The Role of Kosher in Our Community

Mark & Judy Thoughts and Musings, Torah Life

Kosher standards can be a divisive topic amongst Messianic congregations and we don’t want that to be the case at The Bridge.

We have no desire to dictate what you do in your home, but because eating together is a big part of our community, we have chosen to set a standard based on our understanding of Scripture and how Yeshua lived while he was here on earth.

First, let’s briefly chat about why we keep kosher.

Kosher – Aren’t All Foods Clean?

In Leviticus 11, HaShem lays out the parameters for the Jewish people of what makes a food clean or unclean, and calls unclean foods an abomination. Because we serve a God who never changes, we believe that these foods are still an abomination to Him and always will be. Clean foods are all fruits/vegetables/seeds/nuts, poultry, fish with fins & scales, and mammals that have a split hoof and chew the cud. Animals for food must be slaughtered in a specific way, removing the blood.

These commandments have yet to be revoked.

Many people believe that Yeshua declared all foods clean in Mark 7:19. But we know that if Yeshua is truly the Messiah, he cannot contradict the Torah, which clearly defines clean and unclean foods. So we must be misunderstanding the text.

Upon further study, we find that the words typically translated into English as “thus he declared all foods clean” actually translate as “purging all foods”. The discussion in this passage is about sin defiles a person, not what is eaten. We see this as we read the context of the whole passage, as well as the parallel account in Matthew 15.

It doesn’t follow logic that Yeshua would flippantly throw into this teaching on sin a new standard for eating that goes against Torah (or that there wouldn’t be a huge backlash from him negating Torah).

What About Separating Milk and Meat?

In order to know the answer to this, we must look at the original text for Deuteronomy 14:21 which says, “You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.”

The rabbinic understanding of this Scripture comes from their understanding of the original Hebrew for a few key words. Let’s take a look:

  • boil – בִּשֵׁל (bishel): This word is also translated as bake, cook, and roast. It is a more generic term, similar to our term, “cook.” It can refer to preparing food in general.
  • a young goat – גְּדִי (gedi): This word refers to the young of cattle, goats, and sheep throughout the Tanack. Animals slaughtered for meat were typically young mammals.
  • in – בְּ (b’): a common Hebrew preposition that can mean in, on, or with – depending on the context.
  • milk – חָלָב (chalav): This word can refer to all kinds of dairy (the cheeses David brought to his brothers in 1 Sam. 17:18 used this word).
  • its mother – אִמּוֹ (immo): Hebrew familial words are often used in an idiomatic sense – brothers refers to countrymen, fathers refers to elders, etc. Because of how flocks worked in agricultural economies, they may have applied this as referring to all milk from mammals.

There is some evidence that this is how Judaism in our Rabbi Yeshua’s era understood these verses as well. Rabbis Hillel and Shammai (who lived in the generation just before Yeshua) taught strict separation of dairy and red meat as a biblical mandate, and separation of dairy and poultry as a rabbinic mandate. The Targums (Aramaic translations of Scripture used by the common people) translate it this way as well. The Targum Onkelos reads, “Thou shalt not eat flesh with milk.”

What About Acts 15?

In Acts 15, the Jewish Apostolic leadership of the fledgling Messianic community discussed and decided on baseline rules for Gentile inclusion in their communities. They decided on 4 requirements:

  1. Abstain from eating what is sacrificed to idols
  2. Abstain from eating blood
  3. Abstain from eating what has been strangled
  4. Abstain from sexual immorality

As you can see here, 3 of the 4 prohibitions are in regards to what we eat. And the only way for Gentiles to follow these rules was to eat kosher slaughtered meats, which would, by nature, be from clean animals. These are some of the only rules we are specifically given for Gentiles in Scripture, so we should definitely take note. Note also that they did not prohibit eating of milk and meat together here.

So, How Does This Apply to Us?

If you are a Jewish follower of Yeshua, we invite you to seriously consider the validity and importance of the dietary laws in regards to your covenant with HaShem. If you are a Gentile follower of Yeshua, we encourage you to keep these guidelines as part of your devotion to the Master, and many in our community do so.

Practically speaking, this means that in all of our community functions when food is present, we ask you to honor the following guidelines:

  • No unclean meats (mainly pork and shellfish)
  • No derivatives from unclean meats (often disguised as gelatin, red 4/carmine, casings and other additives)
  • If possible, look for a hecksher on your items:

Thank you!