What is unclean?

Re’eh

Deut. 11:26 – 16:17

Introduction

As with most of the portions of Devarim (Deuteronomy), this portion repeats many of the Mitzvot (translated as “Commandments” but can better understood as deeds, either good or bad) found in other passages, along with some new instruction. Beginning with a synopsis of the blessings and curses found toward the end of Vay’kra (Leviticus) 9Lev. 26:3 – 44), a call to be separate (Holy), dealing with tithes and false prophets. As well as the Shmitah years and the three feast that all Jewish men are to go up to Jerusalem, there is also a synopsis of the clean and unclean animals.

“The Kosher Laws”

In the Gospels Yeshua (Jesus) says that ALL of the Law and prophets are summed up in two commands, Love God with all your heart, soul and strength and Love God as yourself. When discussing passages like the clean and unclean animals I will often ask, “How do these show us “Love of God or Love of Neighbor?” In addition, many I speak with will ask why it even matters, Didn’t Yeshua do away with that?

To answer the first one, in many cultures (specially Ancient Judaism,our source context) the bride would be brought into the husbands household and family. As a result, she would have to learn most of the traditions, likes and dislikes of her new family. If she loved her husband, she would do her best to learn the differences from her family, maybe change some small things, but in general she would adapt to the way her “new” family did things.

As to the second, many of the passages quoted in the Brit Chadishah about the abolishment of the food laws are really about other things. In the Gospels, the two passages are about washing hands and the hypocrisy of the leaders of His day. In Acts, Peters vision is about people not food. Finally in Paul’s letters the context is usually in respect to “food” sacrificed to idols. within a Jewish context the question is about outside effects on the food (except for Acts), rather then the food itself.

So why the food laws? Why did God ask us to only eat certain foods? If we look at scripture as a physical reflection of spiritual things, then, with the exception of two animals (goat and locust) those animals called “clean” often represent through their actions something that can be seen as good or wholesome. In the same way, with two exceptions, the lion and eagle, those that are called unclean represent behavior that is not reflecting of love.

My favorite example of this, used by the rabbi’s, is the Pig. A pig cannot tuck its hoofs under itself as all the other animals with cloven hooves. The rabbi’s use this to teach about hypocrisy, on the outside it looks clean, however, because it does not chew the cud, it isn’t clean. The example that Yeshua uses is the leader that places heavy (spiritual) burdens on the people but don’t do anything to help them carry it out.

Finally, as I was reading this morning, I came across 2 Corinthians 6:16b-18 which says,

. . . FOR WE ARE THE TEMPLE OF THE LIVING GOD—just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 17THEREFORE, come out from among them, and be separate, says Adonai. TOUCH NO UNCLEAN THING. Then I will take you in. 18I will be a father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says Adonai-Tzva’ot.”

As with all things, as a believer, we must be convinced in our own minds of how to interpret scripture, However, In my opinion, if a Jewish Rabbi, calls you a temple of God, why would we want to pollute our physical and spiritual bodies with “unclean” things, whether it be food or action. Like Paul, I wish to be faithful to the Torah, the Messiah, and God, but I war with the flesh (like all of us) and sometimes choose to take a wrong course. May the Ruach (Spirit) guide us in walking the right path and lead us into His glorious Kingdom.

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