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Should Gentiles keep kosher, or not?

Ask The Messianic Rabbi: Should Gentiles keep kosher, or not?

Read the transcript below, or watch a video of the teaching by Yehuda Bachana.

Today we talk about eating and keeping kosher, and this time we answer the following questions:
“What happens when God brings the Gentiles to Israel to serve Him?
Because they outnumber us, does that mean that in the future, Israel should become the home of pork and shrimp?
Doesn't the scripture say that in those days the Torah will go forth from Tzion?”

The second question is similar, but more general:
“Isn’t pork an unclean animal when a gentile eats it?”
I understand this question as follows: “if a specific food is unclean to Jews, isn’t it also unclean to other nations?”

Dear friends,

These are great questions!
Food is a subject that has caused many discussions throughout history, including within the Messianic world. If we speak honestly, most of the Messianic world does not watch what enters the mouth.

The answer to these questions is short and clear, as the New Testament is very clear in stating that gentiles – meaning non-Jews – are welcome and may eat everything.

That being said, immediately the question arises why then, God commanded the dietary laws at all.
Over time, many options arose, including:
- lust and restraint
- spirituality
- morality and ecological balance
- health
- preserving identity
Each of these make a good and convincing point. And yet, I tend to understand this commandment as a protective mechanism for the Jewish identity, because keeping kosher, preserved Israel from assimilating.

If we take a look at the past 500 years, we immediately notice that homes that kept kosher, also managed to keep their Jewish identity in the diaspora, even during extreme hardships like the inquisition.

God called the People of Israel to be separated from the rest. And the Jewish food culture has been the most effective protective mechanism, throughout history.

One of the more known sayings associated with the Jewish food culture and holidays, is: “They tried to kill us. God saved us. Let's eat.”
This sentence is amusing, because it pretty much sums up the Jewish food culture, seeing how the Jewish or Biblical Feasts are centered around the table, and every feast has its own special dishes.

As food preserves a memory.
the eating of 'matza' preserves the memory of the People of Israel having escaped quickly from Egypt.

At other times, food represents an idea, like the oil-fried Sufganiya’ during Chanuka, as a symbol of the jar of oil in the Temple, in the days of the Hasmoneans.

Every feast and time has its own suitable food, and that’s part of our culture. We could bake hallah-bread whenever we wish, but it won’t be the same thing as baking it on Friday.

We could even fast and not eat whenever we want to, but it won’t be as powerful as fasting on Yom Kippur.

Food is meaningful.
In fact, it’s so meaningful that it was the first topic talked about with man. Many get confused and think that the first conversation between God and people was for us to be ‘fruitful and multiply’. And yes, God did say those words earlier on, but that wasn’t a conversation, but rather a blessing, as it says:

“And God blessed them” (Genesis 1:28)

And so, the first conversation evolves around food:

“And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.” (Genesis 1:29)

As part of creation, God plants two special trees, which is the tree of the knowledge, and the tree of life. And here follows the first commandment, and I’m sure that by now you suspect that is about food - and it is!
It deals specifically with the food we’re allowed to eat, and that which we’re prohibited to eat:

“And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat” (Genesis 2:16-17)

The next conversation between God and man, is when Adam and Eve hide and are ashamed:

“He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” (Genesis 3:11)

From this conversation, we continue to the punishment, which is also connected to food:

” Because you have (…) eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it".(Genesis 3:17)

From creation on, we can see the importance of food, and understand why the topic of dietary laws is so emphasized in the Jewish culture.

What enters the mouth is very important.
Actually it’s so very important that Paul warns us:

“Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.” (Corinthians 11:27)

The Lord’s Supper is the eating of bread and wine together in unity, in His memory.
While food can separate, it also has the power to connect and unite:

“And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19)

Yeshua teaches us that if we watch what enters our mouth; all the more so, we should watch what comes out of our mouth like gossip and slander.

The first question was:
“What happens when God brings many gentiles to Israel to serve Him. Should Israel become the home of pork and shrimp?"

The answer is: even if non-Jews don’t have to, in Israel, especially in a Messianic or public framework, it’s advised to keep kosher in a way that is commonly accepted by the Jewish public.

And, if we’re interested to bring the international Messianic community closer to Judaism, I would also advise to do so for Messianic gatherings outside of Israel.

The second question was:
“Isn’t pork an unclean animal when a gentile eats it?”

I’d like to counter that question with another question: Does whatever makes one unclean, perse also make someone else unclean? No, not necessarily.

If we stick to the subject of food, bread has a central role in the Israeli cuisine. And yet, during Pesach, it is forbidden to eat bread. So is bread in itself unclean?

There are commandments that depend on a specific time, identity or place.
Let’s look at the relations between husband and wife. Those relations aren’t unclean, but the same relations with a third person, would be sinful.
The relations themselves are not the sin, the question is: with who?

The eating of pork is forbidden for Jews. as Leviticus 11 says:

“And the pig, (…) is unclean to you.” (Leviticus 11:7)

But the question is: who was that spoken to? To the People of Israel. Someone who isn’t from the People of Israel, could eat pork and shrimps, and it wouldn’t affect his purity.

And yet, someone – even if he isn’t obligated to, can come closer, closer to God and to the People of Israel.
Can, but doesn’t have to.

You are more than welcome to continue this discussion in the comments below, and we also invite you to send in more such important questions which we will address anonymously.

15 thoughts on “Should Gentiles keep kosher, or not?”

    1. I thought when a person became a believer in the.God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob there was one law for all. Foreign born or native born.

      The New Testament does not say Gentiles can eat pork. It says all “food” is good and acceptable for it is set apart by the word of God and prayer. I have not read in the Torah, the only word of God available at the time of Paul saying this, that pork is food. Please show me where unclean meat is called food. Instead it goes on to stay all “food” is clean for it is set apart by the word if God and prayer.

      Just like Ruth we join the family and become one. One law for all. I want to be like my savior. My savior did not eat that stuff.

      Why is this even an issue? God gave all the rules to his set apart people. What other of those rules are not for the Gentiles. Can Gentiles keep the moral law?

      The way I see it once a person comes into the family they are no longer to be called Gentiles, other nations, they have joined the family and are one with Him.

      Please explain where my mistake is with scripture in context.

      Thank you for your teachings. They are a blessing.

      One of the family,
      Eva

    2. Shalom rabino!!! Sou do Brasil, SP. Gostaria de saber como os Judeus guardam o Sábado em relação a não acender fogo nos dias de hoje?
      Shabat Shalom .

      1. Shalom Toni

        In the orthodox communities the law not to ignite a fire on shabbat is strictly kept, while in the secular parts of society it is ignored.
        Within the messianic body it fluctuates. Some keep it, others don’t.

        blessings

        Shmuel

  1. Stefan Larsson

    How do you view Acts 15, where Gentiles are admonished not to eat from idolatrous foods, blood or “strangled” (things) (ie things slaughtered in a faulty way so that the blood was not shed properly)? What does this entail for gentiles?
    Should gentiles avoid halal-slaughtered meats and eating at for example Govindas (Hare Krishna)?
    Can gentiles eat all meats, as long a s the animals are slaughtered in a “kashrut-like” manner – or how should we understand strangled?

    1. Shalom Stefan,

      “Acts 15, where Gentiles are admonished not to eat from idolatrous foods, blood or “strangled” (things) (ie things slaughtered in a faulty way so that the blood was not shed properly)? What does this entail for gentiles?”
      Maybe I am misunderstanding this question so please feel free to clarify or restate if this does not answer the question. As you said, Acts 15 contains commands from the “Jerusalem Council” to the gentile church. So when you ask what that entails for gentiles, I believe that the text indicates that this should be literally kept by gentiles. That is to say, that I don’t believe that there is any metaphoric meaning here but that they are to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. To abstain from blood has two different aspects, both of which go back to foundational commands in the Torah given to Noach for all humanity after the flood in the book of genesis chapter 9 verses 4-6. The first is to abstain from consuming blood, the second is to abstain from shedding (human)blood. The instruction about nothing strangled is connected to the blood in the flesh as well. I am honestly not an expert in knowledge about hare krishna and their practices, but I have heard that they are vegetarians. When it comes to Hallal meat, according to my limited and not 100% accurate knowledge in this field, there are some differences of opinion in Islam itself as to whether a hallal slauther has to be a sacrificial slaughter to Allah including the blessings or not. So it might boil down to individual desicions from case to case according to the circumstances and facts on the ground. But the bottom line is that this decision in acts 15 was made to make it easier for the gentiles and to not put a burden that is too heavy on their shoulders. It is good to take the word of God at face value here and to do as instructed in Acts 15:29″….that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. By keeping away from these things, you will do well.”

      blessings

      Shmuel
      Netivyah

  2. Because of what Paul tells us in Romans 11, ….have been grafted in..
    That as the graftee, I should follow to best of my ability the instructions of the root and branches I am grafted into. To me, eating clean has been a blessing and a way to ” love what Elohim loves. If I mess up I know Yeshua has covered my “sin”. Hallelu-Yah!!

  3. How about Acts 15 commandment to gentiles to not eat strangled food, when most food sold in gentile markets is strangled especially pig?

    1. Shalom Alex!

      If that is the case in the country where you live then I encourage you to not buy from those markets you mentioned.
      I can only encourage you keep these basics that are commanded as a “minimum” for all gentile believers from Acts 15:29 “…that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. By keeping away from these things, you will do well.”

      blessings

      Shmuel
      Netivyah

  4. Explicação maravilhosa Yehuda ! Agradeço a D’us por nos dar a oportunidade de através da alimentação, aproximarmos d’Ele e do seu povo !
    Que o Eterno continue o abençoando !

  5. The foods God said for His people to not eat tend to contain parasites and lead to poor health. I think it is more that just an exercise in restraint for the sake of continuity and unity to avoid non kosher foods. One Rabbi said we eat Kosher because God says so. Our Heavenly Father knows best! Even if we do not entirely understand the “why?”, we can still obey and be blessed.

  6. Rainer Stengele

    Thank you for the input.
    What about the fact that gentiles are joining Israel (Commonwealth, see letters to Ephesians and Galatian – Israel of God).
    See for example the book from J.K.McKee “Are Non-Jewish Believers Really a Part of Israel?” where the answer f course is “yes”.
    Of course this is going a bit towards a “One Law” theology, which is not my point. Anyway my idea would be that if pork is an obomination to God I would to be “safe” and rather not challenge the idea that this was only for the “Initial” Israel.

    Thanks for feedback.
    Regards,
    Rainer

    1. Shalom Rainer!
      Thank you for your sharing your thoughts.
      Since we have received many similar comments, we want to publish another short video soon that expounds more on these and similar subjects.
      So stay tuned 🙂
      Blessings

      Shmuel

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