Sh’Mini (Leviticus 9:1-11:47) — The Kosher Discussion
This week’s Torah Portion opens with a continuation of instruction for Aaron and his sons who serve as priests. We also see in this chapter the repercussions of taking the responsibilities of the priesthood lightly as Nadab and Abihu are killed for offering “strange fire” to the Lord. The Torah Portion then closes with a recitation of food that is to be eaten and food that is to be avoided – in other words this is the beginning of the Kosher food discussion.
I am often asked about the eating of non-Kosher food … in other words bacon and pork chops. Other questions are also often asked of me. Are Kosher rules still to be followed today? Are we still to observe laws which seem to have served their purpose? Can I eat a cheeseburger and still be alright with God?
The answer to almost all of these questions, in my opinion (which I do respect), is it depends. Should I eat a BLT while trying to witness to a Jewish person, especially an Orthodox Jewish individual? Of course not! Not because the act of putting bacon and tomato on a sandwich is the unpardonable sin but because it could become a stumbling block to the hearing of the Gospel message. Could I eat a pork chop with my mama when she was still living because she decided it was high time that I ate a good meal? Of course. For it is not the action of eating pork that is the sin but the motivation behind it.
God himself stated this truth in 11:44-45 when he declared that they needed to be holy because HE is holy. The act of sinning if one ate an owl (11:17) or a gecko (11:30) is not the point of this chapter. The point that I believe that God was trying to make is to be stand out and be different. They were heading to a land filled with Promise but also with sinners (Canaanites, Moabites, etc.). They were to act the part of being Chosen as they were Chosen so that they might be a light to the nations. Part of this light-bearing involved not partaking of the actions and even the food of the pagans – in other words “don’t eat the pig!”
It is easier to become bogged down in the details and miss the big picture and this has often been the case with Leviticus 11. We must strive for holiness because this is what God demands and this is reflected in the theme of Leviticus (i.e., 11:46-47).
By the way, my bacon is turkey and I do not eat or like cheeseburgers. However, it is not because I must but because I choose to do so. But am I strictly kosher … no. I don’t have to be, because I am not Jewish for one reason, but that is a discussion for another day.