Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #26: Sh’mini (Eighth) Vayikra (Leviticus) 9:1-11:47
Haftarah: Sh’mu’el Bet (2 Samuel) 6:1-19
B’rit Chadashah: 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1
This year we are going to focus on a portion of the dietary laws in Lev.11-46. This is a large narrative that begs the question why are some animals clean and others unclean? According to the general Orthodox Jewish perspective, this is a “coch”, a law without a logical explanation that we must accept because our G-d commands it. While it is true that we need no explanation for the “why” of G-d’s commands/instructions, there is a lot of information provided to us through the Ruach (Holy Spirit, always consistent with G-d’s Torah), Yahshua’s exposition on the written laws of G-d, and research that G-d prompts humans to undertake to seek answers to many of our questions concerning a plethora of subjects. With this understanding, we are going to explore some of the important facets of G-d’s dietary laws that apply to everyone, all humans, Jew and Gentile.
First, we address the issue of the uncleanliness of animals that do not chew a cud but have split hooves such as a pig, those that so not have split hooves but chews the cud such as a camel, and those that chew a cud AND have split hooves such as the bovine species. Generally, animals that have split hooves have better balance when shifting and they lengthen the leg which enables them to run at high speeds and essentially walk on their toes. Examples are the ox, sheep, goat, deer, gazelle, antelope, and mountain sheep. Many Biblical scholars believe the classification was created to prevent the Israelites from eating animals worshipped by pagan cultures. There is also the issue of tradition that is passed down through the ages. In rabbinic Judaism, animals are only eaten if there is a tradition (masorah) passed down that clearly indicates whether an animal may be eaten. An example is a previous debate over whether bison was considered kosher. The Orthodox Union permits it. Looking to and adhering to tradition is a slippery slope that Yahshua taught against; “the traditions of men” as there are times when such traditions conflict with G-d’s Torah. So, we must investigate other options to answer our question.
In cattle, the distal skeleton has two rudimentary dew claws and two symmetrically elongated middle digits that form the split hoof. This provides good traction for walking and running on different types of terrain. That’s a nice piece of information, but how does that contribute to the “cleanliness” or “uncleanliness of an animal? After all, the pig as a split hoof and it is not permitted. The camel chews a cud but does not have split hooves. So, let’s start with examining the way the animal processes food.
In bovines, digestion occurs sequentially in a four-chambered stomach. Plant material initially moves to the rumen where it is mechanically processed and exposed to bacteria that can break down cellulose (foregut fermentation). The reticulum allows the animal to regurgitate and reprocess the “cud”. More finely divided food is then passed to the omasum for further mechanical processing. The food mass is finally passed to the true stomach, the abomasum where the digestive enzyme lysozyme breaks down the bacteria to release the nutrients. Use of plant material is indirect with primary processing by the bacterial flora maintained in the stomach. Cows spend almost 8 hours a day chewing their cuds and those that do not chew their cuds long enough may develop health issues that such as lameness, decreased milk fat content, twisted stomachs, and other issues. This is important because humans consume the end product of the entire process; the meat, cheese, butter and milk. The digestion of the bovine species lends itself to healthy meat, milk and other products made from it.
So, what about those animals that either chew a cud and don’t have a split hoof or those that have a split hoof and don’t chew a cud? We’ll use the camel and pig as examples. A camel is a pseudo-ruminant, which is an animal that eats large amounts of roughage but does not have a four-compartment stomach like a cow. There is less water for the camel so the milk fat and protein content are less, and the milk can have a salty taste and a sour odor. However, many cultures eat camel and the nutrient content in some areas is superior to bovines. There must be something else that differentiates the permitted ruminates from the camel and pig.
According to nature middle east, “camels are a melting pot for mammalian viruses, according to new research, and may serve as an incubator for the production of novel viruses which would infect humans. “Although camels have existed in close proximity to humans for thousands of years, they were not typically considered a major source for human disease. Camels are thought to serve as a major reservoir of MERS-CoV, and a 2014 study identified a range of mammalian viruses in pooled camel fecal samples. Researchers found sequences related to mammalian viruses from 13 genera in 10 families, including viruses known to infect humans and other animals; even some novel camel viruses. “Many of the camel viruses were infected with viruses from two or three different genera, and MERS-CoV was found with another coronavirus in more than 90% of samples. The high co-infection rates raise the risk that viruses might recombine, borrowing genetic material from each other, gaining the ability to infect a different host species.” This risk is exacerbated by the increased interaction between humans and camels with camels sometimes living in the animal markets with other species such as cattle, sheep, goats, and sometimes cats or dogs (El-Showk, S. 2017).
This is just one example of G-d’s wisdom and omniscience from the beginning to the end. Perhaps there are other reasons why the camel is unclean to eat, but this recent study brings to light the fact that camels carry high viral loads of various types that can affect human health and there is no better time to bring this information to people’s attention than now. True believers (Israelites) whether Jew or Gentile, have a hedge of protection around them (G-d’s Torah) that those who believe G-d’s dietary laws were abrogated with Yahshua’s crucifixion do not. This is not to say that a believer will never contract viruses or other health infirmities, but that statistically, there is a better chance that they won’t. When a believer becomes ill, it is a chance to learn, grow in his/her walk with YHVH/Yahshua, and continue to shine a light before men demonstrating the peace that can be experienced when we know Who holds our lives and our days.
Now we will examine the pig which has a split hoof but does not chew a cud. The pig is the quintessential example of uncleanliness and false piety in humans. Like a falsely pious and spiritually unclean person who seems to emanate all of the external signs of piety but has an unclean heart and mind, the pig looks kosher on the outside with a split hoof but does not chew a cud (on the inside). Some of the possible reasons G-d designated this poor animal as unclean are described in the following information from Healthline Media (2017).
Along with being one of the most commonly consumed meats in the world, pork may also be one of the most dangerous, carrying some of the most important and little- discussed risks to humans. In developed countries, pork liver is the top food-based transmitter of hepatitis E. This is a virus that infects 20 million people annually and can lead to acute illness, enlarged liver and sometimes liver failure and death. Mothers who get infected during their third trimester have a death rate of 25%. Hepatitis E infection can lead to inflammatory heart disease, acute pancreatitis, neurological disorders, and blood disorders. In America, about 1 out of every 10 store-bought pig livers tests positive for hepatitis E.
Another surprising risk associated with pork is multiple sclerosis which is an autoimmune condition involving the central nervous system. This link was known in the 1980s when researchers analyzed the relationship between per capita pork consumption and MS across dozens of countries. Israel and India were nearly spared from the disease.
Liver cancer and cirrhosis have also been tied to pork consumption, independent of alcohol, hepatitis B and C infections. Beef, in contrast, remained liver-neutral or protective in the research.
Trichinosis is a type of roundworm infection that is still a risk but is not as prominent as it was in the 20th century. Due to changes in feeding practices, farm hygiene, and quality control, the rate of this illness has dropped, although remains a concern.
Yersinia is a different type of infection which is caused by a bacterium and is the result of eating under-cooked pork. Acute symptoms are fever, pain, and bloody diarrhea. However, long term consequences are most worrisome. Victims of Yersinia poisoning are 47 times higher risk of reactive arthritis, which is a type of inflammatory disease triggered by the infection. This can affect children and adults. Although this infection may resolve on its own over time, victims of this infection are at a higher risk for developing chronic joint problems including rheumatoid arthritis and sacroiliitis, Graves’ disease, and inflammation of the iris.
The aforementioned examples provide what I submit is the “tip of the iceberg” of knowledge regarding perhaps why G-d designated certain animals and insects as “unclean.” Ultimately, it is because He loves us and wants the very best for us. G-d did not arbitrarily give us instructions that would be obsolete in a few or even thousands of years later. He knows the beginning from the end because He is the beginning and the end.
Sea life and other creatures are not addressed in this teaching due to time restrictions for this presentation. However, I will be happy to address this subject in more detail if the reader submits questions to the website at https://rabdavis.org on the “ask the rabbi” link.
Haftarah: 2 Samuel 6:1-19
The haftarah provides us another example of the seriousness of modifying our worship of G-d as did Nadav and Avihu and the consequences. King David decides to transport the ark of G-d on a new cart. It is as if David thought a new cart; a type of foreign fire would be an acceptable way to transport it. However, G-d made it very clear how the ark was to be transported; on the shoulders of man, not beasts, or in a cart. We read in Exodus 25: 13-15: “Make poles of acacia-wood and overlay them with gold. Put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark; you will use them to carry the ark. The poles are to remain in the ark; they are not to be removed from it.” David violated this protocol and it cost Uzzah his life when he tried to steady it on the cart. For the new Torah student or for those who disregard the Old Testament with the original Constitution of G-d, it would seem unreasonable for G-d to kill a man for what seems such an innocent action. The same could be said for Nadav and Avihu. However, when we come to the truth of G-d’s Torah that specifically instructs us on everything from worshipping YHVH/Yahshua to not picking up lizards, we had best pay attention and engrave “these words which I have commanded you this day, be upon your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, speak of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you retire and when you arise. You shall bind them as a sign upon your hand and let them be frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house, and upon your gates” (Deut. 6:6-9). David was well aware of this instruction and the protocol for transporting the ark. This is the reason he became frightened of Adonai and did not bring the ark to Jerusalem for three months. Instead, the ark was taken to the house of Oved-Edom where G-d blessed him and his entire household. Who was Oved-Edom and why would David trust him to keep the ark? His name means Servant of Edom. He was considered a native of Gath-rimmon, thus the designation Gittite. He was a Levite of the family of Korhites. He had taken up residence in Judah, perhaps a convert to Judaism and the worship of the G-d of Avraham, Isaac, and Jacob. David had many followers from the Gittites. This may explain why the ark was taken to Oved-Edom’s house for three months and merited G-d’s blessing over him and his entire household
B’rit Chadashah: 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1
This passage reminds us of the stark differences between true believers and unbelievers; clean and unclean epitomized by Avraham and Lot. “Do not yoke yourselves together in a team with unbelievers. For how can righteousness and lawlessness be partners? What fellowship does light have with darkness? What harmony can there be between the Messiah and B’liya’al? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement can there be between the temple of G-d and idols? For we are the temple of the living G-d- as G-d said, “I will house myself in them” and I will walk among you. I will be their G-d and they will be my people.” Therefore, Adonai says, ‘Go out from their midst; separate yourselves; don’t even touch what is unclean. Then I myself will receive you. In fact, I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters.”
It is important to understand that the word son in Hebrew has several meanings. It does not always mean a biological son, or a son-type relationship in any way equivalent to Yahshua to G-d the Father. I submit in this passage, sons and daughters takes on one of the alternative meanings of disciples.
The directions are clear, and we do not have the liberty to modify them in any way. This passage may sound easy to follow, but anyone who is in the process of ascending to G-d is in the process of learning how involved this process of separating ourselves becomes as we grow. It may or may not be easy for you to give up eating pork, shellfish, and/or fish without fins and scales. However, it’s required. Then we learn of the tithe; it’s required. Then we learn that not working on Shabbat is not an option. Furthermore, we are to rest for 24 whole hours. Then we realize our relationships with our families and friends must change; it’s required. What about potential companions or spouses? They must take second place to our obedience to G-d’s Torah (Matt. 10:34-37; Luke 12:51) “But whoever disowns me before others I will disown before my Father in heaven. Don’t suppose I have come to bring peace to the Land. It is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword! For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, so that a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household. Whoever loves his father or mother more than he loves me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than he loves me is not worthy of me.”
Our G-d is a jealous G-d who demands allegiance to Him only (Ex. 20:5). Think back about the story of Abraham and Lot. Is not Lot comparable to a pig? He seemed kosher on the outside as he initially followed Abraham. The Hebrew translation of this story portrays Lot as a person who initially revered Abraham as a great teacher and mentor. However, as time passed, Lot lost all respect for Avraham through familiarity and greed. Remember the account in Genesis 13:8-11 where Avraham, ever the hospitable one offered Lot the choice of land. Lot in his greed perceived the whole plain of the Yarden that was well watered everywhere. As the younger of the two and out of respect for Avraham, he should have insisted Avraham choose first, or believing the plain of the Yarden to be the choicest land, chose to go in the other direction. Lot was greedy. He ended up in an idolatrous city of S’dom and ’Amora that was so filled with greed an inhospitable people that G-d destroyed it. This illustrates the emphasis on the pig as the epitome of uncleanliness in the eyes of G-d. Just as a pig looks kosher from the outside with the split hoof, Lot belonged to the family of Avraham and initially chose to leave his home and follow Avraham, making him appear righteous and clean. However as time passed, he became selfish and loose in his behavior and symbolically chose to wallow in the mire like the pig. Lot was filled with greed and compromise. It was for Avraham’s righteousness that G-d physically separated Lot from S’dom and ’Amora before destroying them (Gen. 19:29).
We all have a choice. May we choose the path that will lead us to eternal life with YHVH/Yahshua, no matter the perceived hardships including social isolation or even martyrdom endured for His glory. It can be done by seeking, asking, and knocking for understanding in G-d’s Torah. THEN we must act on that which we learn. This is the will of G-d, that the world will know that “I am Adonai” (Ezekiel 35:15; 26:38; 37:28; 38:23).
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart
El-Showk, Sedeer. (2017). Camels carry a heavy viral load.
Minger, D. “4 hidden dangers of pork,” Healthline media (2017).