Monday, November 10, 2014


A friend seemed to demonstrate some confusion over understanding Islam and the Middle East... I answered him with my take on the situation. I truly, however, cannot emphasize enough the importance of understanding this issue. And so I'm posting what I posted to him with some further elaboratiion. The following is a short summary of my understanding of things. You're free to chime in and agree or make corrections.
I might add however, that there are great resources for further in depth study and understanding. Among many, I site the following: "A Perspective on Islam" by Avner Boskey, 
 Questioning Islam by Peter Townsend.
And here is my short little synopsis...
Islam is fundamentally anti-Biblical. The orthodox Christian (Biblical) view of Jesus, i.e. that He is the God-Man and distinct yet indivisibly one with the Godhead is called "Shirk" in Islam. It is blasphemy and the most egregious of sins... punishable by death.
According to Surah 5:21 of the Quran The Jews are the inheritors of the land over which there is presently this disputation. How Islam reconciles this Quranic position and yet contradicts it with this present anti-Israel stance is beyond me, although I allude to some of the causes for the anti-Israel attitudes below.
In Islamic thought there is the notion of the "Caliphate"... dominance of the entire world under the "thumb" of Islam. Anyone whose thinking is not consistent with Islam is either to be "converted" subjugated or killed. Hence, Islam is territorial. Once a geographical area comes under the thumb of Islam the territory is called "Dar al Islam"... the House (or territory) of submission. There are two other territories in Islam... Dar al Harb (The territory of War) and Dar al Amin (Countries where Muslims have the right to practice Islam but are nevertheless not dominated by Islam... yet).
The dispute over the land (Israel) has many facets to it. The most obvious to me, yet overlooked by many, is built around the question... "What territory ought to be the most likely to be defined as Dar al Islam?" Answer... the Middle East... after all, that's where Islam had its origin and where Islam is most dominant. But smack dab in the middle of the Middle East is Israel... a nation not dominated by Islam but predominantly Judaism. This is an affront to Islam. Like a sliver in one's finger, as tiny as it may be, it needs to be removed. Hence, Islam, the world view, and the spirit dominating it's people will resort to anything to excise Israel... endlessly and determinedly using one strategy after another to put into practice what will eventually work in removing this "unclean" presence from it's midst. Presently Islam is attempting to use world opinion in it's incessant blame of Israel for the deaths of Palestinian citizens intentionally put into harms' way for the purpose of getting photo ops so as to garner sympathy.
The territorial issue is one thing. Another issue is that there has always been animosity between Islam and the Jewish people. The Quran calls Jews "apes and pigs" (Surahs 7:166, 2:65, and 5:60). Presumably this is because Jews, understandably, saw through the lie which was Islam and wouldn't convert when Muhammad had presented it to them.
This animosity was exacerbated when some 300 - 600 Jewish males of pubescent age and older from the Qurayza tribe were lined up and systematically beheaded by Muhammed presumably because of their collusion with his enemies. Such, however, was the not the case. The Qurayza were most notably neutral during Muhammad's military campaign.
This animosity was inflamed even further because it was a Jewish woman who was ultimately responsible for Muhammad's death. She was a captive from one of Muhammad's conquests who gained enough trust to become his cook. One day she poisoned his meat. Muhammad lived a number of years subsequent to his poisoning however, debilitating and painful symptoms that resulted from that poisoning grew until his eventual death.
So what is there to make of all of this? Israel is the only country in the world whose leaders are aware of the true nature and threat of Islam. Hence, while the world can't understand her recalcitrance, Israel will survive while the rest of the world will either be subject to the terror of Islam or take repressive actions in response to the presence of some form of Islam. Hence, I believe that Israel, for a time, is destined to become the only free nation on earth while the "Christian" nations whose populations are already luke warm at best in their faith, will never know or understand the nature and threat that is Islam. They will yield to political correctness. I think that this is what will characterize some of the geopolitical framework which will lead to what we know to be "the great tribulation". In the process, all the nations who think they know better than Israel will war against her, starting, obviously, with the Islamic nations and eventually the rest of the enslaved world. Hence Jerusalem will become like a giant bolder that will cause every nation that tries to lift and move her to get a "hernia" (Zech. 12:2-3).
On a final note: In this whole scenario I see two god's competing... the god of Islam (notice the small "g"), and the God of Israel. Allah of Islam is plainly not God. Avner Boskey puts it well in his little booklet to which I referred. Along with other reasons, Allah has a different agenda than the God of Israel. As an example, Allah would have the Jews destroyed. The God of Israel, on the other hand, assures that the Jews will survive history (Jer. 31).
Just as we see two g(G)ods competing we see two l(L)aws competing. Sharia (the law of Allah) seeks universality and to subjugate people. According to this law women are nothing but chattle to satisfy the behest of men. On the other hand, the law of God is freeing. Women are respected and cherished and people conduct themselves in a manner most fitting to the way that God made them. We can read about the law of God in the Sermon on the mount where Y'shua describes the conduct of citizens of the Kingdom of God. The epistles expound further. Ultimately this Law will be characterized by what the Apostle Paul called the "Fruit of the Spirit" in Ephesians 5. Paul points out that when people demonstrate this "fruit of the Spirit"... love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, their is no law that they could possibly be breaking!
Both world views look forward to the universality of their respective laws. Sharia is allegedly to be universalized when Islam dominates the planet. The Law of God will be universalized when Messiah Y'shua returns and all the nations which have come against Israel during the wars will be required to be represented at Jerusalem to celebrate Sukkoth (the Feast of Booths) in Jerusalem annually (Zechariah 14). ' The fruit of obedience to the Law of God (the first Law being to Love God with one's entire being) will be peace marked by loving and appropriate relationships between people.
This, my friends, is what the world of Islam has demonized by calling it "Zionism". This is why we must pray fervently for the peace of Jerusalem. True Zionism's actualization will be marked by peoples of all nations and tongues and cultures, each with their own wonderful and colorful unique qualities and yet each having one thing in common of which they'd never had in common before... a common constitution called the Law of God.
Many peoples will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion,
the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
4 He will judge between the nations
and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore. (Isaiah 2:3-4)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Conflict Between Hamas and Israel - Evidence that the Church Has Not Replaced the Jew

About two years ago I had lunch with one of the Pastors of a church that had subtle leanings toward the area of replacement theology which, in essence, purports that the Jewish people had been replaced by the "Church". He asked me "Do you really believe that the Israel of today is the same as the ancient people of the Bible?" My response to him was "If you don't believe that the Jewish people of today are the Israel of the Bible you don't understand the depth of the nature of the love of God. That's what the Book of Hosea is all about... the passionate unrelenting love of a man spurned by his unfaithful wife as an illustration of the passionate pursuit of a God who never gives up on the people He loves."

Today we are witnessing some the fruit of God's unfailing pursuit of His people. Israel, half of her people with trowels and half of them with spears (Nehemiah 4) has created, without doubt, the most compassionate army in the history of the world.

War is a product of evil. Evil draws good people into war out of necessity. Israel has been drawn into a war which, upon her success hinges the very survival of the Jewish people.

Israel's enemy is motivated by an ideology of evil and a cult of death. The leaders of this enemy band seek only to murder. They seek to kill any Israeli be he young, old, male, female, military or civilian with absolutely no strategic plan. Their only goal is to destroy. Furthermore the very people they have allegedly been entrusted to govern, the Palestinians, are used as expendable pawns to be "martyred" for the cause of their false god heralded by their pseudo prophet Muhammad. The deaths of these poor people are put on display before the television sets of the world so as to arouse international hatred for their Israeli enemies.

Israel has absolutely no recourse but to defend herself. She has gone through great lengths to provide protection for her citizens, and although not perfect, she has done her utmost to spare the lives of Palestinians. She has used phone calls, leaflets, dud bombs and other advanced warning methods to implore Palestinians to get out of harms way in advance of a pin-point attack to destroy a weapon or a specific enemy combatant. She has also hospitalized wounded Palestinian including those who were enemy combatants.

Statistics from Al Jazeera (a not-friendly-to-Israel news organization) reveal that the majority of Palestinians killed in this conflagration have been men between the ages of 18 to 38. In light of the fact that the average Palestinian age is 14 and that the enemy combatants use women and children as human shields, this truly reflects Israel's extraordinary efforts to spare life. If Israel had the same mentality as her enemies she could have simply carpet bombed Gaza and gotten over with it.

The contrast between the attitudes of Hamas and Israel are breathtaking. The former wishes to promote death. The latter wishes to preserve life. The former is egged on by a phony god promulgated by a phony prophet. The latter is a people whose history has been guided by the God of Israel who has used Torah, history, millenia of persecution, galute (diaspora), rabbinic tradition and even rejection of rabbinic tradition to create a "segula"... a people who are a prized possession regardless of their belief or unbelief. They have become an exemplary but imperfect people with an imperfect but nevertheless comparatively compassionate army.

We are now stepping into a new age where it will be more and more obvious that the nations of this world will be judged by their acknowledgment or lack thereof of the contrast between Israel and her enemies. Woe to those who do not see that contrast.

I can also say with relative confidence in light of Romans 11:17-21 "Woe to the local church that would seek to keep the Jewishness of Jesus off the metaphorical front page headline of the Bible" and assume that the Church has replaced the Jewish people. What is going on today is further evidence that the Church has not.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

One's Faith ought not be in Miracles but God is performing them anyway in Israel

I'm not one that hangs my hat on miracles.  Even Satan produces miracles.  Often Christians look to miracles for evidence that what they believe is valid.  They pray for a miracle but if the miracle for which they yearn is never answered, their faith goes bankrupt.  They lose faith or "backslide".

Faith in miracles can lead to excessive emotionalism.  It adds validity to the notion that one can "be so heavenly minded that he is of no earthly good".  It seems hard to believe, however In HaTorah we recall that the Children of Israel at the time of the Exodus saw one incredible miracle after another and yet they didn't have the faith to take on the "Anakim" after the spies had entered the land.  They'd witnessed 10 incredible miracles in Egypt (as well as hearing about the turning of Moses' staff into a snake), as well as the parting of the Red Sea and drowning of the Egyptian army (As my friend Avner Boskey used to put it, while growing up, his Rabbi used to say that Moses knew where the sand bars were).  The children of Israel saw water coming from a rock, being led by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.  They'd seen thunder and lightning and heard sustained trumpet blasts as Moses went up to the top of the mountain to talk with God.  They were fed with manna in the wilderness and as they wandered in the wilderness for forty years, their clothes and sandals never wore out.  And yet, they had not known God well enough to trust that He would go before the "Anakim" in the process of conquering the land that God had promised to Abraham.

Miracles don't and should not sustain one's faith.  Only the very Word of God,  prayer and acting in faith, what the Word of God requires of us should sustain our faith.  Concerning this Issue, Peter commented that he had seen, heard, and touched Y'shua (Jesus) yet it is the "prophetic Word" not necessarily past experiences that "shines like a light in a dark place".

When Operation Protective Edge (the latest Israeli military action against Hamas You can read Hamas' charter here) began, I, like doubtless many of you, began to pray.  I prayed that not one IDF soldier would be lost.  I prayed for the swift obliteration of Hamas, minimal Palestinian fatalities and that the poor Palestinian people might actually come to see Israel and the IDF as liberators from the tyranical claws of Hamas who's chief military strategy was to use the poor defenseless Palestinian citizenry as human shields.  At least from my vantage point, I don't see that really any of these prayers was answered for the exception, possibly, of the vanquishing of Hamas which, at least, has, at the present time, been humiliated.

In the past, we've seen images of nations, after a war, celebrating that the "enemy has been vanquished".  I'm not in haEretz (the land) so I can't really put my finger on the pulse of what is going on there but I suspect that the people there are in mourning.  Loved one's have been lost and, with Israeli's, life is precious.  Every person lost in war, soldier or civilian, is a tragedy for the whole nation.  Everyone is mishpocha (family).  Furthermore, Israel still faces more enemies, from the Arab nations immediately surrounding her to Iran, Russia, Turkey the Sudan and international world opinion in general, which seems to focus more on the thousand plus Palestinan civilians who died because of Israel's self-defensive actions in light of Hamas' "human shield" strategy, rather than the 100s of thousands of Christians who are being exterminated by Muslim extremists in Iraq, Syria, the Sudan and elsewhere.  It is Israel, not Islam that the world sees as the Villain.  As Isaiah put it "Woe to those who call Good Evil and Evil Good".  The entire world is about to undergo the judgment of God because of its attitude towards israel.

And so, it's not the answering of my prayers which bolsters me.  I'm just a shlemiel saved by the grace of God.  God only answers those prayers of mine that are completely in accordance with His will.  At face value, from my above description, I might seem to be a little more benevolent than God.  But He's a lot wiser than I am and He knows best.  On the contrary, it's the Word of God which bolsters me.  Hopefully I can get into eschatology a bit in the future though there are others who are probably more adept at that than I am (I'll probably link to them).  But the simple knowledge that God hates a depraved value system (calling "good" "evil" and "evil" "good") coupled with the contrast between the motives of Israel and Hamas (and Islam in general) is adequate evidence to show me that what is presently going on in the Middle East is evidence enough that we have entered into the last days.  Israel is about to become the sole bastian of freedom in a world which has a history of hating Jews.  The United States is fast on the decline and soon, the only really safe place for a Jew will be Israel.

Nevertheless, in spite of the fact that, at least apparently, God has not completely answered my prayers.  He nevertheless, is a God of Miracles.  IDF (Israeli Defense Force) soldiers have returned from battle actually having reported the manifestation of amazing miracles.  There is no doubt that God is defending Israel.  Below are posts of two amazing miracles that have taken place during this latest conflict.  I do want to conclude with one caveat however.   Reb Jannai commented in the Babylonian Talmud tractate Shabbat 32 a that, in essence a person shouldn't intentionally put himself in harms way so that he will solely be dependent upon miracles to save him.  If Reb Jannai had listened to Y'shua in the first place, however, Y'shua said the same thing centuries before that.

Israel, according to talmudic (and consistently with Y'shua's) teaching has taken extraordinary precautions not to intentionally create a situation where she had to rely on God.  She installed Iron Dome.  She equipped herself with weaponry.  She trained her soldiers.  Israel did not choose to be in harms way.  This conflagration was imposed upon her.  And so Israel prepared.  Nevertheless God has shown up where Israel has been unable to cover all of the basis.  In essence... God has Israel's back.  Below are two amazing examples.  I've heard of others.   If anyone knows of any others please comment and share the link.

Where Iron Dome Failed to divert rockets heading for populated areas.  Check out the headline on the front page newspaper of this link.

Also, out of nowhere, a fog came to blind Hamas to the activities of IDF soldiers (same link).

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

I Would Like to Thank the Man in the Picture for Showing us the Truth.

If Islam is allegedly the "religion of peace", and that person behind the mask is really aberrant... hence, not really a Muslim, then he's really just a "thug".  

Why is it that so called "moderate" Muslims fail to utterly renounce these types of individuals?

If they do, why doesn't the rest of the world hear about it?

Why have I not heard of any fatwas (judicial declarations) that renounce violent Jihad?

Is this what Islam stands for? Not freedom but servitude if not death first? 

The truth is that Islam has an instruction manual on how it is to be practiced.  It's called the Quran and it advocates exactly what this picture represents.  

"Nothing like a little loss of freedom".  That's what I always say.

I would like to thank the man in the picture for showing us the truth.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

We Jews are the recipients of "Hate Without a Cause" - Why?

Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah and their ilk collectively are the face of pure evil. The atrocities that they commit around the world are beyond description. In light of their boastful assertions as “lovers of death”, if they ever had a golden rule, it would seem that their golden rule would be something like 

“We do to you what we would like to be done to us.”

As Golda Meir sagaciously stated “When peace comes we will perhaps in time be able to forgive the Arabs for killing our sons, but it will be harder for us to forgive them for having forced us to kill their sons.” We Jews don't want to “do to them”. We want peace. Personally, for me, nothing would give me more joy than the actualization of Isaiah's prophecy...

When “swords are turned into plowshares, when HaTorah HaShem is proclaimed from Zion to the nations of the world and when peace reigns on earth.
(Isaiah 2:2)

Despite the world's incessant slander of the Jewish people and of Israel, there is no doubt that Israel has produced the most compassionate military in the history of the World. The IDF warns people to get out of harms way, feeds it's prisoners, and does whatever it can to preserve life. Those who cannot distinguish between the pure evil of Hamas and the benevolence of Israel, I believe, will face the wrath of G-d. Accordingly, I believe that G-d has begun to and will continue to use Israel to judge the nations.

Nevertheless, Israel lacks one thing. It will not see the actualization of Isaiah 2 until one thing takes place which I shall elucidate at the end of this little essay.

Today is t'sha B'Av... the commemoration of the destruction of both the first and second Temples.

Concerning the destruction of the Temples, the Babylonian Talmud says in Yoma 9B...

“Why was the First Temple destroyed? Because of three evils in it: idolatry, sexual immorality and bloodshed . . . But why was the Second Temple destroyed, seeing that during the time it stood people occupied themselves with Torah, with observance of precepts, and with the practice of charity? Because during the time it stood, hatred without rightful cause prevailed. This is to teach you that hatred without rightful cause is deemed as grave as all the three sins of idolatry, sexual immorality and bloodshed together”.

The Babylonian Talmud, itself, bares witness to the reality that despite the apparent piety of our people, in our levim... our hearts, we hated without a cause. In Psalm 69 we read...

“Those who hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of my head; Those who would destroy me are powerful, being wrongfully my enemies; What I did not steal, I then have to restore.”
(Psalm 69:4)

I would hold that this is the Messiah uttering, at the time of King David, how He will be treated at some time in the future. One might dispute my exegesis of that psalm, but coupling the interpretation that I proposed with the timing of the destruction of the Second Temple, 40 years after the death sentence that was carried out on Y'shua haNatzree – Jesus of Nazareth, plus the Talmud's own self-indictment of our people as “haters without cause”, the notion that we have rejected our own Messiah, to me at least, is compelling.

There is absolutely no doubt that the Jewish people have, for the past 2000 years, been the recipients of hatred without a cause. Could this not be the consequences of our corporate attitude towards our own Messiah? Is not G-d, perhaps, giving us a taste of our own medicine? The taste is beyond bitter!

I thank G-d for Iron dome and for the most benevolent army in the history of the world. My prayer is always for the safety of our soldiers. Every loss is a tragedy beyond words. A whole nation mourns for each life lost. I do bear some good news... Am Yisroel Chai. Jeremeiah haNavi told us that we would survive history. Furthermore, I'm also pretty convinced that Israel will, in the near future, not only be victorious but dramatically enlarge her boundaries. Nevertheless, I also have bad news. I'm certain that tragic loss of life will continue. Loved ones will die. Furthermore, we will continue to be an object of hate and we as well as the entire world will not see peace until we Jews come to love the one that we hated and continue to hate without a cause.

We need to practice true t'shuva and recognize that the one whom the Gentiles worship, is in fact the Messiah whom we hated but whom we've been called upon to love.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


The following is a paper I wrote for a theology class.  It concerns (obviously) the role of the Gentile within the contemporary Church.  Please feel free to attempt to disagree.  "Iron sharpens Iron".

The Role of The Gentile at K'hilah Dagim Michkutz LaMayim

When Rabbi Jones assigned this task to me of writing a policy statement defining the role of Gentiles at K'hilah Dagim Michkutz LaMayim (The Congregation of Fish out of Water) my wife suggested to me that “Gentiles should turn on the lights”. Now some of you may have thought that funny. Others among you may not have gotten the joke. The joke is to underscore the truth that Jewish culture is and has been, ever since the time of the first diaspora, an evolution of change resulting from the impact of the culture of the people among whom the Jewish community find itself as it interplays with synagogue as well as explicit rejection of synagogue life. (Actually Biblically speaking, Ha-goyim were always having some sort of cultural impact upon ha-Bnay Yisrael even prior to the diaspora.) I referred to the “explicit rejection of synagogue life” because some Jews have actually found the synagogue distasteful or the rules and regulations associated with frumer observance to be too burdensome to practice. Consequently, some Jews, 'though educated in the Y'shoov's of Lithuania, Poland and Russia went on, not to be religious, but reactionary Communists or secular Zionists. Others intermarried and attempted to get lost within the culture in which they found themselves. Hitler demonstrated that that was far more difficult to accomplish than was first anticipated.1

Jewish identity has even withstood utter rejection of Torah observance. The Infamous “Trefa Banquet of 1883 put on by the more radical elements of the Reformed Jewish Theological Seminary to shock more observant Jews by presenting them with shrimp cocktail for dinner, highlights this point.2

Getting back to my wife's joke... still others among you may have thought it offensive. That's because observant non-Y'shua believing Jews have at times in history employed “Shabbos Goyim” to perform necessary services deemed, nevertheless, to be “work” and thus, activities that are forbidden according to Rabbinic halacha for a Jew to be engaged in on the Sabbath. Although the notion of a “Shabbos Goy” is a contemporary inside joke among Jews of today, to illustrate the point that culture evolves, the Jews of Russia at the dawn of the 20th century, by virtue of their poverty and constant confrontation with anti-Semitism wouldn't have even dreamed of the concept of a “Shabbos Goy”. In this context The term “goy” as the one who performs servile work on the Sabbath, has been and could be interpreted to be pejorative. Yet it is the product of the outworking of what might be regarded as a nit-picky Rabbinic halacha as it manifests itself in culture. Truly it has served to keep the Jew distinct but not necessarily in an admirable sort of way. But lest I digress, Rabbinic halacha is not the topic of this policy statement but certainly a worthy of a topic for discussion at another time.

The pejorative attitude referred to however, must be forbidden in our fellowship. Within the confines of K'hilah Dagim Michkutz LaMayim, Gentiles must be held in high esteem . In fact, according to Rav Shaul's admonition each of us is to regard one another as more important than him(her)self3. That rule must hold regardless of our skills, ethnicity, knowledge or background. In G-ds economy Jews are incomplete without Gentiles and visa-verse. Arguably one of the greatest Jews who ever lived, David HaMelech, who is unanimously regarded as a Jew if there ever was one, nevertheless, happened to be the descendent of a number of Gentile women. Ruth was adopted into Ha Mishpacha Yisrael in spite of the fact that her ethnicity, that of being a Moabite, was recorded as one of the most despised in Torah4. Another Gentile ancestor of David HaMelech, by the name of Rahab was instrumental in helping Yisrael, under the leadership of Yehoshua, to defeat Jericho. Going back even further, in the ancestry of David HaMelech, Tamar, a Canaanite, gave birth to Perez. David HaMelech, of course, was declared by HaShem, Himself, to be the ancestral father of HaMoshiach Y'shua. Clearly our righteous Messiah has a significant amount of Gentile blood in Him!

Our people were not alone in the wilderness after they'd left Egypt. They were accompanied by a “mixed multitude”. Who knows the number of mixed marriages that may have taken place during the ensuing 40 years?

Once in the land of promise, HaEretz, there were always Gerim (strangers or sojourners) living among the people. Moses had laid down certain laws concerning them. They were required to observe Yom HaKippurim5. The burnt offerings they performed were specifically to be conducted at the doorway of ha-Mikdal (Presumably as a deterrent to idolatry)6. They were to abstain from the consumption of blood7. They were to abstain from sexual immorality8. They were to abstain from consumption of meat that died of itself9. Despite these particular rules and prohibitions, the needs of the ger dwelling in Eretz Yisrael were to be met. Furthermore HaShem specifically expresses a passionate love for ha-Ger10. A Yisraeli can, if poor, sell himself to a ger however, if possible, it is preferable that he be redeemed from the ger by his family. This implies that ha-ger was able to acquire wealth while in haEretz11. The children of gerim can be bought from their parents as slaves and, rather than receiving freedom at the time of jubilee which was required to be the case among the legitimate b'nai Yisrael, be kept as slaves from one generation to the next12. The alien or ger could offer sacrifice in the same manner as any Yisraeli13. In essence, the same chukah that applies to the Yisraeli applies to the ger14. He was to observe HaShabbos.15 He was to observe Shavuoth and Sukkoth and to rid his home of chametz during Pesach.16

The rights and privileges of ha-ger differed from those of haYisraeli in at least two specific ways worth mentioning here. The first way was that unlike haYisraeli, his children could be sold into slavery throughout generations in perpetuity. The second way was that he was not free to observe Pesach. If he wanted to observe Pesach he had to submit to circumcision. This would, in effect, make him Ben Yisrael17.

The reason for this unequal treatment of ha-ger as opposed to the indigent Yisraeli, as far as slavery is concerned, is because haYisraeli had once been a slave in Egypt but had now been brought out of Egypt so that he can be a servant of HaShem. Such was not the case with ha-ger18. Does this rule apply to ha-ger today? Putting aside the obvious reality that enslavement is not relevant in a culture where slavery is not permissible, It ought not even be an issue in any Y'shua believing environment even in countries where slavery is practiced. Paul addressed this in his letter to Philemon, not commanding but pleading with Philemon to treat his runaway slave, Onesimus, as a brother in Messiah19. What may have been the case specifically for the relationship between Onesimus and Philemon, however, can easily be generalized to slavery as an institution. If indeed, Yisrael's redemption from Egyptian slavery by means of the blood of the lamb on the entrance to the home, was a foreshadowing of Messiah's blood shed as an atonement for anyone who was to apply that blood to his heart, than the Gentile (or ger) too, has now been bought with a price to serve the Living G-d20. As was the case with haYisraeli being exonerated from slavery by virtue of HaShem's redemption on his behalf, so also should the Gentile who has been bought with the price of the blood of the Messiah.

Concerning the need for ha-ger to be circumcised in order to celebrate Pesach... does this apply to the Gentile member of K'hilah Dagim Michkutz LaMayim? In other words, should a Gentile, therefore, be circumcised in order to be allowed access to this rite and privilege and thus enjoy full fellowship with Jews as well as HaShem? The answer is definitively “NO”... certainly not as a result of thinking that by doing so they are fulfilling a commandment given to them by HaShem! Shaul warned adamantly against this. In Galatians 5:2-3 he said

Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law.”21

Circumcision actually predates Mosaic law. The rite of circumcision was actually given to Avraham Avinu in Genesis 17.

This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised. And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you.  And every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations, a servant who is born in the house or who is bought with money from any foreigner, who is not of your descendants.  A servant who is born in your house or who is bought with your money shall surely be circumcised; thus shall My covenant be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.22

The rite of circumcision was to be conducted exclusively by males who were descended from Avraham Avinu upon themselves and upon all the males in their households whether they were natural born heirs or slaves. From the text it is clear that this rite is not limited strictly to Jews but to Arabs as well. However, it is clearly not to be conducted by Gentiles who are specifically non-Semites.

The death and resurrection of Messiah Y'shua, just as it freed ha-ger from perpetual slavery within the context of the Jewish boundary (case in point ha-eretz, the land), by virtue of His having purchased the Gentile, has likewise eliminated the need for the Gentile to be circumcised in order to observe ha-Pesach and inherit equal status in the kingdom of Ha-Shem as Jews.23

This places the new ger... the Gentile, on a totally equal footing with the Jew. Both are free from slavery to sin24. Both are free to enjoy unfettered fellowship with one another and with HaShem. And all of this was accomplished by Messiah having purchased both Jew and Gentile with His blood.

This, however, created a new dynamic among those who might be defined as HaK'hilat HaAm HaShem (The assembly of the people of God, or the ekklesia). As a result of this phenomenon debate has arisen over the next two millenia. Is HaShem through with the Jews? Are Jews and Gentiles supposed to become one “new man” and form some sort of amalgam called the Church?

When Judaizers came to Antioch demanding that Gentiles who had come to believe in Y'shua be circumcised, they were arguing that Gentiles, in order to fulfill their new found faith, had to become Jews. Yaakov and the rest of the ziknay b'Y'rushalayim, after pouring over the scriptures and hearing the testimonies of Shaul and Cephas with regard to their experiences with Gentiles receiving faith in Y'shua, concluded that the only things required of Gentiles was that they “abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood”25. These four stipulations were included among the demands upon ha-gerim in Yisrael that we'd already looked at in Vayik'ra.

In order to emphasize the reality of this equality before HaShem, Shaul makes a number of assertions which can and have been historically misunderstood. For example, he says “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing but obeying the commandments of God is everything”.26 He also says “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love.” 27 Elsewhere he says “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Messiah Y'shua”.28 Such texts are used by supersessionists to support their presumption that Jewishness is no longer necessary and the church is now one giant amalgam of the people of God. Dr. David Rudolph, in his dissertation “A Jew to the Jews”Contours in Pauline Flexibility in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23”, argues that Shaul's writing style must be considered. He argues that Paul uses hyperbole. In other words saying “circumcision is nothing” is not to be taken literally but is language common to Shaul when he compares one thing to another It also happens to be a very Jewish means for communicating. In other words, compared to salvation in Y'shua, circumcision is nothing. However that doesn't mean that it is to literally imply that it is nothing.29 Dr. Rudolph also argues that Shaul's use of the word for “one” in Galatians 3:28 can also have a definition similar to the Hebrew equivalent of echod.30 Also, although Dr. Rudolph refers to Shaul's mentioning “male and female” in the same breath as “Jew or Gentile”31 in Galatians 3:28 such a phraseology, at face value, renders the assumption that the common interpretation, namely that there is neither Jew nor Gentile, utterly preposterous for drawing any definitive conclusions. It is important to note that what Shaul is saying in these texts is that before HaShem, all are equal before Him. We are saved by the same means. HaShem's love for us is so boundless that while each of us individually was yet a sinner, Messiah died for us.32 The rewards and privileges that we have before G-d are all the same.
A paradox seems to exist with regard to 1 Corinthians 7:19. “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of HaShem”. This text in particular bears mentioning. Obviously circumcision is most definitely a command of G-d given specifically to physical descendants of Avraham and it was to be conducted in perpetuity33. To the Jew it is an important command. Shaul's audience, here, however, is primarily Gentiles and he is continuously trying to dissuade them from the temptation of being circumcised. Why is it so important that Gentiles not be circumcised if Shaul strongly identified, himself, as a Jew? Furthermore why did he circumcise Timothy in Acts 16 if he wanted to discourage circumcision?

Yet, if Shaul is to be taken at face value at least one commandment of G-d is “nothing”...irrelevant. To the Jew how can it be nothing on the one hand, and yet Yaakov in the Book of Acts insists that Gentiles not be required to practice circumcision unlike the Jew who is required to do so? And if Jews are required to do so, does that not follow, according to traditional supersessionist exegesis that Cepha and Shaul and Timothy and all the other Sh'lichim were, in fact, not Christians? Nothing could be more preposterous.

It must be understood that to the Jew, nothing is more important than his identity as a Jew. Most Gentiles have no identity to give up in order to establish a relationship with G-d through Y'shua. A Muslim may give up being a Muslim but he still has a nationality to fall back on. He might still be a Persian or an Arab. On the other hand, many Jews are of the opinion that if they were to come to believe in Messiah Y'shua they would give up their identity. Church history has not failed at communicating this canard to the Jewish people. From the 1st Counsel of Nicea where Easter was officially established as the replacement for Passover, to the 2nd Counsel of Nicea where Jews who wanted to identify with their Messiah were required to utterly denude themselves of any trappings of their tradition or identity34 the church has blatantly insisted upon taking stances that have served to rebuild the wall of partition between Jew and Gentile as well as Jew and his own Messiah.

Despite the apparent fact that being a Jew or being a Gentile “is nothing” Paul still identified himself in more than one instance as a Jew.35 Furthermore why did he circumcise Timothy36 and not Titus?37 There was a noticeable distinct difference between the two. Timothy was the son of a Jewish mother. Titus was Greek. He had no Jewish blood in him. Paul, while discussing the issue of marriage to illustrate a point that those who are married should stay married makes an aside statement that “those who are uncircumcised should remain uncircumcised and those who are circumcised should remain circumcised”38.

It is evident that despite the reality that the body of Moshiach is “one new man” there is, nevertheless, an imperative to maintain a distinction between Jew and Gentile. However the existence of this distinction is becoming less and less obvious within the Messianic-Jewish community. Jacob Fronczak, in his essay entitled “Jew and Gentile – Blurring the Distinction” notes that Gentiles, in their process of attempting to live a frumer life-style prove to be offensive to many Jewish believers by “treading on their turf” so to speak.39 Fronczak points to two schools of thought concerning this problem. One is held by Mark Kinzer who, based upon Matthew 23:1-3a argues that the Am Haaretz are to adhere to the teachings of the Rabbis who are the official interpreters of Torah.40 Fronczak opines that if, as advocated by Kinzer, Jews establish a separate wing of the ekklesia in which they are free to carry out their covanental obligations as a uniquely Jewish body this would solve the problem of distinguishing between Jew and Gentile”41 However, this would not be beneficial at all if Gentiles were not allowed to continue to attend such congregations. Furthermore, what is or should be acceptable rabbinically halachic practices are still an issue fo debate.

On the other end of this spectrum is Michael Brown who argues that “if we listen and learn well [to Rabbinic Judaism], we will no longer have our faith!” Both scholars have a point. It is our opinion that Rabbinic dictates have played an invaluable role in the survival and culture of the Jewish people throughout the Millenia. Nevertheless, they are not haBisurah. They must be held onto loosely and especially Gentiles who might wish to indulge to excess be discouraged.

The ekklesiology of K'hilah Dagim Michkutz LaMayim therefore begins with a line in the sand. A Jew is by definition, someone with at least one Jewish parent who was accordingly raised by at least one Jewish guardian or parent. Anyone else, by this definition, is a Gentile. One might boast of having Jewish ancestry. One might be entirely Jewish but may have been adopted by Gentiles. Sadly, one might yearn to thus be identified as a Jew. A point that must be driven home at K'hilah Dagim Michkutz LaMayim is what Rav Shaul said... “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing but obeying the commandments of God is everything.” Giving heed to this admonition requires humility. Being Jewish, therefore, is no status to which one ought to aspire. By so aspiring, the Gentile places this as an idol before Moshiach. Furthermore, there is a utilitarian reason for this which will soon be addressed.

Earlier we made reference to ha-ger. Even as there was ha-ger in Eretz-Yisrael at the time of Y'hoshua, HaMishpotim v HaMalachim, there are gerim today in the Ekklesia. They are the Messianic Jews who, repelled by excessively frumer activities particularly of Gentiles, avoid the Messianic Synagogue in deference to the “Church” or the synagogue where halacha may or may not be encouraged to varying degrees (depending upon denomination) but where belief in Y'shua is discouraged. In most Messianic Synagogues one sees Gentiles trying to educate Jews concerning what it means to be Jewish. Hence, a Messianic Jew walking into a Messianic Synagogue for the first time or perhaps occasionally perceives that effort is being made for him to feel like a guest. He is not a guest. The Messianic Synagogue should be his home!

Now, exactly why was this specific line in the sand chosen? First of all, the need for the definition of the line has changed. Ezra and Nehemiah had a line in the sand. It was based solely on lineage irregardless of faith or relationship to HaShem. At the time of the return from exile Ezra commanded the “sending away of non-Jewish wives. 42 As a result of Hellenism, changes were made to Judaism so as to enable it to adapt it to the new world view posited by the cultural renaissance of the time. Techniques of exegesis were employed so as to harmonize scripture with a Hellenistic world view as much as was possible.43 Consequently even as Hellenism sought converts, Jewishness had now become a religion which sought it's own converts whom Ha B'rit hadasha calls “Proselytes”. Many early Proselytes probably became Jews simply adopting a Jewish life-style.44 Although the definition of a Jew was still relatively distinct, Hellenism had converted it into a religion and the lines of definition between Jew and Gentile had grown significantly less defined. After the destruction of Beit HaMikdosh in 70 CE, the definition of a Jew changed again. One's Jewish identity now had become a function of one's maternal parentage. Jews stayed married primarily within the community for the next 1500 years or so. Persecution as well as the door being shut to the “Christian” alternative helped to encourage this pattern. With prosperity and religious freedom, particularly in America, came intermarriage. Various denominations and schools of thought treated this growing phenomenon of intermarriage in different ways. All, however, have relied on some sort of a “conversion” in order to provide legitimacy to the marriage as being Jewish. On the other hand, there also is the phenomenon of the utterly secular Jew who marries a Gentile outside of one of the accepted religious communities. By definition, that individual is a Jew. He would probably be universally accepted as such by every branch of Judaism. Even if he allegedly became a Buddhist, he would still be a Jew... perhaps a “bad Jew”, but a Jew nonetheless. Hence, apart from Hassidism, most of the rest of the Jewish world is growing more and more hazy as far a definition is concerned. This phenomenon might play well into Mark Kinzer's line of thought which calls upon the more frumer and separated lifestyle as the means by which Jewish cohesiveness can be maintained.

Secondly, Conversion is not an option for the Messianic community. Contrary to the opinions of some “Messianic Rabbis”45 an individual has already done as much converting as needed when He or she came to faith in Messiah. Furthermore, Jewishness and Judaism is treated as if it were some sort of honor. Being Jewish is no accomplishment. It just is. The derivation of the concept of conversion is t'shuva which does not mean changing one's religion. It implies repentance and turning one's life from attempting to live as one desires to seeking to live as G-d desires. Furthermore, just as taking on Jewish halachic practice became a fruit of Proselytizing during the Hellenistic period, Gentiles at K'hilah Dagim Michkutz LaMayim face the danger of exchanging their faith in Y'shua for Judaism and it's traditions which cannot save. Also, if Y'shua's declaration in Matthew 23:1-3a is, in fact, relevant today (It could have been relevant only for those in Y'shua's time) that declaration was given to Jews not to Gentiles.

Thirdly, the choice of this definition for a line in the sand is based on history and scripture. As we've already noted, King David was descended from Gentile women yet he was identified strongly as a Jew. Coincidentally, even as the definition of a Jew changed with Hellenization and the definition was to become a genealogical tie through the mother, Shaul recognized Timothy to be a Jew by virtue of the fact that he had a Jewish mother. Perhaps Timothy's parents had not acknowledged this reality or thought it to be important. Nevertheless, Shaul thought it important enough to have Timothy circumcised. He also saw this as a witness “on account of the Jews in the region.46 Strictly by virtue of his birth, Timothy could rightly be circumcised whereas Titus could not.

Finally, as alluded to in Acts 16:2, “on account of the Jews in the area”, Timothy was circumcised. By virtue of the fact that Judaism changes and Jewishness changes with the ebb and flow of culture, politics, economy and the like through history, most Jews who no longer comprise the strictly religious community, and in fact, may have only a vague understanding that there might be a God, cannot be rigorously defined by Rabbinically ordained halacha. This halacha has, indeed impacted the culture of all Jews in one way or another whether we are cognizant of it or not. Indeed it has helped the Jew to survive history. Nevertheless, it is not rabbinic halacha that defines the Jew. Above all, it is his genes. Subsequently the Gentile will have a tendency to assume to the contrary that it is Rabbinic halacha that is decisively Jewish by definition, have little or no empathy for authentic Jewish life and attempt to teach the Jew what it means to be Jewish as Jacob Fronczak so accommodatingly pointed out. This is offensive to most Jews. On the other hand, the Jew according to our definition, has his pulse in one way or another upon the ever-evolving Jewish culture around him by virtue of his experience. Either he grew up in it or has at least one parent who grew up in it who influenced him by living it. It is this Jew who would better understand how to make liturgy palatable for the Jew who might attend K'hilah Dagim Michkutz LaMayim as well as the culture of the congregation as a whole. There is great debate within the Messianic Jewish community concerning what liturgy and observances are appropriate. This debate is liable to continue for a long time. However, it is this Jew who is best suited for determining that. Shaul warned Timothy about the dangers of enlisting a “new convert” for a position of leadership.47 Nevertheless, such a one should be listened to. He or she is the most likely to have their finger on the cultural pulse of the local Jewish community. Gentiles should be willing to relinquish high profile roles for Jews who are qualified. That doesn't mean that a Gentile can't be an elder or preach and teach on occasion. Undoubtedly such a one has a whole lot to contribute. But deference should be given to Jews in those capacities. What K'hilah Dagim Michkutz LaMayim needs is Gentiles who have the attitude of Jonathan who knew that it was not he but David who was HaShem's anointed.

A biblical note to support the notion of primacy of Jewish leadership and high-profile roles, again can be found in Torah. The role of the Kohen was determined strictly by birth. It was a desirable role because it could be lucrative especially if one corrupted it such as was the case with the sons of Eli.48 No one could play that role except a Kohen. Likewise the high-profile roles within the Messianic congregation should, if at all possible be held by Jews and Jews should determine the relevance of specific liturgical practices. It must also be noted that liturgy can easily be mistaken for piety and righteousness. The new believer or the unbelieving Jewish visitor can, accordingly get the wrong impression of what it means to have a genuine halacha with Y'shua, mistaking religious observance for genuine mitzvotai and ts'dakah.

As implied earlier, it is dangerous for Gentiles to engage excessively in traditional liturgy and practice. It is incumbent upon the leadership of the congregation to prayerfully discern, with the feedback of the other Jews in the congregation, what is of value and what is far-fetched. Undoubtedly this will serve as a platform for lively debate but with prayer and a spirit of accommodation, after the dust settles, agreement can be reached. The final product should be modeled by the Gentile elders as examples for the Gentiles to follow and it should take the path of a less frumer practice not more frumer. The vision described in the next paragraph should be able to serve as motivation for the Gentile to maintain his distinctiveness because he need to know the importance of his distinctiveness as a Gentile.

There's an interesting and certainly controversial but noteworthy outcome that results from the line in the sand proposed in this policy statement. It more adequately falls in line with what it seems Shaul meant by the “body of Messiah” consisting of many parts.49 Imagine, if you will, two different arteries a Jewish artery and a Gentile artery each flowing towards a juncture in a main artery called marriage where some unite as Jew and Gentile, having Jewish offspring (according to our definition which has been determined Biblically). Others unite as two Jews, likewise having Jewish offspring. Others unite as Gentiles whose offspring remains as such. Eventually, according to this paradigm, anyone and everyone has an opportunity for his or her offspring to be Jewish. The identity of the body is maintained as new Jews, with each generation assume high-profile positions and sustenance is given to the body as Jews, by the grace of HaShem join the fold by receiving Y'shua. Even Gentiles will have an opportunity to kvell as they proudly look upon their son and declare “My son the Jew”.

Pamela Eisenbaum made an interesting point in her essay “Is Paul the father of Mysogeny or Anti-Semitsm? She wrote:

Just as in marriage, where people come together ritually in order to create a new family. Christ's sacrifice inaugurated the unity of Jew and Greek. “No longer Jew or Greek” does not, however, mean that Jew and Greek are no longer distinct from one another, so long as the paradigm of “male and female” operates in our reading of this text. The enactment of marriage does not deny the essential difference between woman and man; on the contrary, their complementarity has traditionally been viewed as essential to the creation of the family. Marriage binds the man and woman in a new kind of relationship that entails a reprioritizing of loyalties so that they can build a common life.

Similarly, Jew and Gentile coming together in harmony while remaining distinct is the goal of Paul's mission.50

She noted that perhaps Shaul saw his role as facilitating G-d's desire to turn mankind into a family by which peace could be established.

While Judaism has historically attempted to maintain purity of the Jewish identity through essentially intra-marriage, perhaps Messianic-Judaism, by maintaining a line in the sand concerning our definition of the Jew, can hold onto it's unique identity which more approximately resembles the culture of the evolving non-believing Jewish community while including all members of its “body” as family, literally. It is interesting to speculate that this may, in fact, be the dynamic during the millennium. After all, Hosea said:

Yet the number of Ha B'nay Yisrael will be like the sand of the sea,
hich cannot be measured or numbered; and in the place where it is said to them,
You are not My people,” it will be said to them, You are the sons of the living God.” and the sons of Judah and the sons of Israel will be gathered together, and they will appoint for themselves one leader,and they will go up from the land,
For great will be the day of Jezreel.51

When one is a part of a group of people that he does not merely reckon but knows to be family, he is most certainly less likely to feel like a fish out of water.

  1. “The Dawn of the Century 1900 – 1910” Faith & Fate film series, Berel Wein Destiny Series
  2. Philippians 2:3
  3. Deuteronomy 23:3
  4. Vayik'ra 16:29
  5. Vayik'ra 17:9 The theme of abstinence from idolatry is also stipulated in Lev. 20:2
  6. Vayik'ra 17:10
  7. Vayik'ra 18
  8. Vayik'ra 17:15
  9. D'varim 10:18
  10. Vayik'ra 25:47 ff
  11. Ibid
  12. BaMid'bar 15:14
  13. BaMid'bar 15:15
  14. Sh'mos 20:10, 23:12
  15. D'varim 16:1-22
  16. Sh'mot 12:48
  17. Vayik'ra 25:42
  18. Philemon 10-16
  19. 1 Corinthians 6:20. 7:23
  20. Galatians 5:2-3
  21. B'reyshis 17:10-13
  22. Galatians 3:28
  23. Romans 6:17
  24. Acts 15:20
  25. 1 Corinthians 7:19
  26. Galatians 5:6
  27. Galatians 3:28
  28. Rudolph, David “A Jew to the Jews – Contours in Pauline Flexibility in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23”, p.29.
  29. Ibid p. 31.
  30. Ibid p. 31.
  31. Romans 5:8
  32. B'reyshis 17:10-13
  33. e.g. Romans 9:2, Gal 2:15, Philippeans 3:4-6
  34. Acts 16:2
  35. Galatians 2:3
  36. 1 Corinthians 7:18-20
  37. Ibid
  38. Ibid
  39. Skarsaune, Oskar; In the Shadow of the Temple – Jewish Influences on Early Christianity, Intervarsity Press; Downers Grove, IL ; 2002. p. 39
  40. Ibid p. 36
  41. Ibid p. 40
  42. Acts 16:2
  43. 1 Tiimothy 3:6
  44. 1 Samuel 2:5-8
  45. Ephesians 2:11-16
  46. Eisenbaum, Pamela; Is Paul the father of Mysogeny or Anti-Semitsm?; Cross Currents Winter 2000 – 2001 p. 521
  47. Hosea 1:10-11

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Kosher Church Picnic


In Acts chapter 10, something incredibly monumental has taken place. The Apostle Peter has gone to the home of a Centurion by the name of Cornelius and shared the Gospel with he and his household who come to believe. As evidence of their faith, they begin speaking in tongues. It is now official. Gentiles can believe in Y'shua too! Peter had also brought an entourage of Jewish believers in Y'shua with him, who testified to the veracity of these events.

Acts chapter 11 begins with the reality that word of this small, seemingly insignificant occurrence had spread throughout Judea. This was not particularly appreciated by the Jewish believers who'd gotten wind of it. The notion that Peter would even so much as eat with uncircumcised Gentiles was anathema. Breaking bread, as it were, implied fellowship... commonality. Now that Jews and Gentiles both found commonality in Y'shua, the “wall of partition” between the two had been knocked down. It was now, not only permissible to eat but desirable to eat together.

But this notion did not sit well with the Jewish believers. In fact, it did not initially sit well with Peter either. And so Peter has to set up his defense to justify this new form of conduct. What led Peter to bring the Gospel to Cornelius and his family? Was his defense air-tight? Furthermore, an even more vexing question arose from this. Part and parcel to Peter's defense was the issue of kashrut. Is it now, lawful for a Jew to eat what Moses had previously forbidden? I'm still not sure that I have a truly Biblical answer to this question as I wrestle with it in the course of this paper, but as I do wrestle with it, perhaps I'll come up with a satisfactory answer. If not, I believe that I may impart in my Gentile brother or sister, the vexing nature of this problem and an appreciation for some of the struggles of his Jewish brother in Y'shua.


So, in Acts chapter 11 verse 2, Peter proceeds to give a defense for his having preached the Gospel to a Gentile. He begins by essentially recounting the series of events that led up to Cornelius' “conversion”1.

He recalls how, while in a trance, he saw a vision of a sheet coming down from heaven, to where he was. In the sheet he saw all sorts of animals which, from their description, implied that they were unclean.

What was an unclean animal? Leviticus 11 gives the key to this question by defining what a clean animal is. It is any animal that has a divided hoof and chews the cud. Hence, any animal that chews the cud but does not part the hoof is unclean and was not to be eaten. Likewise, any animal that parts the hoof but does not chew the cud is also unclean and not to be eaten. Certainly, any animal that neither chews the cud nor parts the hoof, is unclean and not to be eaten. This is why it is common knowledge that orthodox Jews don't eat bacon or pork.

Leviticus 11 goes on to list specific birds that are unclean and may not be eaten. From the list, in summary, one can conclude that unclean birds are essentially birds of prey and carrion eaters. This may be what accounts for the reality that the Jewish mother is the most adept of individuals at cooking almost every part of a chicken.

Flying insects with jointed legs for hopping such as locusts, katydids, crickets or grasshoppers are regarded as clean. All other flying insects are unclean. This undoubtedly is why one doesn't read of the Prophet, Elijah or John the Baptist having a diet consisting of chocolate covered flying ants but they did, however, eat locusts along with honey.

Fish with fins and scales are clean and may be eaten. Any other sea creature is unclean. Catfish are unclean. Lobster, crab and shrimp are unclean.

Creatures that move on the ground on their bellies are unclean. Of particular note are snakes. Presumably because the serpent was cursed by God back in the garden and made to crawl on his belly, a particularly harsh warning is given against Jewish consumption of that sort of creature.

You are not to eat any creature that moves along the ground, whether it moves on its belly or walks on all fours or on many feet; it is unclean. Do not defile yourselves by any of these creatures. Do not make yourselves unclean by means of them or be made unclean by them. I am the LORD your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. Do not make yourselves unclean by any creature that moves along the ground.2

Condemnation for the consumption of these unclean animals was so great that if a cooking utensil had even the slightest contact with an unclean animal or the carcass of an unclean animal, the utensil was to be broken.

In light of this backdrop, with its utter and complete prohibition of the consumption of unclean animals, Peter recounts his vision. He sees the sheet with the unclean animals swarming all over it. Interestingly enough, it seems that, excluded from the list of creatures Peter saw were the creatures that moved along the ground on their bellies. Nevertheless, prohibition against their consumption was quite clear to Peter. Then he hears a voice telling him “Get up Peter. Kill and eat.

This command which was given to Peter was sure to cause cognitive dissonance. He replied
'Surely not, LORD! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.'

A retort came from the LORD...
'Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.'

This exchange between Peter and the LORD occurred three times before Peter was willing to acquiesce.

Even then, he still needed further evidence. Peter had seen a vision. No one else had seen his vision. Peter could very easily have been lying or hallucinating. Mohammed also claimed to have had visions. Yet no one else had been present to hear Muhammad’s conversations with the alleged angel, “Gebriel”. The test for Biblical veracity is much more stringent than that of Islam. Therefore who is to believe that this vision seen by only one man, Peter, has any manner of credibility? How can one man's vision possibly abrogate a set of laws whose authority had been attributed to God and whose traditions had endured for over one and one-half millennia prior to then?

The accounts in Acts lend some credibility to the conclusions drawn from Peter's vision. Scripture, for one thing, argues that a matter can only be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses3. Hence, Peters vision required at least one other witness in order to be verified. That witness, was Cornelius, the Roman centurion.

Prior to Peters seeing of his vision, Cornelius had had a vision. He saw an angel of God who told him to send men to Joppa to get Peter to come to his home. As Peter was thinking about the vision that he'd seen, the Spirit of God told him that three men had come to take him to the home of Cornelius the Centurion and that he was to, without any hesitancy go with them. Peter went with the three men along with other believers from Joppa who were also to serve as witnesses for what was yet to take place.

So, now we have two major witnesses... Peter and Cornelius. The resulting series of events, namely God's mentioning to Peter that men were coming to get him, along with the men showing up at the behest of Cornelius, serve as a further witness.

There is yet, a fourth witness... Peter actually showing up at the home of Cornelius. This was something that was utterly contrary to Peters nature. If Peters vision had not been real and Cornelius' vision had not been real the ensuing events would never have occurred. Peter attests to a prior aversion he had towards Gentiles when, in Acts 10:28, he says

You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.”

So, we know that Peter had a vision. But what was his interpretation of that vision?

It is apparent that at least one of the messages of the vision is what we'd already heard Peter say in verse 10:28. “But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.” Peter clearly took the vision of the unclean animals to be symbolic of Gentiles. This is clearly a Biblical understanding of this vision. According to the prophets of the Old Testament, the Messiah was destined to be a light to the Gentiles (e.g. Isa. 42:6). And in light of that, the wall of partition between Jew and Gentile was also destined to fall. It seems, however, that it took this particular vision and the ensuing events to reveal this fact to Peter. That begs yet another question. From the scriptures, why hadn't Peter known that the Messiah was supposed to bridge the gap between Jew and Gentile in the first place? I can only surmise that Peter did not intuitively accept this because of the many biases that he carried with him into the kingdom of God.


The other issue, however, that sorely needs to be dealt with and to which I've already alluded is that of kashrut, or food. What may or may not be eaten? We know that Peter took the vision to mean that God's redemption through Y'shua was now available to the Gentile. The implication is that, along with this redemption, comes fellowship. As Paul put it,

For He (Messiah) is our peace, who has made the two groups (Jews and Gentiles) one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in Himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which He put to death their hostility. (Eph. 2:14-16)

The last verse of Acts 10 says that Cornelius asked Peter to stay with him for a few days. The chapter ends leaving one with a question. We know that Peter was asked, but did he, in fact stay? In essence, did he do as Cornelius had implored him, via invitation, to do? And along with that comes another question. If, indeed, Peter stayed, what did they eat? Did they eat vegetables? Did they eat lamb or brisket? Maybe they had bacon and eggs for breakfast. We really don't know.

Chances are highly likely that, in fact, Peter did stay with Cornelius and did eat with him. Peter doesn't say so, but he is accused of having done so by the Jewish believers back in Jerusalem. Verses 11:2-3 tell us...

So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.”

The notion that this happened was very troubling to the Jewish believers. Rules against having fellowship with Gentiles were not without precedent. God, for instance, forbade fellowship with Moabites and Ammonites. In Dt. 23:3, He says, through Moses,

No Ammonites or Moabite or any of their descendants may enter the assembly of the LORD, not even in the tenth generation.

Clearly, this law was circumvented in the case of the marriage of Ruth, the Moabites to Boaz who surely lived less than 10 generations after the writing down of this Mosaic decree. A question arises here, as well. How does one reconcile the breaking of this Mosaic mandate? A number of factors came into play with the marriage between Ruth and Boaz. Without discussing all of these variables at great length, however, one factor does seem to stand out above the rest. Ruth was not like any of the other Moabites. God forbade association with Moabites because as Dt. 23:4 put it,

...they did not come to meet you with bread and water on your way when you came out of Egypt, and they hired Balaam son of Beor from Pethor in Aram Naharaim to pronounce a curse on you.

The Moabites had been cruel toward Israel as the people were about to enter the land of Canaan. Their cruelty actually extended to seeking Israel's demise. In stark contrast to this, Ruth displayed a kindness towards her Jewish mother-in-law Naomi, that we know to be legendary. The statement that she made concerning her faithfulness to Naomi is almost colloquial. When told by Naomi to return to Moab after the death of Ruth's husband to find another husband, her daughter-in-law's response was...

Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” (Ruth 1:16-17)

Ruth became a model of faithfulness to God and of a Gentile's love for the Jewish people. She had literally given up her future because of her faithfulness to Israel's God and her mother-in-law. But this sacrifice on her part turned into a privilege because the resulting marriage she had with her deceased husbands next of kin, Boaz, made her into the ancestor of King David who was destined to be the ancestor of the Messiah, Y'shua. Hence, she became one of the great Old Testament women of faith. Key to this Gentile Woman's entering the assembly of Israel was her love for God and love for the Jewish people.

So with Ruth as our Biblical precedent, we see our centurion friend, Cornelius, inviting the Jewish fisherman, Peter, into his home to show him hospitality and “stay for a while”. What characterized Cornelius? One excellent description of him is in Acts 10:22.

“… He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people.”

What made Cornelius God-fearing? Why was he respected by the Jews? I couldn't verify that this was the same centurion or centurions who was or were in the Gospel accounts, but I think it's safe to say that he had the same traits about him. He was Roman in origin. Romans were reputed idolaters. Caesar was the God of the Romans. Romans knew nothing about the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This Centurion knew nothing about the Gospel but he was God-fearing. He could only have learned about God from the Jews whom he'd been commissioned by Rome to govern. This centurion was not only God-fearing, but he was devout and prayed daily.

Having learned about Israel's God from the people whom he'd been sent to govern, as given to disputations as these people were, nevertheless, undoubtedly, the centurion had grown to love and respect them, if anything, for the impact that this God had had on their lives. One of the centurion accounts in the gospels described the centurion as having “built their synagogue”. Again, we do not know if Cornelius was that centurion, but we do know that he had won the respect of the Jewish people who knew him.

So now this God Fearing, respectable centurion invites Peter into his home. He and his family come to faith in Y'shua and are baptized. He invites Peter to stay and, of course, provides him with all of the hospitality that is at his disposal. So they sit down to dinner. Again, I ask the question,,, what did they eat? As I've gone through this exercise, I've still not answered the question concerning whether Peters vision specifically referred to legalizing the consumption of unclean foods. We know for a fact that it did refer to the entering of Gentiles into the family of God. That's how Peter had interpreted it. This, however, had a biblical (Old Testament) precedent. We saw it with Ruth. We saw it as the fulfillment of prophecy (e.g. Isa. 42:6) we also saw it with the mixed multitude as they'd left Egypt along with the Hebrews after the first Passover (Ex. 14-15). In fact Old Testament history is replete with evidence of a foreshadowing of the inclusion of Gentiles into the family of God.

There is no such evidence, however, that I can find, which foreshadows the abrogation of the laws of kashrut for the Jew. Y'shua in Mark 7:19, at face value, seems to call for the abrogation of kashrut. but that was likely a common misinterpretation of the editorial concerning Y'shua' comment, “In saying this, Y'shua declared all foods clean”. The interlinear Greek source that I used as a reference does not say “thus he declared”. Some have argued that that phrase was an editorial insertion The Greek text that I used reads...

Hoti ouk eisporeuetak autou eis tEn kardian all eiEn koilian kai eis ton aphedrOna ekporeuetai katharizon panta ta brOmata.


"In saying this, Y'shua declared..." is absent from the text. And some have argued that Y'shua was commenting that the natural digestive process makes all foods, whether they'd been inserted into the mouth with washed or unwashed hands, clean.

Y'shua, here, is not addressing the issue of Kashrut but of a rabbinically imposed law laid down only a generation before Him, which stated that washing of hands was necessary to keep ritual uncleanliness from transferring onto the food that one was eating2. Bowels, 'though objectionable, as a topic of conversation, were nevertheless deemed as ceremonially clean because they were the product of a normal bodily function and represented a significant and normal part of life3. Hence, Y'shua was saying that food which enters the body is clean because it comes out the same way as does all food. Even if the food is ceremonially unclean because one's hands had not been washed in advance, it is not that which defiles the man, but what is in his heart. Clearly the Greek text to which I referred excludes the insertion “Y'shua declared all foods clean”. The name, "Y'shua" is not even found anywhere in the sentence. There could be other manuscripts that would indicate otherwise but at this juncture I could only say that the phrase was probably inserted by the bias of Gentile translators. Hence, the laws of kashrut are not abrogated certainly by this text. If they had been, they would have been an admission of a gross inconsistency in the Bible because, unlike the promise of the Gentiles entering the kingdom of God through the Messiah, there is no Older Testament precedent for the abrogation of Kashrut, none that I've recognized, anyway. The argument that “Y'shua said it, therefore it must be taken by faith” is a poor one. It still requires an Older Testament precedent. Furthermore, clearly from the Greek, Y'shua did not say those words!

Another text which could be used for presenting a case that the laws of Kashrut had been abrogated can be found in 1 Timothy 4:1-5 which says...

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

Romans 14:13-15

Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Y'shua, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom messiah died.


So what did Cornelius serve Peter for dinner?

To reiterate, he was a devout, God-fearing man. We also know that he was highly respected by the Jews who knew him. I would bet that he was a man who knew how to demonstrate good and tasteful hospitality.

I think that Romans 14 may be a key concerning the choice of foods that Cornelius used to entertain his guests. Of course, Romans had not been written yet, but the same Spirit that inspired Paul when he wrote the Epistle to the Romans was undoubtedly present in Peter and Cornelius. So let's take a brief look at Romans 14.

    1. Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. 2 One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them.

13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.14 I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Y'shua, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean.15 If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom messiah died.16 Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves messiah in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.

19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. 20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean,but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.
22 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.

I left out some verses because they dealt with things other than food, but in a sense, the whole chapter deals with issues of personal legality before God. In essence, it's a call for each individual to be perfectly persuaded concerning what lines he personally feels may or may not be crossed before he were to sin. Some people are vegetarians. They feel that killing animals for the sake of food is wrong. Others feel that eating chicken or beef or venison is perfectly OK. Paul would define the former individual as the “weaker” brother and the latter individual as the “stronger” brother. The weaker brother is weak because he feels that should he eat meat, he would lack the faith to believe that God would not condemn him for doing so. Hence, he would be engaging in sin. The stronger brother, on the other hand, is strong because he's more conscious of the liberty that God has given him through the Messiah.

According to this passage of scripture, The stronger brother is neither to flaunt his behavior before the weaker brother nor is he to attempt to coax the weaker brother into conducting behavior that the latter deems wrong or sinful. This, Paul argues, results in causing of the weaker brother to stumble. Likewise, should the weaker brother get wind that the stronger brother engages in what the weaker brother would regard as sinful behavior, the weaker brother is not to condemn the stronger brother for it. These respective attitudes call all of the members of the family of God to peace. We have mutual respect ultimately because the Messiah died for each of us.

So how would Cornelius have applied Romans 14 in his hospitality towards Peter?

Undoubtedly, he was sensitive to the fact that Peter had gone way out of his comfort zone to enter the house of a Roman centurion, a Gentile, no less. Having gained the respect of the Jews who knew him, undoubtedly he was aware of the laws of kashrut. In fact, he probably would have inquired of Peter what foods he liked or was used to eating. He probably knew that Peter still felt, at the very least, queezy about eating anything that was not kosher. In fact, to show good will, the centurion probably served him kosher food prepared from Peter's favorite butcher shop or delicatessen.

Actually, I have an even better idea. Cornelius was a Roman centurion. Rome is in Italy. So I'm convinced that Cornelius served Peter spaghetti.


So why do I write this long essay only to draw the somewhat dubious conclusion that Cornelius served spaghetti to Peter?

Allow me to emphasize... NEITHER JEWS NOR GENTILES ARE SAVED BY EATING KOSHER FOOD. Nor are Gentiles condemned for eating traif (food that's not kosher). I'm still not entirely convinced that these laws don't apply to Jewish believers, however... especially when one is seeking to assert his identity as a Jew. Yes, Paul does say, in Romans 14 that “All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble”. Paul could be including himself in this statement on the one hand, but on the other hand, he could be talking to an almost if not entirely Gentile ekklessia in Rome and using the words “all food” from the perspective of his audience.

Perhaps I'm naive, but I'm not entirely convinced that the Gentile believer understands the depth of the step of faith that the Jewish believer has to take to come to Y'shua. Immediately the Jewish believer is bombarded by the enemy with all sorts of accusations foremost of which is “You're no longer a Jew”. This particular accusation eats inexorably into the soul of the Jewish believer. And then the Gentile (the stronger brother) who knows that “All food is clean” seeks to unwittingly tempt the Jewish believer into conducting behavior (eating pork, etc.) that is literally an affirmation of that accusation (that he's no longer Jewish). Hence, by eating that ham sandwich, the Jewish believer may not be condemned but he is, in fact, providing evidence (erroneously interpreted or otherwise) that he is no longer a Jew.

I dare say, that such an invitation on the part of my Gentile brother, is in fact a violation of Romans
14 where Paul says 'If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom messiah died. (vs. 15).

As for me, I am obligated to guard myself against judging my Gentile brother for eating traif in my presence. I will however, be critical of an attitude in which he has not bothered to attempt to enter into my shoes and consider how I might feel about it especially when this attitude has prevailed in the church over the past two millenia (Case in point... the second counsel of Nicea declared that if a Jew chose to come to 'Christ', he had to give up his identity, his traditions and every last vestige of his Jewishness).
So how does all of this play out? Allow me, if you will, to propose two contrasting dialogues...

Dialogue 1

Gentile – “I hope you like ham. That's what we're having.”

Me – “If you have potato chips I'll have those.”

Dialogue 2

Gentile – “Do you eat ham? If not, I've prepared some corned beef for you.”

Me – “Thank you so much for your consideration. It was very kind of you to think of me. I hope it wasn't too much work for you to prepare the corned beef.”

Gentile – “Well, it was a little extra work. But you're worth it.”

Me – “No... God is worth it.”

It is commonly assumed that the opposite of Love is Hate.
On the contrary... the opposite of Love is Indifference.

As I've tried to wrestle with the issue of kashrut for the Jewish believer, I find it difficult to believe that the New Testament, out of the blue, abrogates it without any Old Testament precedent. Personally, I don't feel that I'm authoritative enough to say that Jewish believers should not eat pork. If one doesn't have love, not eating pork is of no value. Nor do I really think it's anyone's business to establish a doctrine on such an issue. After all, as Paul put it,

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves messiah in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.
(Rom. 14:17-18)

Furthermore, I confess. I've done worse things in my life than eating ham sandwiches.

I do think, however, that the issue of kashrut carries with it a deeper dimension... namely an exciting way by which the church can demonstrate love and know that it is doing so. It is by overcoming these barriers that the church demonstrates that it is, indeed, one new man in messiah... Jew and Gentile (Eph. 2:15). Hence, even with ham sandwiches, or pork present, the breaking of bread can genuinely be built around a foundation that will invariably make their fellowship into a truly kosher church picnic.