduces the burnt offering on the altar and place them beside the altar. Then he shall take off his garments and put on other garments, and carry the ashes outside the camp to a clean place. The fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it. It shall not go out, but the priest shall burn wood on it every morning; and he shall lay out the burnt offering on it, and offer up in smoke the fat portions of the peace offerings on it. Fire shall be kept burning continually on the altar; it is not to go out” (Leviticus 6:10-13).

From these instructions seen in Tzav, it is evident that the Lord desired a continual sacrificial offering, between Himself and His chosen people. We can see how a perpetual pattern of spiritual service was established for the future generations of followers of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to pursue.

Post-Resurrection Sacrifices

In ancient times, before the destruction of the Second Temple, the Levitical priesthood presented the various sacrificial offerings, as specified by Torah portions like Tzav. But since the ultimate sacrifice of Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) and His resurrection from the dead—coupled with universal availability of the Holy Spirit—we definitely see a shift toward the responsibility of God’s people to offer “sacrifices” to Him in the form of the worship offered by born again Believers. The Apostle Paul communicated how,

“[D]o you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Most frequently, this has been interpreted from the perspective of individual Believers being filled with the Holy Spirit. While absolutely true, it can also be viewed from the perspective of “body” pertaining to the Body of Messiah or whole community of faith as well. Certainly, the actions performed, by a claiming individual Believer, are to be reflected within the whole Body of Messiah, as we all strive to build one another up—or in some cases, tear one another down. With this in mind, consider Paul’s preceding admonition:

“Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).

The body of Believers—whether it be individuals redeemed from sin, or corporate bodies of Messiah followers—is to be consecrated to God because of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Paul, being the teacher of Israel’s Scriptures that he was, would have understood the significance that according to instructions like those seen in Tzav, not only were the sacrificial offerings considered holy, but even those who touched the offerings were consecrated in their duties:

“Now this is the law of the grain offering: the sons of Aaron shall present it before the LORD in front of the altar. Then one of them shall lift up from it a handful of the fine flour of the grain offering, with its oil and all the incense that is on the grain offering, and he shall offer it up in smoke on the altar, a soothing aroma, as its memorial offering to the LORD. What is left of it Aaron and his sons are to eat. It shall be eaten as unleavened cakes in a holy place; they are to eat it in the court of the tent of meeting. It shall not be baked with leaven. I have given it as their share from My offerings by fire; it is most holy, like the sin offering and the guilt offering. Every male among the sons of Aaron may eat it; it is a permanent ordinance throughout your generations, from the offerings by fire to the Lord. Whoever touches them will become consecrated” (Leviticus 6:14-18).

Living Sacrifices

What duties do you faithfully perform as a Believer in the Messiah Yeshua? In your quest to obey the Lord, are you continually sanctified more and more, as you serve Him in the world? One of the most classic passages, as it concerns Messiah followers’ sacrifice before the Father, is Romans 12:1-2:

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2).

Romans 12:1-2 speaks about the people of God and the worship they are to offer before Him. What happens when we enter into worship, either individually or corporately? Hopefully the many differences we think are important to us—those human achievements or status identifiers that we think make us “special”—become far less important in view of Him and His supreme holiness. What Yeshua the Messiah has done for us, as the sinless Lamb of God, has opened full access to the Father:

“By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Messiah Yeshua once for all. Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD, waiting from that time onward UNTIL HIS ENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET [Psalm 110:1]. For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Hebrews 10:10-14).

Think about the power of these statements the next time you enter into worship. Think about how much we might take Yeshua’s sacrifice, and the permanent atonement and forgiveness it offers, (utterly) for granted. In view of what the Messiah has done for us, perhaps we can better understand what Paul says in Philippians 3:8:

“I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Messiah Yeshua my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Messiah.”

Believers in the accomplished work of the Messiah can discover great joy, fulfillment, and purpose for their lives—if they can place what He has done at the center of their being. This requires a steadfast willingness to surrender to the will of God, being an imitator of God, and walking in the love of God:

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Messiah also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” (Ephesians 5:1-2).

Just like the fragrant aromas of the sacrificial offerings found in Tzav (Leviticus 6:15, 21; 8:21, 28), we find that the Messiah’s sacrifice was also a fragrant aroma offered unto the Father. Yet, when we offer ourselves up to the Lord in service, are we a fragrant aroma to Him—or something else? As you consider the various sacrificial offerings found in this week’s Torah portion, perhaps it would be spiritually beneficial to focus on your personal choice, to offer yourself to Him. None of us want to be a smell of burning, stinking garbage before the Lord!

Do you want to be a pleasing aroma to the Lord in all that you do? What about the privilege of being a witness for the gospel, as the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Yeshua permeates everywhere you go?

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Messiah, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Messiah to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things? For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Messiah in the sight of God” (2 Corinthians 2:14-17).

While one can spend much time this week focusing on the details of the different offerings described in Tzav, perhaps it might be more necessary for you to consider just how you are personally offering yourself as a living holy sacrifice to the Lord’s service. Will this at all affect you in your approach to the Passover, which is soon coming? What about all of the things that you have to do, as a man or woman of faith?

Kosher and Torah-Based “Means of Grace” – March 2018 OIM News


Update

March 2018

The month of March this year began with the Festival of Purim, and will conclude with the commencement of Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread, with the remembrance of the Passover seder. These commemorations are conducted throughout the Jewish and Messianic Jewish communities, with an increasing number of non-Jewish Believers embracing the significance of Passover, in a variety of ways. These two annual convocations are derived from passages found in Esther 9:27-28 (Purim) and Leviticus 23:5-8 (Passover). Of course, when coupled with the annual Chanukah celebration, these are two of the three annual reminders of how God’s chosen people have faced annihilation or great oppression, and how the Holy One has had to miraculously intervene to save them.

From generation to generation over thousands of years, the Jewish people have been remembering these historical events with plays, dramatic renditions, liturgy, and appropriate readings of the Holy Scriptures. These celebratory events are intended to teach each generation about the harsh reality that over the ages, different people groups have tried to obliterate them, by physical death or altering their cultural mores. In antiquity, the Egyptians, Persians, and Greeks almost succeeded, but by the grace of God, their plans were thwarted by faithful prayers and actions followed by miraculous displays of God’s mercy. When Yeshua the Messiah came to Earth, He was able to fulfill His role as the Sacrificial Lamb according to the commandments found in the Torah of Moses.

Since Yeshua’s resurrection and ascension to the right hand of the Father, the goal of the Evil One has been to prevent Messiah’s prophesied return and the establishment of His Millennial Kingdom on Earth. Consequently, over the past two thousand years, the Romans, the Roman Catholic Inquisitions, the pogroms in the Russian Empire, the Nazi Holocaust, and now Islamic terrorists, have been examples of this unrelenting spiritual force occupying depraved individuals in different societies, with a desire to eradicate the Jewish people and frustrate God’s plans for His Creation. Nonetheless, in a humorously macabre sort of way, the Jews have a tongue in cheek saying when it comes to these annual celebrations, when they state in a matter of fact way: “They tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat!”

But joking aside, the real challenge for any society is overcoming the inherent depravity that has plagued humanity since the Fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The Tanakh or Hebrew Bible not only chronicles the origin of humanity and the Fall, but also the history of Israel from the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In addition down through the millennia, the Rabbis and Sages of Judaism have concluded that there are 613 commandments or mitzvot present in the Torah. It is by attempting to adhere to most, if at least some, of these God-given laws, that the Jewish people have been able to culturally survive and even thrive down through the centuries.

Ironically, when the State of Israel was declared some seventy years ago next month, the then-proposed “constitutional assembly” was never able to fully formulate and approve an Israeli constitution. After all, basic survival of the nascent nation in a hostile Arab and Muslim neighborhood was of paramount importance, as the declaration of statehood was greeted with warfare from the surrounding powers. In addition, the adage of “two Jews, three opinions” was exacerbated by the Zionists, Orthodox, and both secular and religious Jews converging from a multitude of cultures, backgrounds, and languages from where they had been scattered. Hence, in lieu of a formal Israeli constitution, over the recent history of Israel, the “Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty and the Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation,” has addressed certain rights. But for the most part, due to the British Mandate from 1923-1948, British Common Law, with some vestiges from the previous four centuries Ottoman rule, and even a smattering of German civil law, formulate the Israeli legal system. Inevitably, the precedent from adjudicated cases forms a sound basis for much of Israeli civil and criminal law, and any perceived need for a “constitution” has no serious traction at this present time.

From an American perspective, this discovery about the overlooked fact that there was not a formal Israeli constitution, at first was alarming for me. The United States Constitution is so revered as the basis for our culture, that we proudly proclaim “We are a nation that abides by the rule of law.” But because of recent circumstances in the American governmental system in the past several years that are finally coming to light, the possibility of a “constitutional crisis” has surfaced. But thankfully, based on statements written in the Federalist Papers published during the ratification period, one can joyfully conclude that the principal framers and writers of the American Constitution were appropriately aware of human beings’ inherent depravity because of their Judeo-Christian beliefs. For example, in Federalist Paper #51 by James Madison, the following quotes indicate that when forming a constitutional republic employing democratic practices, such a system had to have a series of “checks and balances,” in order to overcome basic human nature subject to corruption and the abuse of powers granted:

“But what is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”

“In framing government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”

“As there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust, so there are other qualities in human nature which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence. Republican government presupposes the existence of these qualities in a higher degree than any other form.”

Of course, in the later part of the Eighteenth Century when the American Revolution was being fought and the Constitution was being authored and ratified, the great majority of influential Americans believed in the Judeo-Christian principles found in the Bible. The authors of the Federalist Papers each understood the intrinsic flaw in human nature toward self-centeredness and susceptible to corruption. But such understandings are not the case in the post-Christian, secular humanistic, and progressively more pagan America of the Twenty-First Century. But it needs to be because the very survival of Western civilization founded on these Scriptural truths is at stake.

Israelis and Jews around the world (in general) are reminded three times annually, of the cataclysmic dangers that continue unabated by unsavory characters and hate-filled nations toward their extinction. But Israel is not alone. In fact, the United States of America because of its Christian heritage and God’s blessings remains the strongest country in the world. Nonetheless, since it was also established on Biblical principles, it is also a prime target for destruction by the same nefarious forces.

Perhaps you, in all likelihood are an American follower of the Messiah Yeshua and the Holy One of Israel, then whenever the subject of the Constitution arises, you can boldly remind all who would listen about human beings’ depraved and fallen nature and need for a Savior. For certainly the subject of the U.S. Constitution, the undisputed foundational building block of American society, is an increasingly frequent topic of discussion in a multitude of venues. Hence, American followers of the same Almighty God as Israel, should unequivocally declare without reservation, the seriousness of the blatant attacks on American society and values by corrupt individuals.

Maybe in God’s mercy toward those who are humbly and prayerfully seeking His face, God will turn back with revival winds and heal the land, so America can continue to support and defend Israel! This is my prayer for this Passover season, when we remember God’s deliverance of Israel from physical bondage and our personal deliverance from sin—in order to serve Him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength!

Chag Samaech Pesach!

Mark Huey


Kosher and Torah-Based “Means of Grace”

by J.K. McKee

A major historical difference, that has been witnessed between Judaism and Christianity, has been how Christianity has often been responsible for promoting a dualism, where one’s inward heart condition is so important, that external actions of spirituality can be disparaged. Judaism, in stark contrast to this, emphasizes the wholistic unity of one’s being, where internal heart attitude and external deeds, are carefully balanced.[1]

Within the Hebrew Tanach, external activities such as work, sexual intercourse, or eating and drinking, are all lauded as having value. Qohelet says, “Behold, this is what I myself have seen. It is beneficial and good for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy all of his toil that he labors under the sun during the few days of his life that God has given him—for this is his reward” (Ecclesiastes 5:17[18], TLV). Given the certain fact that human beings cannot earn favor before God for their salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9), Christian people throughout history have especially struggled with the fact that while works or deeds are not the cause of salvation, works or deeds are to result from salvation. James 3:13 directs, “Who among you is wise and understanding? By his good conduct let him show his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom” (TLV). And, as James 1:27 specifies, “Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (TLV).

Certainly throughout history, there have been faithful Jews and Protestants who have recognized the significance of the external good works that God requires of His own. The famed word of Micah 6:8 states, “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (NRSV). It should not be unreasonable to note that those who are best able to live forth such an imperative, are men and women who are disciplined in their relationship with the Creator. These are people who pray, they read and study the Holy Scriptures, they fellowship with those of the local faith community—and consequently they do look out for the needs of others.

Today’s Messianic community, because of its undeniable connection to its Jewish theological and spiritual heritage, will emphasize various physical actions of God’s people, that today’s evangelical Protestantism not only considers unnecessary, but will backhandedly dismiss. Yet, once you start attending a Messianic congregation or fellowship on Shabbat, it is not difficult to be exposed to questions about eating what is considered clean or unclean, and various tactile objects such as prayer shawls or the mezuzah, which obviously have importance for not just the Torah or Law of Moses, but also Jewish heritage.

Many Bible readers are conditioned to take Yeshua’s words of Matthew 23:28 to the Pharisaical leaders, and then see them applied to anyone who takes seriously outward forms of Biblical expression: “Even so you too outwardly appear righteous to people, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (PME). So, whether it be Messianic Jews who were raised in a normally religious home, (re)claiming a definite part of their heritage, or non-Jewish Believers integrating into the Messianic community and actually wanting to live in a similar manner to Yeshua and His early followers—such people can find themselves criticized for apparently being inwardly decrepit and bankrupt. However, such Messianic people would not be alone, as those in various holiness and piety movements in Protestantism since the Reformation have had similar accusations issued to them. It was thought that their significant commitment to doing good deeds, was apparently trying to compensate for a lack of salvation assurance.

While only our Heavenly Father knows the true intent of any man or woman trying to obey Him internally and externally, there is a strong spiritual value in performing external actions of faith. How one eats, and how one employs ritual objects such as tzitzityot or a kippah, can be spiritually edifying. Certainly in much Christian thought, the process of being immersed in water (baptized) as an outward sign of one’s redemption, is critical not only for identifying with Yeshua’s own death and resurrection (Romans 6:4), but also as a time for publicly declaring before the world of one’s salvation. Various external instructions, appearing in the Scriptures, were called by John Wesley to be a “means of grace,” whereby Believers can physically partake of deeper, internal spiritual realities. When Messianic people do anything that is external, whether it is specified by commandments in the Torah, or derived from Torah commandments, how are they partaking of deeper, internal spiritual realities? 1 Thessalonians 5:23 astutely admonishes,

“Now may the God of shalom Himself make you completely holy; and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept complete, blameless at the coming of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah” (TLV).

Kosher (Kashrut)

The term kosher does not appear in the Hebrew Bible, but is instead derived from the verb kasheir, “to be suitable, fit to use” (HALOT).[2] A term used throughout Judaism is kashrut, “fitness, worthiness, legitimacy” (Jastrow).[3] In most of the common usage that Messianic people will encounter—kosher, kasheir, and kashrut—will almost always be employed in reference to the Torah’s dietary instructions, and the list of clean and unclean meats in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14. However, in Jewish usage, the term kosher will be employed in a much wider array of applications, involving not only food and diet, but also the condition of various ritual objects, as well as one’s moral and ethical behavior.[4]

Today’s Messianic people often find various reasons for considering the kosher dietary laws important. Many Jewish people, who have come to faith in Yeshua, were raised in Reform Jewish homes which did not bother to keep kosher, but ate unclean meats, and so many of today’s Messianic Jews have actually reclaimed an important part of their ancestral heritage. Many non-Jewish Believers, often starting with the prohibitions of the Apostolic Decree (Acts 15:19-21, 28-29), find that adopting a kosher-style of diet is useful in emulating the Torah obedience of Yeshua the Messiah and/or for various health considerations. The workbook Messianic Judaism Class recognizes these significant reasons for today’s Messianic Believers and kosher, first noting how,

“[T]he animals that are forbidden to eat are predators and scavengers. You don’t know what a predator or scavenger has just eaten. It could be something diseased. Also some of the animals are high in fat and cholesterol.”[5]

It is then further stated,

“It is obedience to God. If the Ruakh HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) is leading you to be grafted in and you have been changing your lifestyle to identify more with Israel and with how Yeshua lived on this earth, then this is one more way to do that.”[6]

Principally within the Torah, one turns to Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 for the list of clean and unclean meats, to begin one’s review of the dietary laws. Kosher land animals (Leviticus 11:2-8; Deuteronomy 14:3-8) must have a split hoof and chew a cud. Clean land animals would include cattle, sheep, goats, deer, and various other sorts of wild game. Unclean land animals would include the camel, and most especially the pig. Kosher fish (Leviticus 11:9-12; Deuteronomy 14:9-10) must have fins and scales, which would automatically disqualify all popular shellfish such as shrimp, crabs, lobsters, and oysters as being kosher. Non-kosher birds (Leviticus 11:13-19; Deuteronomy 14:11-18) are mainly birds of prey or carrion eaters, with kosher birds determined entirely by Jewish tradition (i.e., chicken, duck, goose, and turkey). Kosher insects (Leviticus 11:20-23; Deuteronomy 14:19) mainly involve locusts, crickets, and grasshoppers.

Biblically Kosher and Traditional Jewish Kosher

In much of today’s Messianic movement, Messianic people are seen witnessed following a dietary regimen which they label as “Biblically kosher.” This is a level of kosher which mainly avoids unclean meats such as pork and shellfish. Traditional Jewish kosher, as particularly witnessed in the Orthodox Jewish community, is much more strict. Traditional Jewish kashrut involves explicit details concerning the slaughter of animals, the removal of blood, separation of meat and dairy (based on Deuteronomy 14:21), as well as dishes and utensils intended for meat or for dairy. There are Jewish regulatory agencies which inspect the factories and equipment where processed foods are produced, to ensure their kosher status, and that no non-kosher items were used in their manufacture.

It is safe to say that today’s kosher-friendly Messianic people do appreciate the higher level of standard observed by the Orthodox Jewish community, and like to see that various food products they purchase may have a stamp of approval. However, the higher cost of kosher-certified meat, for example, is prohibitive to many Messianic families who are not willing to completely eliminate meat from their diet. So, the meat of clean animals is usually purchased from the supermarket, but with various steps taken, such as soaking in water or broiling, to see that any remaining blood is removed.

Observance of kosher can, at times, become tense in various congregations’ fellowship meal times. Some have “Biblically kosher” policies where only pork and shellfish need to be avoided, but where meat and dairy can be mixed. Others have stricter policies where all meat must have a kosher certification, and where meat and dairy cannot be mixed. Yet others follow a policy of parve (neutral), where meat is not served, but fish is served because those observing a strict level of kosher can mix fish with dairy. These are all areas where it is appropriate for each of us to be flexible and tolerant of others’ opinions.

Eating Controversies in the Messianic Scriptures

While any emphasis on the importance of the kosher dietary laws, is likely to immediately upset or confuse many Christian people who look at the Messianic movement, it cannot go overlooked how many Jewish people were raised not keeping kosher. Reform Judaism dismissed the kosher dietary laws in the late Nineteenth Century as not only being antiquated, but as instructions which would unnecessarily impede Jewish integration into modern society. So, while non-Jewish Believers led by God into the Messianic movement might have more obvious challenges when considering the value of a kosher style of diet, many Messianic Jewish Believers have a few challenges as well, as they were not raised with kosher being a part of their background. And, many of these same Messianic Jewish Believers may have come to faith in an evangelical Protestant setting, which was dismissive of the kosher dietary laws.

There are a number of significant objections that are raised, as they involve the ongoing validity and relevance of the kosher dietary laws. Peter’s vision of the sheet in Acts 10, where he is shown a diverse array of unclean animals, and the declaration “What God has made clean, you must not consider unholy” (Acts 10:15, TLV), is commonly interpreted to mean that the distinctions of clean and unclean meats have been abrogated. While there are details to be evaluated, as to what “four-footed animals and reptiles and birds of the air” (Acts 10:12, TLV) may represent in regard to ancient paganism, Peter’s own interpretation of his vision, as he met with the Roman centurion Cornelius, cannot go overlooked: “You yourselves know that it is not permitted for a Jewish man to associate with a non-Jew or to visit him. Yet God has shown me that I should call no one unholy or unclean” (Acts 10:28, TLV). The main issue communicated to Peter, by the vision, was the overturning of non-Biblical injunctions which prohibited Jewish people from interacting with outsiders, particularly in terms of sharing a common meal (Jubilees 22:16; m.Ohalot 19:7).[7]

Also frequently referred to by many people who are dismissive of the kosher dietary laws, is the statement of Mark 7:19. In most English Bibles it appears as “Thus he declared all foods clean” (RSV), and many will conclude that Yeshua the Messiah not only canceled the Torah’s dietary code, but all forms of external ritual purity. Surely, it is absolutely true that “There is nothing outside the man that can make him unholy by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of the man that makes the man unholy” (Mark 7:15, TLV), as internal purity of the heart is more imperative than external purity. However, the actual issue in view was not the kosher dietary instructions, but instead a ritual handwashing practiced by many First Century Jews (Mark 7:1-13), but not necessarily by Yeshua’s disciples. Bread eaten with unwashed hands does not defile someone, “For it does not enter into the heart but into the stomach, and then goes out into the sewer, cleansing all foods” (Mark 7:19, TLV). It has been widely recognized among commentators how the clause katharizōn panta ta brōmata can be rendered as continuing the sentence, with “purging all the foods” (PME) speaking of the process of execretion.[8]

Kosher continuance is something detected in the Apostolic decree issued by the Jerusalem Council, to the new Greek and Roman Believers coming to faith in Israel’s Messiah. While they were not mandated or coerced to keep the Torah (Acts 15:1, 5), there were various stipulations that they had to observe for proper fellowship with Jewish Believers, and hence also interaction with the Jewish community. These included things strangled and blood (Acts 15:20, 29), which would surely limit the number of places where meat could be procured. Were they to keep kosher? A resource like the workbook Messianic Judaism Class concludes, “They are not required for Gentiles according to Acts 15, but Gentiles may keep them if they are led by God to do so.”[9] Frequently, it is thought that non-Jews in today’s Messianic movement are likened unto the gerim or sojourners in Ancient Israel, who were notably not permitted to catch unclean wild game (Leviticus 17:13), by necessity implying that the domesticated animals they would have eaten would be clean.

Problems in the Messianic movement tend to erupt when people are completely inflexible about the issue of kosher—especially from those whose faith tends to rise or fall on what people eat, rather than on internal heart cleanliness. If you keep a kosher style of diet on the outside, but do not take care that you are internally clean in your heart and mind, what have you achieved?

For fellowship meals at various Messianic congregations, one generally finds that pork and shellfish are off limits. The guidelines prescribed by the workbook Messianic Judaism Class are, “No Biblically un-kosher foods, please: no pork, no shellfish, no hunted meat.”[10] Your Messianic congregation or fellowship might be a little more strict in some areas, as it may look for a hechsher or an authorized symbol from one of the various Jewish kosher certification agencies. Some fellowship meal times do not permit the mixing of meat and dairy, they might be parve and permit fish and dairy, or they might be vegetarian. Other fellowship meal times might, in stark contrast, allow for meat and dairy to be served together, and one might even see fried chicken from a KFC or pizza from a local establishment, available for general consumption.

There are issues that do arise in the Messianic movement, as they concern the implementation of the dietary laws in modern settings, recognizing some of the more specific details of blood and fat, being sensitive to the diversity of opinions—but also recognizing various exceptions due to life circumstances. In the context of ancient missionary evangelism, Paul instructed the Corinthians, “If an unbeliever invites you over and you want to go, eat whatever is set before you, without raising questions of conscience” (1 Corinthians 10:27, TLV). There are going to be times when one might be served unclean things, and as a matter of being gracious to one’s host, they should be eaten (without taking seconds). As the workbook Messianic Judaism Class properly directs, “‘Go and preach the Gospel’ is a higher law than the dietary laws.”[11]

Tzitzits and Tallits

An important Torah instruction is witnessed in Numbers 15:38, “Speak to the Israelite people and instruct them to make for themselves fringes on the corners of their garments throughout the ages; let them attach a cord of blue to the fringe at each corner” (NJPS). The fringe, tassel, or tzitzit was originally to have a cord of tekheilet or blue, although the traditional dye employed for the tekheilet from the chilazon sea snail was lost for many centuries, with most tzitzit today being all white. Fringes or tassels were worn by Yeshua the Messiah, as witnessed throughout the Gospels. The general statement made in Mark 6:56 is, “And wherever He entered villages, towns, or countryside, people were placing the sick in the marketplaces and begging Him to let them touch even the tzitzit of His garment—and all who touched it were being healed” (TLV; cf. Malachi 4:2).

In Judaism today, the fringes or tzitzityot are to be attached to a four-corned garment, with the tallit having developed in the post-Second Temple period. Orthodox Jewish males will often wear an undergarment called a tallit katan at all times, whereas other Jews will employ the tallit for traditional morning prayers and daytime Shabbat services. Traditionally, the tallit is to be worn only during the daytime, with the exception of the evening services of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. Given how the command is issued to b’nei Yisrael or the “children of Israel,” Conservative and Reform Judaism permits females to employ the tallit. There is a wide degree of variance witnessed in the Messianic movement regarding tzitzityot and the tallit, some of it sitting without the general bounds of Jewish tradition. It is safe to say, though, that homemade tzitzits tied to one’s beltloops, which one will frequently encounter in the independent Hebrew/Hebraic Roots movement, sit well outside of what is traditionally witnessed.[12]

Tefillin (Phylacteries) and Mezuzah

Within the Shema of Deuteronomy 6, where God’s supremacy and exclusiveness is declared, it is explicitly stated, “These words, which I am commanding you today, are to be on your heart. You are to teach them diligently to your children, and speak of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down and when you rise up. Bind them as a sign on your hand, they are to be as frontlets between your eyes, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9, TLV). There is a definite need to see the Instruction of God placed impressed onto the human heart, and to convey the significance of His commandments to one’s offspring.

In Jewish practice, certainly from Second Temple times, it is seen how the direction to bind the Word on one’s hand and forehead is taken literally, via the tradition of wrapping tefillin or phylacteries (derived from phulaktērion). The tefillin are a set of two leather boxes, one for the arm and hand (the opposite of whether the user is right or left handed), and one for the head, containing four Torah passages written on parchment (Exodus 13:1-10; 13:11-16; Deuteronomy 6:4-9; 11:13-21). Wrapping tefillin is something that takes place at traditional times of prayer. Various people in today’s Messianic movement are seen to wrap tefillin, whereas others interpret the commandment to bind God’s Word as something metaphorical. There are some who do not wrap tefillin because a pair of tefillin can frequently be very expensive, although they do not frown on the value of the tradition.[13]

When one walks into a Jewish synagogue, or the home of an observant Jew—and certainly many Messianic congregations and Messianic homes—a mezuzah will be seen at the entry. The term mezuzah is today frequently taken to apply to the small case and parchment attached to the doorpost, which includes the Deuteronomy 4:6-9 and 11:13-21 instructions. Just as touching the Torah scroll during the Shabbat service is intended to honor it, the mezuzah will be touched as a sign of honor by those entering or existing a doorway that has one attached.[14]

Kippah (Yarmulke)

One of the most obvious elements of modern Jewish identity witnessed in the world today, is men wearing the kippah (or yarmulke) or skullcap. The main idea behind wearing this small skullcap is that it shows submission to God. Other ideas is that wearing the kippah is a sign of mourning the destruction of the Second Temple, or that it is a symbol of how human beings have a Divine authority over them. Still, wearing a head garment like the kippah may simply be rooted in Ancient Near Eastern customs of people wearing things on their head keeping the sun off them. In various Jewish communities, and in modern Israel, wearing a particular style of kippah may identify you with a particular religious or even political sect.

Issues do arise in some Messianic congregations, particularly when non-Jewish Believers can be witnessed to be insensitive to the Jewish tradition of wearing the kippah or yarmulke. Many recognize that wearing the kippah, while not a Biblical commandment, is appropriate for synagogue protocol. Others, based on some statements appearing in 1 Corinthians 11, conclude that wearing men the kippah is prohibited. While a complicated passage for sure, when it is recognized that there were ancient First Century Corinthian issues in view, then 1 Corinthians 11:4 cannot be seen as prohibiting the kippah. As the Brown and Comfort interlinear renders pas anēr proseuchomenos ē prophēteuōn kata kephalēs, “every man praying or prophesying down over [his] head.”[15] What was considered dishonorable as something hanging down from the head (kata kephalēs) for the men in Corinth is stated in the text as long hair: “Doesn’t the natural order of things teach you—if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace for him?” (1 Corinthians 11:14, TLV).[16]


NOTES

[1] Consult some of the relevant points appearing in the FAQ on the Messianic Apologetics website, “Dualism.”

[2] Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner, eds., The Hebrew & Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, 2 vols. (Leiden, the Netherlands: Brill, 2001), 1:503.

[3] Marcus Jastrow, Dictionary of the Targumim, Talmud Bavli, Talmud Yerushalmi, and Midrashic Literature (New York: Judaica Treasury, 2004), 677.

[4] Consult the many useful thoughts offered by Ron Isaacs, Kosher Living: It’s More Than Just the Food (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2005).

[5] Messianic Judaism Class, Teacher Book, 53.

[6] Ibid.

[7] For a further evaluation of details, consult the analysis on Acts 10:1-48 in the Messianic Kosher Helper by Messianic Apologetics.

[8] For a further evaluation of details, consult the analysis on Mark 7:1-23 in the Messianic Kosher Helper by Messianic Apologetics.

[9] Messianic Judaism Class, Teacher Book, 53.

[10] Ibid., 54.

[11] Ibid., 54.

For a further evaluation of details, consult the analysis on 1 Corinthians 10:14-33 in the Messianic Kosher Helper by Messianic Apologetics.

[12] For a further evaluation of details, consult the FAQ on the Messianic Apologetics website, “Tzitzits.”

[13] For a further evaluation of details, consult the FAQ on the Messianic Apologetics website, “Tefillin.”

[14] For a further discussion, consult Chapter 13 of Torah In the Balance, Volume II, “Messianic Believers and Religious Symbols.”

[15] Robert K. Brown and Philip W. Comfort, trans., The New Greek-English Interlinear New Testament (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 1990), 603.

[16] For a further evaluation of details, including “covered” and “uncovered” in 1 Corinthians 11:1-16 involving ancient hairstyles, consult the FAQ on the Messianic Apologetics website, “Headcovering Garments.”

Vayikra

Vayikra

He called

Leviticus 1:1-5:26[6:7]
Isaiah 43:21-44:23

“Faithful Confessions”


by Mark Huey

In the Book of Leviticus, Torah students get an opportunity to mainly study the sacrificial system, which was formally instituted, to cover the transgressions of human sin. The Ancient Israelites in the desert have just completed the construction of the Tabernacle, and have witnessed God’s glory descend upon the structure. The weight of His presence was so intense, that Moses was not able to enter the Tent of Meeting in order to communicate directly with the Almighty (Exodus 40:34-35).

At the end of the Book of Exodus, Moses’ credibility with the people of Israel was at its pinnacle. The instructions on how to build the Tabernacle, its furniture, and the elements needed for the priesthood, were followed to precision. The result had to be an awesome sight, to these former Egyptian slaves, who were privileged to participate in the construction projects. From a distance, they were all eyewitnesses to the pillar of fire and cloud that was guiding them by night and day.

A Sacrificial System

The main theme of the Book of Leviticus, easily seen from a survey of the text, is that it details the intricacies of the priesthood and sacrificial system, which are to regulate Israel’s national life. Without any significant interruption, it appears that the Holy One, from His new location in the midst of the community, began to address the need for individual atonement for the sins of the people:

“Then the LORD called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying, ‘Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, “When any man of you brings an offering to the LORD, you shall bring your offering of animals from the herd or the flock. If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer it, a male without defect; he shall offer it at the doorway of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the LORD. He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, that it may be accepted for him to make atonement on his behalf.” He shall slay the young bull before the LORD; and Aaron’s sons the priests shall offer up the blood and sprinkle the blood around on the altar that is at the doorway of the tent of meeting’” (Leviticus 1:1-4).

In these opening verses of Vayikra, we discover that the sacrifices for transgressions are a very personal thing. The one who was guilty of a sin offense was to place his hands on the head of the animal, to transfer his personal guilt to the offering. The animal was then to be personally slayed by the sinner, and Aaron and his sons were to take the blood and disperse it in the appropriate places.

Can you imagine the impact this ceremony would have on you, if you were required to participate in this ritual? If you have ever slaughtered an animal—which the great majority of modern-day people have never done—you might have some understanding of the significance of what was mandatory. But can you visualize actually placing your hands on an innocent animal’s head, with the knowledge that your transgression has required a blood atonement, that (temporarily) returns you to a right relationship with your Creator?

Many of these thoughts are difficult to fathom, but as you read through the the Book of Leviticus, the variety of offerings and their significance for the array of sins of commission and sins of omission, can be overwhelming. It is understandable that many, especially in the past two millennia since the destruction of the Second Temple, have had a tendency to not really comprehend what is being communicated in the Torah about sacrifices. In the post-resurrection era, after all, final atonement for sins has been accomplished in the sacrifice of Yeshua the Messiah (Hebrews 9:28; 10:10). The propensity for Believers to focus on His atoning work can help us understand why there has not been a great deal of Christian examination of Leviticus. The ability to personalize the gravity of sin and what was required to restore a right relationship with God has been mitigated. Many just claim the “blood of Yeshua” when they transgress God’s Instruction, if they are aware of such commandments.

If we are mature Bible readers, then Torah students should be able to properly value the sacrificial instructions of Moses’ Teaching—even with salvation history having moved forward, with a permanent sacrifice for human sins available.

Personal Confession

Having a greater, conscious awareness of what God defines as sin—is one of the primary reasons why the Lord is inspiring many people to return to a foundational understanding of their faith, through a consistent study of the Torah of Moses. For by actually reading through something like Vayikra this week, and meditating upon the sins that require atonement, a man or woman should certainly be able to analyze areas of his or her life where some “fine tuning” would be appropriate. For who among us is not personally guilty of various sins of commission or omission at times? Consider the following words of the Apostle John:

“If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:8-10).

Some have been known to describe 1 John 1:8-10 as a kind of “Christian confessional bar of soap.” If people can acknowledge themselves as fallen sinners, then they can know that they need redemption—something that God is surely faithful to provide! A little further on in the Epistle of 1 John, the Apostle goes on to describe some of the benefits of a true salvation experience for those who have become the children of God:

“See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:1-10).

We are found to be in Him and abiding in Him—with everything about who we are as people focused on and around the Lord—then we will not sin. The problem is that in our spiritual journey, the sanctification process is not often something instantaneous. We must each learn to abide more and more in Him, and pressing into the Lord must be exercised by our free will and desire to mature.

Where do you stand in the Lord today? Take this one example from Vayikra as a starter in your personal, confessional appraisal:

“Now if a person sins after he hears a public adjuration to testify when he is a witness, whether he has seen or otherwise known, if he does not tell it, then he will bear his guilt” (Leviticus 5:1).

Have you ever been in a predicament where you were a primary eyewitness to some sinful circumstances that were being investigated or adjudicated by some authority? This could be a civil or criminal offense, from a minor misdemeanor to felony. Perhaps you did not want to be involved in the investigation or prosecution, because of your relationship to the offender. Or perhaps you were concerned about your potential loss of time. Nevertheless, for a variety of reasons, you might have justified your decision to disobey this command. On the other hand, by thinking and meditating on many of the different implications from this Torah commandment, you could hopefully become a better corporate citizen to the community where you live—especially when you realize that if you do not come forward as a credible eyewitness, then you will bear the guilt of the offender! Think about this.

But what if you are an employee at a company, and you witness some people stealing some of the company pens and paper for their own personal use? What if the owner of the company asks all the employees to report any known offenders? Are you going to come to the employer and report what you have witnessed? Or are you going to remain silent and bear the guilt of the offender?

On a spiritual level when we witness fellow Believers in sin, there is an admonition that allows us to deal with our brethren in love. In his closing word in his epistle, James gives us a strong encouragement to go to a brother or sister, turning them back to the truth:

“My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20).

This strongly parallels some teaching of Yeshua, in terms of approaching someone about a sin committed:

“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED [Deuteronomy 19:15]. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the assembly; and if he refuses to listen even to the assembly, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Matthew 18:15-17).

The problem we face, on all of these levels throughout the world, is that most people do not know the ramifications of just this one Torah commandment (Leviticus 5:1). If we understood that the guilt of our lack of performance to testify for the society or company or spiritual groups when we have personal first hand knowledge of offenses falls upon us, then perhaps we would follow the instructions. In so doing, our culture would improve as offenders are duly prosecuted. Companies would avoid the loss of assets from internal theft. Congregations and assemblies would function more righteously, as the “sin in the camp” is properly addressed. Most importantly, those who refuse to confront flagrant sin, that they have personal knowledge about, would not be burdened with the guilt that should rest upon the offender, rather than the one who keeps silent.

If you take the time to reflect on all of the different offerings in our Torah portion, I am confident that you will be able to identify with some of the different sins of commission or omission. Let the indwelling Spirit convict you of where you need to confess, repent, and be restored by His grace. The Holy One of Israel is still building a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:6), to bring light to all the nations of the Earth (Isaiah 42:6). If you are one of the called out ones, chosen to represent Him in this generation, then it is your responsibility to be holy, because the Lord God is holy (Leviticus 19:2). Do not take this responsibility lightly!