What is Kosher?

By Rabbi David Markel Hall
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What is Kosher?

Kosher: "fit to eat" or "ritually clean according to dietary laws."

Here is how we understand kosher from a Jewish perspective.

A nice kosher chocolate cake, from a nice kosher baker having the appropriate (U) or (K) symbols on it was purchased by Mrs. Levy. Some of it dropped on Mr. Levy's nice clean Sabbath shirt.

Is it still clean? NO!

Mr. Levy grows his nice kosher vegetables in nice clean dirt in his nice kosher garden. The children help Mr. Levy tend the garden. When they return to the house, one of the children forgot to wipe his feet and some of that nice clean dirt came into their nice clean house and got on the nice clean rug.

Is it still clean? NO!

What caused the clean (kosher) to become unclean (trayf)? In both instances it was something "out of place", i.e. where it was not supposed to be.

What is "out of place" (trayf) for a Jew is not necessarily "out of place" for a Gentile and vice versa. Trayf actually means "torn" or "shredded". Animals which are kosher become trayf, if during the process of slaughtering, the slaughter knife becomes nicked which would tear the flesh. The Torah forbids eating animals whose flesh has been torn (Leviticus 17:15).

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Torah Kosher for Jews

Torah Kosher is simply following the Bibleís instructions, as understood by the simple meaning, regarding dietary observance. Messianic Jews are divided in their observance of Kosher laws. Some follow rabbinical kosher laws, some follow Torah kosher laws and some have chosen to not follow any food laws at all. Leviticus 11

Messianic rabbis are united in their opinion that the minimum requirement for a Jew is to obey the dietary laws contained in Torah. Some feel this is not sufficient, that we must keep rabbinical kosher, observing the most stringent rules for dietary observance, to be Jewish.

Most Messianic rabbis agree that to refuse to observe at least the Torah dietary laws is rebellion against G-d's commandments. This makes it difficult for us to find suitable places to eat out. Most restaurants are not careful to separate the cooking areas for unclean meats vs. clean meats. In deep frying, most restaurants today use parv (i.e. vegetable or neutral) oils to cook with instead of lard, but this does not mean that they avoid cooking pork or unclean fish products in the same oil as clean meats. Even those who are relatively careful in avoiding cooking clean meats where unclean meats have been cooked are often less than careful about handling clean meats after handling unclean meats, without having washed their hands etc. Then we have the problem of splattering grease from unclean meats on clean meats while cooking, cutting clean meats with the same utensils used to cut unclean meats, or using the same cutting boards etc.

All of these things make observing Torahís requirements for foods while maintaining a lifestyle which requires eating out, almost impossible. This is the case for those who travel frequently for a living etc.

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Rabbinical Kosher for Jews

Halakah meaning "fence" is the authorized compilation of Talmudic instructions as given by our sages. It was written to help people avoid breaking the Torah, to know how to apply things in the Torah which were unclear, clarify instructions which left room for question, etc.. If a Jew is attempting to keep Halakah he/she will never come close to breaking Torah in the areas where Halakah is being observed. This is why Halakah seems so stringent.

According to the Talmudic authors, we should not even mix the dishes in which dairy products are served and those which are used for meat. This comes from the command "do not seethe the kid in its motherís milk." In todayís American society it would be almost impossible to cook with milk from the mother of a calf, because of the way meat and dairy are processed. Just to make sure that the command is not in any way broken, laws were given to insure compliance. In strict observance of Halakah, many Jewish homes have two refrigerators, two sets of cookware, and two sets of dishes. One is for milchik (dairy products), the other is for meat.

Regarding eating out, if you think being Torah observant is difficult, try rabbinical kosher. First of all, the restaurant cannot even serve trayf of any kind (i.e. pork, shrimp, catfish, shellfish, rabbit, frogs and other unclean products, or clean meats which have not been properly slaughtered) from the same kitchen. Milchik (dairy) products may not be used in cooking or served where meat is served. All baked products must be parv certified (neither milk or meat products used in baking). The kitchen must be certified as kosher by a qualified rabbi and the fires used in cooking must be lit (at least the pilots) by the rabbi, each day cooking is done, to insure the complete process is being followed. All products being received must be from authorized, rabbinical supervised sources. The rabbi must be present to receive shipments of supplies. And this is only the final step in having a Kosher restaurant. Obtaining sources for food products which are properly supervised can be difficult and are certainly very costly.

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Torah / Rabbinical Kosher for Gentiles

Sooooo, who establishes what is out of place for a Jew or Gentile? G-d does. He told Noach that anything that moved was okay for food (Gen 9:3). G-d commanded him to bring seven clean animals on the boat but only two unclean. G-d knew what was clean and unclean and apparently Noach did also. However, Noach and the ancestors of Avraham were not the only ones being cared for here. The descendants of every race and tribe on the earth were present in Noach and his family.

In the process of gathering the animals, I'm sure, G-d told Noach what animals were clean and what were unclean, if he didn't already know. After Noach found out what animals were clean and unclean, I'm sure, he chose for himself to eat the clean animals and not eat the unclean ones because he was a tzadik (righteous) man. Also, he would not eat anything that wasn't offered to G-d as a sacrifice.

In conclusion, Noach, a man of righteousness, more than likely, ate only clean animals and did not eat or drink blood. At the same time he was commanded that anything that moves will be food for you i.e. MANKIND. Because the distinction was made between clean and unclean, we can also know that it was good, for those who wanted to, to eat only clean animals. We also know that G-d allowed non-Jewish mankind to eat unclean food without becoming un-righteous in His sight.

HOWEVER! Those who wish to walk with Israel as sojourners, spiritually or physically, were not to eat of the unclean.

Isaiah 66:17 was written to Israel and all that love Jerusalem (verse10). There is one law for the descendants of Israel and the stranger who sojourns with them (Exodus 12:49, Lev 7:7, Num 15:16,29 etc. etc.). This would include those who align themselves, spiritually or physically, with Israel. The Church, however, has not aligned themselves with Israel, spiritually or physically. This is a shame and will be dealt with by the L-rd when he comes.

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New covenant kosher for all peoples?

It is claimed by the majority of churches that Rav Shaul (The Apostle Paul) changed the Kosher laws for both Jew and Gentile. Various miserly reasons are given for this line of thought. The primary verse used in the Brit Chadisha (New Covenant) is; 1 Corinthians 10:25. In context it is obvious that Rav Shaul is talking about eating things offered to idols (verse 27). He is not discussing what is clean or unclean, nor is he talking about other Kosher laws. Additionally, he is answering a question posed of him by the Corinthian congregation as can be seen in 1 Corinthians 7:1. We do not know what their question was so it is impossible to fully understand the answer. We can, using in context analysis from 1 Corinthians 8:1, conclude that he was not saying that anything a person wants to eat is okay, and even if he was saying that (and he wasnít), he was addressing a primarily gentile (not Jewish) congregation. (see Acts 15 for more understanding about requirements for gentiles.)

Rav Shaul summarizes his intentions for this section in 1 Corinthians 7:18,19. If you were Jewish, before accepting Yeshua as Messiah for sin atonement, then you should remain Jewish. If you were gentile, before accepting Yeshua as Messiah, you should be under NO pressure to convert to Judaism. On the other hand it was agreed by the Messianic rabbinical counsel led by Yaakov (James) that the gentiles be allowed to attend shul in local synagogues to learn the laws of Moses if they wish (Acts 15:21).

If you are a gentile, you do not need to keep rabbinical kosher to be righteous in G-dís sight. If you want to keep kosher, it is your choice as to how far to go. No one should put pressure on you to go beyond what is clearly and easily understood in Torah.

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1 Corinthians 10:25 "Whatever is sold in the resturants, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake: "

1 Corinthians 7:1 "Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: ..."

1 Corinthians 8:1 "Now as touching things offered unto idols, ..."

Leviticus 17:15 "And every soul that eateth that which died of itself, or that which was torn, whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger, he shall both wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even: then shall he be clean. "

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Leviticus 11 (KJV) "And the LORD spake unto Moses and to Aaron, saying unto them, {2} Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, These are the beasts which ye shall eat among all the beasts that are on the earth. {3} Whatsoever parteth the hoof, and is clovenfooted, and cheweth the cud, among the beasts, that shall ye eat. {4} Nevertheless these shall ye not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the hoof: as the camel, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you. {5} And the coney, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you. {6} And the hare, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you. {7} And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you. {8} Of their flesh shall ye not eat, and their carcase shall ye not touch; they are unclean to you. {9} These shall ye eat of all that are in the waters: whatsoever hath fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, them shall ye eat. {10} And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you: {11} They shall be even an abomination unto you; ye shall not eat of their flesh, but ye shall have their carcases in abomination. {12} Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you. ... "

(U) or (K) symbols Food packages which are marked with a U or K having a circle around it are carefully prepared under the strictest Rabbinical supervision and are approved for consumption in any Jewish environment.

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Gen 9:3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; like the green herbage I have given you everything. (The Stone Edition Tanakh)

Exodus 12:49 "One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you. "

Isaiah 66:17 "Those who prepare and purify themselves [to go] to the gardens *, going one [group] after another to its midst, and those who eat the flesh of the swine, the abominable creature, and the mouse will all be consumed together -- the word of HASHEM." (The Stone Edition Tanakh)
* where their idols were set up to worship(Rashi)

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