Tazriah-Metzora , April 29, 2017 - Iyar 3, 5777
Tazriah-Metzora: "She will conceive" - "leper)"
Torah: Leviticus 12:1-15:33
Haftarah: 2 Kings 7:3-20
Brit Chadashah (New Testament): Matthew 8:1-4; 1 Peter 1:13-16
Enjoy Your Food and Extend Chesed
The Kosher (dietary restrictions) laws and the laws of purification generated a lot of smoke and confusion. Why did the L-rd give these regulations to the people of Israel? Our focus this week will be on the Kosher Laws. We'll look at the purification laws next week.
Perhaps the most common explanation of the Kosher laws is that they were given for health reasons—the people of Israel did not have the up-to-date methods of food processing and preservation that we have. Certain animal meats, if not properly handled and cooked, could cause disease—like trichinosis (a tape worm) and tularemia (a blood disorder). Marine animals without scales and fins tend to be bottom dwellers and scavengers, and so they eat all sorts of leftovers ("garbage"). The L-rd wanted to spare the people of Israel from all of these diseases.
This makes sense to a point, but there are a lot of animals that don't fall neatly into a category. There is nothing particularly unhealthy about eating animals that don't have a split hoof or that don't chew their cud. For instance, horses aren't any less healthy to eat than cows, etc. A better explanation for the Kosher laws is that they were given primarily for spiritual reasons. The people of Israel were strongly influenced by the pagan customs of the Egyptians (after all they lived among them for about 400 years). Now, as they were heading into a country where the pagans were even more depraved than the Egyptians, the L-rd wanted to change them into a people that were separate (set apart, or holy) from the pollution of their neighbors. That is the overall theme of the book of Leviticus—holiness.
What about the Kosher laws for today? Has the L-rd tossed them off to one side? If we study the New Covenant carefully, we'll see that the early believers continued to observe the Kosher laws (even after Peter's vision in Acts 10). Yet, there is a change—Gentile believers were not commanded to observe all the dietary laws and laws of purification. Believers were encouraged to keep these laws as the L-rd led them. What is most important is the right attitude. The New Covenant categorically condemns legalistic observance—keeping these regulations out of the wrong motives and then seeking to condemn others because they don't observe (Colossians 2:16, Matthew 12:7). In a Messianic congregation we need to be particularly sensitive to this issue—let us observe as the L-rd leads us, but extend grace to those who do not!