Kosher Jell-O, and whether Messiah’s disciples need our own ruling body

I asked over at Jewish Life & Learning, “Who determines the kosher status of new foods, like Jell-O?”

The question reveals a bit about how the Jewish community determines whether something is kosher. But it raises a question for Yeshua-believers: Who determines what’s acceptable for Yeshua’s disciples?

Quick run-down of the kosher Jell-O issue: the gelatin used in these products can be derived from animal bone or animal skin, and those animals may or may not be kosher animals. To muddy the waters further, the gelatin undergoes a chemical separation process that produces a new substance that may or may not meet Orthodox guidelines for kosher status. Further, there’s more debate about the gelatin issue, since the substance is not derived from the flesh of unclean animals. It’s one of those mucky, gray issues.

This official explanation from Kraft Foods, the makers of Jell-O states they’ve received a kosher certification from a recognized Orthodox rabbi:

"JELL-O Brand gelatin is certified as Kosher by a recognized orthodox Rabbi as per enclosed RESPONSUM. In addition to being Kosher, Jell-O is also Pareve, and can be eaten with either a meat meal or a dairy meal."

The person asking the question then received a copy of the kosher certification given by 2 Orthodox Rabbis:

Included [in this response is a] sheet with a copy of "The Halachic Basis of our Kashruth Certification of Atlantic Gelatin and the General Foods Products containing this Gelatin" by Rabbi Yehuda Gershuni & Rabbi David Telsner. The upshot is that since the collagen has been taken apart by the chemical digestion and a new substance has been produced it meets the specifications of the Orthodox Dietary Laws and is Kosher and Pareve.

 

Essentially, the makers of Jell-O are saying, “We received a kosher certification from a recognized Orthodox rabbi, and therefore, we’re kosher, and we’ll put a ‘K’ symbol on our product.”

Is that enough for the Jewish world, that just one or two Orthodox rabbis regard something as kosher?

As it turns out, no. At least according to the answers at Jewish Life & Learning, most religious Jews go with the way consensus from respected kosher-ruling organizations like the Orthodox Union, which deemed Jell-O as treif, not kosher, going against the ruling of those Orthodox Rabbis who approved Jell-O.

It got me thinking, though: who determines what’s kosher, or on a bigger scale, who determines what’s acceptable for us as Yeshua’s disciples? If we have some disagreement, is there a way to get a ruling from trusted, faithful individuals in our community?

We could use our best judgment based on our understanding of the Scriptures and make a judgment call. Alternately, we could look to some trusted authority on the matter. Both seem reasonable and could be argued from Scripture.

In the Messianic world, these two different options before us have resulted in two different forms of Torah observance: sola scriptura (Bible only), or halachically-informed (Bible, plus rulings of religious authorities). In the broad Messianic world, Hebrew Roots folks tend to be sola scriptura, while Messianic Judaism folks tend to be halachically-informed.

Hebrew Roots and sola scriptura Torah observance

Hebrew roots folks would be quick to go right to the Scriptures. (Praise God!)

But the problem is, the Scriptures don’t provide explicit guidance on this. Is it the flesh of an animal that’s unclean, or anything from the animal? If it’s anything from the animal, does that mean footballs (“pigskins”) are unclean? If so, doesn’t that also make the Tabernacle/Temple unclean, since skins from unclean animals were used in its construction? Some may give absolute answers from the Scriptures, but it’s difficult to give truly absolute answers solely from the Scriptures when the Scriptures were written in a time when, for example, there was no mechanically-produced food, no food industry, no fast food restaurants.

For sola scriptura Torah observance, then, the matter isn’t clear cut.

Messianic Judaism and halachically-informed Torah observance

For many in the Messianic Judaism movement, the answer to this question of how to follow the Torah is, “We are in solidarity with the rest of Israel.” (Praise God!)

In practice, this means following the general Jewish world’s consensus and rulings. In our Jell-O example, since the Orthodox Union (OU), a recognized kosher certification organization, says some food is not kosher, their ruling is accepted by the majority of the religious Jewish world. And if the Jewish world consensus is that Jell-O is not kosher, then neither is it kosher for Jewish followers of Jesus in the Messianic Judaism movement.

The problem with that line of thinking is, the rest of the Jewish world thinks Jewish believers in Jesus aren’t kosher.

“So what?”, you might say, “we’ll just keep on being in solidarity with the Jewish world.”

This creates a logical problem, in which you’re bound to follow the rulings of some trusted authority, but you then must discard the rulings of that authority when it deals with certain issues, like issues about who the Messiah is and who his followers are. In other words, that authority is no longer trusted. Not honestly.

It gets even worse: what happens when the rulings of that trusted body conflict with the teachings of the Messiah? This creates more tension still, because it suggests that the “trusted authority” should not be so trusted, maybe even distrusted, since Messiah rejected at least some of their rulings.

Scripture has a guideline here

If we look at the Scriptures, I know of two examples that serve as a precedent. The first is in the Torah, trusted leaders from the community were appointed to solve religious disputes. This is what the Jewish world has done, and it would then seem that Messianic Judaism folks have it right in following them.

But the second example modifies this: Acts 15 ruling body. In the New Testament, the trusted leaders from the community of Messiah’s followers came together to rule on an unclear matter.

We can glean a few principles from this: first, the Scriptures support the idea of trusted leaders ruling on unclear matters. (Sorry, Hebrew Roots folks!)

And secondly, the Scriptures support the idea of Messiah’s followers making rulings independent of the Jewish world’s. (Sorry, Messianic Judaism folks!)

So, if what I just said is true, if the Scripture does support the idea of trusted leaders from our community ruling on unclear religious matters, for followers of Yeshua, where is that ruling body?

The single most organized attempt for a body of trusted leaders from our community was that of the Catholic Church and it’s cardinals, bishops, and pope. But the abuses of the Catholic Church sent many running far away, wishing they never had appointed that authority in the first place. It set in stone the suspicion of centralized authority that remains with us today, particularly in Protestant Christianity and the Hebrew Roots movement.

Do Messiah’s disciples need a body of trusted leaders to rule on unclear matters? I believe it does, and I believe there’s a Scriptural precedence, but the problem is that it’s damn near impossible to get 2 religious people to agree on anything, let alone 2 billion. The question then becomes whether the improbabily of a success should stop us from trying.

112 comments:

  1. Judah, you raise a good point. I think it's a quite simple matter (it's at least for me).

    On Jewish matters, modern Jewish followers of Yeshua should simply refer to existing Jewish consensus and authorities (I am not going to get into Jewish denominationalism, although I myself follow a traditional consensus).

    On controversial Jewish matters for which there is no clear existing Jewish consensus and a solid existing opinion is hard to come by they should refer to Jewish leaders they trust (since there's currently no single Jewish authoritative body). Those leaders could be either "Messianic" or mainstream.

    On controversial matters pertaining to Yeshua (specifically), they should obviously refer existing Jewish Yeshua-following leaders and scholars they trust. Aside from identity of Messiah, I don't believe that Jewish traditional understanding of scripture is in conflict with Yeshua's - at least not in areas that truly matter. The apostles themselves were careful not to make any rulings (and most of their explicit rulings had to do with Gentile and not Jewish followers) in conflict with existing Jewish interpretation of scripture and neither should Yeshua's modern Jewish disciples.

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  2. But the problem is, the Scriptures don’t provide explicit guidance on this. Is it the flesh of an animal that’s unclean, or anything from the animal? If it’s anything from the animal, does that mean footballs (“pigskins”) are unclean? If so, doesn’t that also make the Tabernacle/Temple unclean, since skins from unclean animals were used in its construction?

    For sola scriptura Torah observance, even then the matter isn’t clear cut.


    Thank you! I've tried to make this point before and am glad to see you expressing it here, Judah. The Bible really doesn't contain all the information necessary to understand how to respond to all of the mitzvot.

    If we look at the Scriptures, I know of two examples that serve as a precedent. The first is in the Torah, trusted leaders from the community were appointed to solve religious disputes. This is what the Jewish world has done, and it would then seem that Messianic Judaism folks have it right in following them.

    But the second example modifies this: Acts 15 ruling body. In the New Testament, the trusted leaders from the community of Messiah’s followers came together to rule on an unclear matter.

    This isn't really a contradiction or a problem. It just means that different sects of Judaism in the first century, including "Messianic Judaism" had somewhat differing halachah. We have the same situation in traditional Judaism today, with Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform sects each having somewhat different viewpoints on observance, including Kosher. In fact, in doing research for one of my recent blog posts, I discovered that, unlike the Conservative and Reform movements, Orthodox Judaism doesn't have a central authority, so you can have different authorities making rulings for different Orthodox communities and some of these rulings may even contradict each other.

    I don't think you'll get Messianic Judaism to a place where there will be a central authority making halahalic rulings. For one thing, as you say, most OL/MJ congregations shy away from a human authority making any sort of binding rulings and prefer to interpret scripture either at the level of the individual or the congregation. You can have larger umbrella organizations also making interpretations, but the congregations under them can still choose to modify their practice away from those rulings under certain circumstances.

    Part of accepting Rabbinic and Talmudic authority has to do with community, history, and tradition. A community such as Chabad, for example, has centuries of history and tradition that make it perfectly acceptable to interpret scripture based on time-honored tradition. In fact, they wouldn't know how to interpret the Bible any other way. Most non-Jews or Jews who were not raised in such an environment would find that lifestyle foreign and steer away from it.

    I don't think you'll find too many "Messianic Gentiles" doing much more to "keep kosher" than avoiding meats defined in Leviticus 11. Jell-O and marshmellows will remain on their menus and no thought will be given to them.

    I'm glad you brought this up. I think the concept of kosher needs to be revisited in the Messianic community and as you know, I'm a big fan of questioning assumptions and tipping sacred cows.

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  3. Not to nitpick, James, but I'm a "Messianic Gentile", and in my family we avoid Jello and marshmallows (unless they're kosher marshmallows). Let me tell you, I really miss Lucky Charms! (But who needs all that sugar, anyway?)

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  4. >> James said: "A community such as Chabad, for example, has centuries of history and tradition that make it perfectly acceptable to interpret scripture based on time-honored tradition.

    ...

    I'm a big fan of questioning assumptions and tipping sacred cows"


    Well, here's a sacred cow tipping for you, James: the Chabad are wrong about some things. :-)

    Another reason you find sola scriptura folks shying away from a ruling body is because of the biblical precedent of Messiah overturning bad rulings from the religious Jewish community.

    I eat Jell-O. I eat marshmallows. Not out of ignorance -- I understand the [varied, opposing] rulings of Judaism on Jell-O -- I eat it because I think there's a danger in getting ultra-technical about commandments. If something overtly contains pork flesh, eating pork flesh would be an overt breaking of God's commandments. But what if something *might* contain bone from an unclean animal, which is then sifted through chemical processes and certain elements are extracted and used in the making of a food -- is that unclean?

    Maybe. Maybe not. My community, comprised mostly of Hebrew roots gentiles, thinks marshmallows are treif, not kosher. As for me, I'm convinced that it's not important. Let every man be convinced in his own mind? :-)

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  5. Gelatin in the USA normally is made from ground up pig's bones. But in Israel, gelatin (and therefore "jello") is made from other, clean, stuff.

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  6. Deborah Minter Cliff PattonWednesday, December 28, 2011 3:12:00 PM

    to be honest....this is why I dont' claim to be "kosher" I think words, and literal understanding matters and is important as well. I dont' claim to be an expert, but when I can, I try to be "specific". I consider myself to observe a "biblical" diet...although, even that, if taken "literally" I could say I'm not perfect at, cause I KNOW those guys would have NEVER ate McDonalds AT ALL! lol by the way....do you know that Taco Bell has "unkosher" in their meat...I forget the details though to be honest.

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  7. Deborah Minter Cliff PattonWednesday, December 28, 2011 3:13:00 PM

    I shouldn't have used McDonalds as my example. I do not eat
    it either....but even like say, Wendys, or "white" bread, or all the fat in foods...it doesn't have to be pig fat....GOD said, "dont' eat fat".....I am sorry, but the American diet, especially fast food places, is loaded with "unkosher" "unbiblical" and "unGOD permissable" FAT! lol YUKKY....I am working on getting better, but it's hard.

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  8. Our family strives to eat in a biblically proper way. We don't eat Jell-o or any other non-hechshered gelatin product unless we can confirm with the manufacturer that it's made from beef or fish based sources. There is vegetarian fruit-gel substitute which tastes better than Ko-jel.

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  9. I eat Jell-O. I think there's a danger in going ultra-technical about what constitutes unclean food. How far do you go? Don't eat at a place if the grill cooked unclean food? No restaurants then. Don't eat at a place if a brick of the oven was laid on sabbath? Don't eat most anywhere, then. Don't eat the food if the server touched anything unclean?

    You can go overboard. I eat Jell-O. :-)

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  10. Shalom Judah,
    Just an FYI, footballs may still be nicknamed "pig skins" but HAVE NOT USED pig bladders for hundreds of years. They now use rubber bladders for the inner tube/bulb.

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  11. What is ultra-technical or overboard about knowing that the source of a product is from a clean or unclean animal? Each person (and family) has to make these decisions for themselves based on Scripture and Ruach. What we ought to do is to seek not to divide fellowship over these, non-salvation, issues.

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  12. Agreed, I wouldn't cause division over it.

    Whether it's ultra-technical is subjective. Is it ultra-technical to determine whether an oven is suitable for use whether it was built on the sabbath? Most folks would say yes, but I'm sure there are some religious people who would disagree.

    For me, like you, I don't think it's worthwhile to fight about. Messiah's disciples have bigger issues to concern themselves with. My personal view is that it's not breaking a commandment to refrain from pork flesh if you're eating a substance derived from animal bone that may be from a pig but is then chemically reduced and certain parts of that reduction are used in the food. I'm not alone here, but I am in the minority view. :-)

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  13. Judah, the reason the orthodox rabbi's say that it is kosher is that the "gelatin" contains no "flesh" of a pig, but rather the "bone" of the swine (and chemicaly changed bone at that), this is a joke, the commandments teach us not to consume these animals in any way, shape or form...

    Lev 11:7-8 while the pig is unclean for you, because, although it has a separate and completely divided hoof, it doesn't chew the cud.You are not to eat meat from these or touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you.

    It is a joke that rabbis skirt the commandments by saying it is not the "flesh of a pig" ~ disgusting!

    Shalom - Jesse

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  14. Well, a majority of rabbis agree with you on this one: the Orthodox Union and other major kosher standard organizations say that Jell-O is treif, not kosher. The Jewish world's consensus agrees with you.

    But there is a minority view, and I agree with them, that it's not so clear cut. If you object to this, why not object to going to a chicken sandwich at McDonalds, as Deborah here does? Why not refuse to eat at all restaurants, since the grill almost certainly has come into contact with unclean food in some way?

    I'm not trying to muddy the waters; I'm pointing out that the water is, in fact, muddy. :-)

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  15. I'd like to point out to everyone that the issue isn't so much about whether Jell-O is kosher.

    The issue, rather, is whether Messiah's disciples ought to have a body of faithful, respected people who can rule on disputes like this. The Jell-O issue is just a silly example.

    I think we ought to have such a ruling body, but I acknowledge there's nothing like that today. If there was such an organization, would it blunt the sectarianism we have today? If such an organization ruled against Jell-O, would I trust their rulings? If such an organization ruled in favor of Jell-O, would all of us follow?

    Probably not, because we're so damn opinionated ourselves! :-)

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    1. It is not just about being opinionated. It is, for me, more about being so burned by blind faith in Christian Church leaders. Now, here I am at 47 trying to figure out which end is up. I don't speak Hebrew. I don't understand the culture. But yet I'm desperate to make up for lost time....all while trying to question everything this go round. I would give anything for a trusted group of leaders that embrace both Torah and Messiah. How do we get there. For the first three years I zeroed in on FFOZ, which included Tim Hegg. That was where I went to learn. But look how that turned out. So, now my "go to" teachers are FFOZ and Torah Resource. Ironic right?

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  16. Hi Judah. Never claimed that the Chabad was always right. I just used them as an example of a community that held to a certain set of standards re: kosher and a bunch of other stuff. My wife and I don't keep anywhere near the level of kosher as the Chabad, though she says she'd like to kasher our kitchen once my daughter finally moves out.

    Robyn, I didn't say a "Messianic Gentile" or Christian for that matter, couldn't choose a certain dietary path. My wife is very careful about her food research and what she eats but continually wonders why I choose to emulate her eating habits since, in her eyes (and in mine) I'm not actually obligated. I tell her what I tell everyone else. That I'm making a conscious decision as a matter of conscience, not in response to attempting to fulfill the mitzvot. I only make choices for me, not for anyone else (I also don't like marshmellows or Jell-O so that's not an issue for me). We each have to walk the path we believe has been set before us.

    Oh, and even if footballs were still made out of "pigskin", a person keeping kosher could play football. Here's the commentary I got out of the Stone Edition chumash relative to Leviticus 11:6-8:

    This prohibition applies only during the festival visits to the Temple, when everyone must be pure. At such times, no one may touch a contaminated carcass, because everyone is commanded to remain uncontaminated during the festival visits to the Temple.

    Until the Temple is rebuilt and Jews once again are able to celebrate the festivals in Jerusalem in the manner described by Torah, there's no problem with handling the ol' pigskin, so to speak.

    Within the various Judaisms and even within an specific sect, individuals and families decide what level of kosher to keep. If we lived in an area with kosher restaurants, eating out wouldn't be an issue, but Boise, Idaho doesn't have that. Currently, we only keep kosher-style for the most part. The local Chabad Rabbi can also oversea a kosher slaughter and certify meat as glatt kosher, so we buy that meat periodically. My wife has even gone so far as to order kosher chicken from New York, but as you can imagine, that is kind of expensive.

    Like many other matters of faith, negotiating the dietary laws is a developmental process. It's one thing if you were raised that way. If you were, then kosher becomes a fixed standard, but for those of us who weren't, there are many things we work into. Technically, there's nothing stopping me from having a nice, juicy pork chop or some yummy scrimp scampi (both of which I used to love back in the day) but it's been so long since I've had any of that, I just don't miss it.

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  17. P.S. I *do* think there should be such a ruling body for Messiah's disciples. It would be incredibly helpful. However, sadly, I can't imagine such a ruling body actually coming into existence.

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  18. I agree that such a ruling body isn't going to happen because of what I stated in my first comment.

    Another reason you find sola scriptura folks shying away from a ruling body is because of the biblical precedent of Messiah overturning bad rulings from the religious Jewish community.

    Not all rulings were bad rulings, though. The Bible is silent about the halachah the Jesus accepted as an observant Jew of his day.

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  19. Good article. I agree with you about not getting too technical. A lot of the minute issues involving food processing wouldn't have existed when the Torah was given, so in context, I don't think it matters much.

    I know there is biblical precedent for a ruling body, but it will be extremely difficult to pull off without intervention from Messiah himself. Followers of Messiah are often (if not mostly) coming to this faith by rejecting the authority of their Christian leaders or the Orthodox rabbis. I wouldn't call it rebellious mindset... maybe just skepticism of human authority after being subjected to lies for so long. At least in Acts, the ruling body was largely comprised of members who knew Yeshua personally.

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  20. Certainly not all of the Pharisees' rulings were bad, and I was careful not to make such a broad statement.

    Instead, there were certain rulings that Messiah rejected. It's helpful to acknowledge this and let it influence our thinking about religious rulings.

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  21. Any set of religious rulings is going to be imperfect because humanity is imperfect. For that matter, our general theologies and interpretations of the Bible are just as imperfect. When Paul wrote that what we see now is "through a glass darkly" (1 Corinthians 13:12), he wasn't kidding. That's why we don't always get things right. It's not a Jewish thing and it's not something we just get to hang around the necks of the Talmudic sages...it's part of what it is to be human and to try to interact with God.

    We're struggling in the dark, seeking that spark out there somewhere that will guide us home. We are all the same in this. We chart our course through the abyss as best we can, knowing that our decisions aren't always the most direct route. But we need a context and something to hang onto. That's why I don't dismiss the Sages or their judgments. They're doing the best they can to be what they believe God wants them, and the Jewish people to be. We are doing the same.

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  22. I don't eat Jell-O because I can still use my teeth pretty well. Marshmallows I can do with out as well.

    On a more related topic, my stepfather's mother is going to have triple bi-pass surgery on Jan 05. She will also have her two heart valves replaced with pig valves.

    I know that some people in the Messianic movement would just assume die than have pig valves put in their hearts. But, Grandma is not a Believer, and at 84 this is as good a time as any to see her come to know the Lord. This is about keeping someone alive just long enough...

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  23. I will keep her before the Father in prayer.

    And let me be the first to say that any person who objects to using pig parts to save a human life is practicing true legalism, has no grace, has completely missed Yeshua's statements about Torah and life, and doesn't understand the weightier matters of the Torah. In fewer words, a religious butt-head.

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  24. If Messianic "Judaism" is authentic, why is it that 2,000+ years after the founding of your religion, you still are trying to brainstorm about basic practices of your faith? (For example, what you can and can't eat, what one can and can't do on the Sabbath, how to celebrate holidays, who you can and can't marry...)Your problem is that you do not accept the oral Torah given at Sinai which tells us exactly how to live a Torah lifestyle. The reason you all have no idea what you are doing is that you only have the written Torah. You can't follow the written Torah apart from the oral Torah. Only the Jews who hold onto the mesorah from Mt. Sinai (Orthodox Jews) practice the lifestyle that Hashem laid out for the people of Israel. As sincere and well-meaning as many of you are...you just have no idea what you are doing. You try to take Christianity and repackage it and pass it off as Judaism. You are peddling a lie.

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  25. Shabbos Queen,

    Read the post, particularly the part about halachically-informed Torah observance.

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  26. On a more related topic, my stepfather's mother is going to have triple bi-pass surgery on Jan 05. She will also have her two heart valves replaced with pig valves.

    I pray that her surgery is a success. I also understand that almost any mitzvot may be broken in order to save a life. In other words, if you were stranded on a desert island and the only food available were wild boar, shrimp, and octopus, you could eat them in order to survive without incurring the penalty for violating kashrut. According to halachah, no Jew would be expected to die in order to avoid pig valves being placed in their hearts. There's no sin in this.

    I must say at this point that as a non-Jew who voluntarily takes on board a "kosher-style" diet, if I were in such a circumstance, there is no violation for eating wild pig since I am not prohibited from eating non-Leviticus 11 foods. It's a choice of conscious, not a response to the mitzvot. JMHO, of course.

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  27. @ShabbosQueen,

    The Messianic Judaism world largely does use the Talmud as a guide for Torah observance. That's why I said halachically-informed Torah observance.

    >> "Only the Jews who hold onto the mesorah from Mt. Sinai (Orthodox Jews) practice the lifestyle that Hashem laid out for the people of Israel."

    Only Orthodox Jews have it right, because they have the Oral Torah from Mt. Sinai, you say.

    First, that view is superficially excluding millions of non-Orthodox Jews who love HaShem. (Even, gasp, Messianic Jews.)

    Another problem with this thinking is it amplifies human knowledge and wisdom to the level of Scripture. It makes men a kind of god -- "You can't interpret HaShem's word unless you have [religious group X]'s interpretation of that word.

    An additional problem still is the rigid and idealistic view that the Talmud came entirely from Mt. Sinai. Just to think, thousands of years before Rabbi Akiva lived, Jewish students knew that one day Rabbi Akiva, Rabbi Tarfon and the others would have their famous walk on the Temple Mount, and they knew what Rabbi Akiva would say before he actually said it!

    It's kind of silly.

    It's called the Oral Law Maximalist view, and it's purely uninformed fundamentalism. The Oral Torah did not come from Mt. Sinai. Mostly, it was developed by sages over millenia.

    It may be useful as a guide and point of reference, but certainly not elevated to the level of HaShem's own word.

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  28. Disclaimer: James comment about kosher diets as mandatory for Jesus' Jewish followers, but voluntary for Jesus' gentile followers, is a controversial idea in the Messianic world. It's the idea behind the Divine Invitation theology (FFOZ) and the Bilateral Ecclesiology (Hashivenu) theology.

    I don't subscribe to that particular line of thinking, though it is currently in-vogue in the Messianic world, particularly in the Messianic Judaism branch.

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  29. I claim no opinions but my own, Judah. I'm not making decisions for anyone else. I do want to make one little correction though. I talked to Boaz some months ago about "Divine Invitation" and he said he never meant it to become a "theology". I think it's just what it sounds like. If a non-Jew feels as if he or she would like to adopt some of the Mosaic mitzvot, they are "invited" to do so. The term "Divine Invitation" makes it seem as if God is doing the inviting, but I'm not sure I can find that anywhere in the Bible. I prefer to personally think of it as an invitation to explore, though it might be more FFOZ doing the inviting than the Almighty.

    I believe that Bilateral Ecclesiology (BE) wouldn't specifically support Gentiles being "invited" to perform any of the Mosaic mitzvot. As I recall from Kinzer's original book, Gentile Christians were "invited" to stay in their (our) churches, so Kinzer's viewpoint on this practice is more severe than my own.

    Hope that clears what I said up just a bit.

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  30. Right. First Fruits of Zion's Divine Invitation theology states that God invited gentiles to keep Torah, while mandating it for Jews.

    Hashivenu's Bilateral Ecclesiology theology states that God has two distinct ekklesias, or churches, the Church and the Messianic Jews. Gentiles have no obligation or invitation to keep the Torah, and should remain in the church, while Jews should practice Judaism outside of the gentile church. The Bilateral Ecclesiology stance on gentiles is almost indistinguishable from that of traditional Christianity's.

    Your position, James, is between those two stances. Even so, you're view is most closely aligned with the Divine Invitation stance, I suspect.

    You know, I've been meaning to write a post about these different theologies in the broad Messianic movement. I think it would be helpful to a lot of folks who are new to this.

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  31. The vast majority of the Jewish world today is not faithful to Torah. The Orthodox Jews are the only ones who live the lifestyle that was laid out by the Creator. Is this view exclusionary? Yes. Sadly, the vast majority of the Jewish people have excluded themselves by not choosing to live by the Torah. It might be helpful to read up on the history of the Reform movement and how they broke away from Judaism. The Conservative movement followed soon thereafter. Reform and Conservative decided that they could be Jews apart from the Torah. Because Hashem’s laws are eternal and cannot be changed, those break-off movements are not authentic Judaism. The Messianic movement, like Reform and Conservative, is not Judaism.
    About about your second point… Hashem gave the Jewish leaders the authority to make rulings. We are not allowed to turn away from the rulings of the Sages. Here is Deuteronomy 17:8-13:

    8If there arise a matter too hard for thee in judgment, between blood and blood, between plea and plea, and between stroke and stroke, being matters of controversy within thy gates: then shalt thou arise, and get thee up into the place which the LORD thy God shall choose;
    9And thou shalt come unto the priests the Levites, and unto the judge that shall be in those days, and enquire; and they shall shew thee the sentence of judgment:
    10And thou shalt do according to the sentence, which they of that place which the LORD shall choose shall shew thee; and thou shalt observe to do according to all that they inform thee:
    11According to the sentence of the law which they shall teach thee, and according to the judgment which they shall tell thee, thou shalt do: thou shalt not decline from the sentence which they shall shew thee, to the right hand, nor to the left.
    12And the man that will do presumptuously, and will not hearken unto the priest that standeth to minister there before the LORD thy God, or unto the judge, even that man shall die: and thou shalt put away the evil from Israel.
    13And all the people shall hear, and fear, and do no more presumptuously.



    The Talmud is a written discussion about how we derive the oral Torah from the written Torah. The main body of the Oral Torah was give at Mt. Sinai, from the voice of the Almighty. Don’t confuse the Talmud with the Oral Torah or Rabbinic law with the Oral Torah. The rabbinic laws are safeguards around the Biblical commandments. The laws that come from the Oral Torah are just as much the commandment of Hashem as the written. The entire Torah was originally oral! Hashem spoke them. The Talmud contains a record of discussions about how to follow halacha which were written down much later.

    However these laws are for the people of Israel. Since you and your family are not Jews this doesn't apply to you.

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  32. I understand at a deep level what you guys believe, and how Orthodox Judaism is the only valid expression of faith.

    I understand it, and I reject it.

    Take care.

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  33. I understand at a deep level what you guys believe, and how Orthodox Judaism is the only valid expression of faith.


    Did I ever say that, Judah? Did I ever say that I thought you should change? Did I ever say I had all the answers?

    I really like how Rabbi Daniel Gordis talks about Judaism in his book God Was Not in the Fire

    The Jewish tradition recognizes that to be a human being is to perpetually ask questions, to wonder without ever fully satisfying our wondering. Frustrating though many of our deepest and most personal questions are, we cannot put them aside, no matter how hard we try. Judaism teaches, in fact, that we ought to not even try. Judaism tradition suggests that to be human is to wonder and to ask, to dream and to cry. To be human means resigning ourselves to the inevitability of not completely understanding the world in which we live, but at the same time committing ourselves to persisting in trying. Judaism does not demand that we have the answers; instead, it validates our struggles and encourages us never to give up.

    It's not the answers that drive us, it's the questions. We don't have enough answers to be so arrogant as to dictate how others should live. We only have enough questions to continue seeking the purpose of our own lives.

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  34. James, that comment was direct at Shabbos Queen, not you. :-)

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  35. @ Shabbos Queen...

    For the record Judah is Jewish. And we (Messianic's) are not trying to be a part of, nor a branch of Judaism! Yeshua has done more than every other Rabbi in history combined! It's a shame your Rabbis dont try to fulfill Isaiah 2:2, 11:10-12, or Isa 42:6

    "I, Adonai, called you righteously, I took hold of you by the hand, I shaped you and made you a covenant for the people, to be a light for the Goyim,

    Judaism puts stumbling blocks in front of Gentiles seeking out Elohim!

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  36. Sorry. The "you guys" part threw me. Anyway, it's too late. I wrote another blog on "struggling" and posted it a few minutes ago. Don't worry..it's short. ;-)

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  37. Judah,

    Great post. Great discussion also.

    My two cents? There is no way Halacha and Minhagim can be central, it has to be local. Hence the different branches in Judaism, where reform, or constructionist judaism did not agrre with Orthodox halacha.

    Relying on esoteric teaching outside of Scriptures only leads to Kaballah, and Mormonism.

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  38. We eventually need a true Natzraim council like Ya'acov (James) and the elders ruling on these type of things. I do not think we are quite ready for this yet as divided as we are today. My hope and prayer is that it will all take place soon! Great points in your article. On the smaller matters of Torah, I think it is best to follow the Ruach's leading on the inside, when we do not have concrete answers.

    C.F.

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  39. >> "Relying on esoteric teaching outside of Scriptures only leads to Kaballah, and Mormonism."

    Ha! Great quote.

    @C.F: Agreed, we are too divided for this today.

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  40. I am loving this post so much. I find I appreciate more and more honest discussion that sees all the issues involved instead of glossing over problems to force a point.

    I'm going to be pointing people to this post for a while.

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  41. Just for the record....In the early stages of the game of football, a pig's bladder was inflated and used as the ball. By comparison, today's football is an inflated rubber bladder enclosed in a pebble-grained leather cover or cowhide. This material is used because it is both durable and easily tanned.

    C.F.

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  42. @Jonathan: That makes me smile. Glad the frank, honest approach rings true with others besides myself.

    @C.F.: Yeah, if you check the above comments, you'll see Sydney caught my error; pigskins aren't really made of pigskins anymore! Ha.

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  43. Much ado...

    The letter 'K' is not a hescher, it is just a letter of the alphabet which any company can put on any product - it is a ~self-(non)certification.~ (So Kraft paid some renegade rabbis to give *their* approval -- so what?)

    Even back in the good old days when a pigskin was swine, what's the issue? How would it be different than Yochanan the Immerser wearing a camel garment? (And I don't see where he wore 'Kosher' for the Festivals.)

    The gelatin does not come from the flesh of the animal. So what? The unclean animal is unclean (as food) [ref Leviticus 11:7-8]. That is, people don't eat footballs, or the Tabernacle... or camel hair clothing.

    But more importantly, in areas of uncertainty, why choose to (potentially) err on the side of ~risk~ rather than erring on the side of *caution*? Why be cautious rather than throwing caution to the wind? Matthew 7:23!

    The NT halacha is summarized by: do not even appear to transgress the Torah [1 Thessalonians 5:22]. A believer will not provoke a Jew to jealousy by eating Jell-O or marshmallow treif any more than telling him he should convert to Christianity and eat ham for Easter and shellfish all year long. Goy veh!

    "The single most organized attempt for a body of trusted leaders from our community was that of the Catholic Church...." Not so. The Pope-ish church is the result of Constantine's co-opting the faith of the Messiah & Apostles. Saying the Catholic church fathers are valid guides makes as much sense as accepting sci-fi writer L Ron Hubbard as a trusted theologian!

    "The issue, rather, is whether Messiah's disciples ought to have a body of faithful, respected people who can rule on disputes like this." Now you're talking! I think I am iterating  C.F.'s comment -- where are you going to find Apostle-quality believers [e.g. Acts 5:12-16; 16:16-18; 19:11-12: 20:7-12] to form such a ruling body?! "If such an organization ruled against Jell-O, would I trust their rulings? If such an organization ruled in favor of Jell-O, would all of us follow?" The answer depends on the quality of the assembly -- Apostle-quality would be followed by believers; apostate-quality would not be followed by believers.

    A point for clarification. "GOD said, 'don't eat fat.'" Is the context of that directive ALL fat; or certain, specific, fat (as used in the sacrifices)?

    BTW, the term "Messianic Gentiles" is an oxymoron. A true and faithful believer (who *was* gentile) becomes One New Man with his believing Jewish brothers, so he is a former gentile. But Messianic-former-gentile is an awkward expression. And I don't know of any former gentile believers who will eat non-Kosher gelatin or marshmallows. How curious to write: "Jell-O and marshmellows will remain on their menus and no thought will be given to them." Are they living on a nuclear waste dump?

    Vis-à-vis pig valve replacements. We are Instructed not to mix cotton and linen, we are not to mix seeds, nor cross-breed animals... trans-species replacement parts? We are to emulate godly characteristics; not to try to be or act as the Elohim of Israel by Creating hybrid life forms (imho). ??true legalism, has no grace, has completely missed Yeshua's statements about Torah and life, and doesn't understand the weightier matters of the Torah?? Just call me a "religious butt-head."

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  44. I find myself agreeing with the last comment by Anonymus (aka "rbh").

    While I see on the internet, some groups developing their own beit din, and other communities establishing their particular halakha I don't see a central body of Messianic Sanhedrin in the near future. Perhaps until Messiah comes...

    It pretty much boils down to the local community developing their own consensus, not much different than that of other Judaisms with direction from their rabbi. However, everyone is personably accountable to G-d's instruction, and, unfortunately, we all have our various interpretations.

    As for gelatin, the Asian people (my wife being one) use agar agar (from seaweed) for their gelatin, though not exclusively. I've tried convincing some of the food manufacturing industry to switch to that which would appeal to those who follow a kosher diet (with or without a heksher) and vegetarians/vegans. Perhaps I'm a lone voice to them...

    My family avoids the vast majority of marshmellows and get only the Manischewitz brand (we know there are others) when it's on sale (very expensive, but makes the treat that much sweeter 'cause we don't get it that often).

    Oh, Judah, I find it amusing that I sometimes get an advert at the bottom of your posts from JewsforJudaism.ca (me being in Canada). Not that I haven't visited their site, and I know that you may not be able to control the ad features, but seeing it appear here... well, it makes me smile. : ) <--- see!

    Anyway, that's my Canadian 2 cents worth (currently worth 1.9588 US cents).

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  45. Good post and discussion!
    I'm confused by something, though...help me out.

    My family (we're messianic gentiles, if I had to label ourselves) just celebrated Hanukkah. We occasionally use FFOZ's "Light in the Darkness" book as a guide through some of the 8 days. Well, what we have come to appreciate about this festival is its emphasis on a relatively small group of G-d's people refusing to assimilate into the Greek culture at the time...even if that meant losing their lives over something like eating a pork chop...or even PRETENDING to eat an unclean item, for that matter. This has generally become one of the main meanings of hanukkah for us(not all about keeping kosher part, but the larger message of staying true to HaShem's Word)...and it seems that the most powerful moments retold about "taking a stand" had to do with circumcision and eating pork. Okay, the very simple mommy in me then turns to my girls and says, "See how devoted and faithful these people were? We can learn from them, no? Would we be as brave?" And then I come across comments about "religious buttheadedness" (always a fancy turn of phrase, by my beloved Judah) :)
    and this from James, who nicely condenses the talmudic summary:
    "I also understand that almost any mitzvot may be broken in order to save a life. In other words, if you were stranded on a desert island and the only food available were wild boar, shrimp, and octopus, you could eat them in order to survive without incurring the penalty for violating kashrut. According to halachah, no Jew would be expected to die in order to avoid pig valves being placed in their hearts. There's no sin in this."
    You'll probably say that I am trying to associate apples and oranges here...but don't people who would object to a pig's valve, maybe have the same basis for objection as some of those who took a stand against Antiochus' rulings about eating unclean? It seems those people held firm, despite clear threat of death for themselves and/or their loved ones. *shiver*

    Maybe I'm too quick to give "super religious" folks the benefit of the doubt (after all, we have been called legalists/fallen from grace/etc simply because we want to observe the sabbath, feast days, and keep a biblical diet)--but I guess I'd just be slow to say that someone is practicing
    "true legalism, has no grace, has completely missed Yeshua's statements about Torah and life, and doesn't understand the weightier matters of the Torah. In fewer words, a religious butt-head."

    I am NOT saying that I would see pig valves as sin, I'm just trying to see the similarities and differences between both groups of people who seem to be holding to what the Torah says--despite the loss of their life. In the Hanukkah story, these people are venerated...in this thread, they are maligned. Help. (Be gentle.) :)

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  46. You'll probably say that I am trying to associate apples and oranges here...but don't people who would object to a pig's valve, maybe have the same basis for objection as some of those who took a stand against Antiochus' rulings about eating unclean? It seems those people held firm, despite clear threat of death for themselves and/or their loved ones. *shiver*

    Good morning, Allison. :-)

    Actually, I meant that the Sages determined that life has such a high value because it was given to us by the Creator, that a Jew (I'm saying this because we know that Jews are obligated to the Torah commandments) may eat treif (non-kosher foods) if they are starving to death. Almost, but not quite, any commandment may be broken if the alternative is death. That's all I was trying to say. Some commandments, such as blaspheming the Name of God, may not be violated, even at the cost of a person's life. This is why, for example, many Jews were executed while singing the Shema rather than be forced to convert to Christianity, which they saw as a religion that worshiped a false god.

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  47. Here's the difference in the Antiochus/Chanukkah bit:

    During Antiochus's reign, he was forcibly trying to assimilate the Jews into Syrian-Greco culture and religion.

    In our time, pig valves can be used to save a single human life.

    During the Maccabee story, the whole point was to remove Torah from the Jewish people and make them worship pagan gods and assimilate into the pagan culture. Getting a heart valve transplant has zero to do with assimilation, and everything to do with saving a human life.

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  48. I must add, to the Anonymous commenter who used the "no pig heart valve transplants, even if it saves a life!" argument, I find that to be one of the most graceless, shortsighted statements I've ever encountered in my 8 years of blogging and in my 20 years in the Messianic movement.

    I can't believe I have to say this:
    Saving a life > observing prohibitions against mixing seeds.

    :facepalm:

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  49. I can't believe I have to say this:
    Saving a life > observing prohibitions against mixing seeds.

    :facepalm:


    Agreed!

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  50. @Marko,

    Thanks for the heads up!

    Two important points about the ads:

    -This month alone, the ads on this blog have generated $30.00 thanks you fine blog readers visiting the blog (and even occasionally, clicking the ads). 100% of that money goes to a Messianic charity of my choosing.

    -I've never seeing a Jews for Judaism (anti-Messianic organization) ad on this blog, perhaps because I'm in the US. But thanks for the heads up. Even though there is some sweet irony in anti-Messiah folks indirectly donating money to Messianic charities, I just modified my ad settings to block them. Let me know if you see any other ads that shouldn't be there.

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  51. People might read ourrabbis.org for one MJ Halakhic body setting some standards. The MJRC does not claim to be authoritative for non-members, but we publish our standards because many find them helpful. And they are not at an Orthodox level of stringency but they do commend Orthodox levels of observance for those who choose them.

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  52. Wow! What a good discussion.

    I'm at work so I can't go into details, but I thought I would throw out the conclusion I've come to after struggling with this issue myself.

    As I understand it, once gelatin has been extracted from the animal, it isn't possible to be sure what kind of animal it came from. It is a chemical. As a thought experiment, suppose you distilled water from pigs blood. Would that water be kosher? If you say "no" consider the fact that every glass of water you drink statistically has many molecules of water that once were part of unclean animals. Should we therefor stop drinking water?

    I'm certainly willing to be convinced otherwise, but for now, the fact that a substance is not identifiable as a product of an unclean animal makes me willing to not worry about it.

    More later...

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  53. People might read ourrabbis.org for one MJ Halakhic body setting some standards. The MJRC does not claim to be authoritative for non-members, but we publish our standards because many find them helpful. And they are not at an Orthodox level of stringency but they do commend Orthodox levels of observance for those who choose them.

    @Derek: That works for an organization like the MJRC where congregations that operate under their umbrella agree to come under their authority, but so many congregations, small home fellowships, and family gatherings that could be loosely referred to as "Messianic Judaism, all maintain an individual set of standards based on the teachings fo their leader or some other resource the group or family has decided is authoritative. I know many of them say that their only authority is the Bible, but in fact, we all interpret the Bible to mean quite a few different things.

    I don't have a lot of hope that the "Messianic" community will be able to establish a central authority to make halahalic rulings because of the level of fragmentation that exists within the "Messianic" world. Perhaps the only hope we have in seeing eye to eye is when the Messiah returns and straightens us all out.

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  54. If nobody else is going to postulate this, then I will.

    James (who I have come to respect after a couple of years following his blogs since his beginning 'Search for the Light on the Path') said:

    "...the Sages determined that life has such a high value because it was given to us by the Creator, that a Jew (I'm saying this because we know that Jews are obligated to the Torah commandments) may eat treif (non-kosher foods) if they are starving to death. Almost, but not quite, any commandment may be broken if the alternative is death."

    How far does that go - cannibalism? Evidently, in the extreme circumstance of a war or siege, it did (2 Kings 6:24+, Lamentations 4:10) and was forewarned of by G-d because of (extreme?) disobedience (Deut 28:53-57 & Jer 19:7-9). Another person (mostly a child) gives up their life (willingly or not) for another to live. Would the Sages justify it?

    (Has anyone seen the 1993 movie 'Alive' with Ethan Hawke?)

    Crazy. Silly. Absurd! I know, but just putting it out there...

    Personally, if it came to the point where I need a pig's valve to keep me alive, I don't think I would take it. I could view it as something not 'consumed' and allow it to extend my life. On the other hand, maybe my time has come and aside from asking G-d to forgive me of anything that may have caused the cutting off to extend my life, maybe I need to accept His judgement. Honestly, I don't want to be in such a situation and have to make such a decision. I don't judge others who make their decision in either direction. May G-d be gracious and extend His mercy to all who ask...

    Hey, Judah - the more I click on the ads, the more you get for your charity? Be happy to help! Click... click! click! click! click! click! ; )

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  55. Hi Marko,

    How far does that go - cannibalism?

    Answer:

    There are three sins for which one is always required to die rather than transgress:

    idolatry

    sexual misconduct such as incest, adultery, (see sexual immorality prohibited by Torah)

    murder


    Source: Wikipedia

    Marko, these questions have been asked and answered long before you and I were born. Except for idolatry, sexual sin, and murder, if a Jew's life is at stake, he or she may violate the other mitzvot.

    I separate self-defense from murder in that, if someone comes into your house and tries to knife you, you are OK to defend yourself, even if in self-defense, the intruder dies.

    You can make the choice to refuse a pig heart valve and die but there's nothing in the Torah and Talmud to back up your decision, assuming you take any value in Talmudic rulings. If you don't, then you are saying that you're using your own judgment in this matter independent of any other sources except your personal understanding of the Bible.

    This is what I meant before about the difference between Christians and even what Derek Leman would call "Judaically aware" Gentiles and people who are ethnically, culturally, and religiously Jewish. It's one of the things that's convincing me that Gentile-driven congregations may not be accurate in calling themselves a (Messianic) "Judaism".

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  56. James,

    I'm not aware of Hebrew Roots congregations that call themselves a Judaism. Messianic, yes, but that term is not exclusive to MJ no matter how much Leman whines. ;-)

    Messianic Judaism and the Hebrew Roots movement have two very different goals.

    The former's goal is to build a religion, a flavor of Judaism that follows Jesus.

    The latter's goal is to further the Reformation and bring all God's people into holiness through the commandments.

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  57. I must caution to not treat the Jewish sages as an ultimate authority. They have disqualified themselves by rejecting Messiah. The Church authorities have disqualified themselves by rejecting Torah.

    This leaves us with no human authority that we can depend on. We can go to them for wisdom and insight but we can't blindly follow them.

    Perhaps this is The Plan. We have scripture, and the Holy Spirit to guide us. We must become mature in the Faith to be sure that we interpret the Bible correctly and the voices in our head are really the Holy Spirit rather than bad lasagna.

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  58. So if the goal of Hebrew Roots "is to further the Reformation and bring all God's people into holiness through the commandments," how are they going to be able to understand and interpret those commandments without Judaism? They have no context. And if they bring Judaism in to add the context, then things get muddier than the bottom of the mighty Mississippi.

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  59. Perhaps this is The Plan. We have scripture, and the Holy Spirit to guide us. We must become mature in the Faith to be sure that we interpret the Bible correctly and the voices in our head are really the Holy Spirit rather than bad lasagna.

    That's the trick, isn't it David. Besides, I've yet to meet a religious person that didn't refer to some human agency as an authority, whether it was a Rabbi, a Pastor, the author of some religious commentary, or the "creator" of the denomination of their church. We all have an interface between our humanity and God's Divine spirituality. We all want it to be Jesus, but in fact, just look at your book shelf, pick out your favorite religious books and look at who wrote them. We may not revere the people who write our commentaries and who interpret the Bible, but we tend to trust them.

    We also sometimes trust bad lasagna.

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  60. Satan and his minions (e.g. persecutors of the faithful) have an agenda -- anti-Torah, anti-Sabbath, anti-circumcision... anti-Elohim of Israel. And modern medicine which started out with altruistic goals has been going down the slippery (secular) slope:
    • human transplants
    • cadaver transplants
    • $6 Million Dollar Man artificial implants
    • beyond Frankenstein Monster with cross-species transplants

     marko said:
    "...maybe my time has come and aside from asking G-d to forgive me of anything that may have caused the cutting off to extend my life, maybe I need to accept His judgement."

    James responded:
    "...nothing in the Torah and Talmud to back up your decision, assuming you take any value in Talmudic rulings."

    But the Bible does support marko's comment:
    The True Word says that man can't add to his life: "And who of you, being anxious, is able to add to his age one cubit?" [Matthew 6:27 Young's Literal Translation]

    If a swine's valve is to extend one's life rather than relying on the healing/timing of the  Master Physician, is that tantamount to (attempting to) exchanging one's eternal Life for more temporal life?! [see Matthew 16:26]

    Self preservation at the expense of one's soul is not only selfish, it is not being separated from the world [see 2 Corinthians 6:17].

    Don't compromise the faith (if we learn anything from Chanukah and the Maccabees) [see 1 Corinthians 15:58].

    Learn from Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to live or die by the will of the Eternal One [see Daniel 3:16-17] who Saves, Redeems, and offers the free gift of Salvation.

    Beware the bad lasagna and beware the bad gefilte fish!

    Just call me RBH Anonymous.

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  61. Why this implied fear of death? The day of one's death is better than the day of one's birth [ref Ecclesiastes 7:1].

    RBH Anonymous

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  62. The verse about man not being able to add days to his life does NOT prohibit trying to stay alive.

    Do you get out of the way of a car flying down the highway? That's trying to stay alive.

    Do you get treatment or take medicine for illness? That's trying to stay alive.

    Getting a pig valve transplant is also trying to stay alive.

    I can't believe some of you guys are arguing against this. You guys are cancelling the major parts of the law -- life, justice, mercy, for instance -- in order to carry out minutia about mixing seeds. You're missing the point of the Torah.

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  63. @ Dave Messer

    Food sacrificed to idols is Apostolicly approved -- if that fact is unknown; but once it becomes known, it becomes transgression [ref Acts 15:20, 29; 21:25; 1 Corinthians 8:10; 10:28; Revelation 2:14, 20]. "What do you know and when did you know it?" (à la Watergate)

    Maybe the critical distinction of "just a chemical" is what is known; i.e. if one knows it was derived directly from an unclean animal, it is unclean to eat and should be avoided.

    RBH Anonymous

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  64. Even the halacha says that saving a life puts away the Shabbat.

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  65. We need a Messianic Bet Din (House of Judges) or Sanhedrin... until we have that we will have fractions like listed here http://www.derekleman.com/musings/2011/10/24/types-of-messianic-congregations/

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  66. The verse about man not being able to add days to his life does NOT prohibit trying to stay alive.

    Do you get out of the way of a car flying down the highway? That's trying to stay alive.

    Do you get treatment or take medicine for illness? That's trying to stay alive.


    Agreed, Judah. It's impossible to take everything in the Bible as a literal statement, particularly as it is translated into English, without considering the deeper implications. This is why we have authorities who we rely upon to help us understand the intent of the Bible writers. Our understanding is still imperfect, but that's why we study all of our lives.

    Anonymous RBH advocates for an extremist position that has resulted in "faith-healing" parents refusing to take their child to a doctor for treatment of an infection resulting in their child becoming seriously ill or even dying. These cases come to the public light occasionally when the parents end up being prosecuted because they believed prayer and only prayer was required to cure illness and injury. No doctors required.

    This is another reason I left the "Messianic" community. Significant portions of what we call "Messianics" tend to atract people with belief systems that have little similarity to accepted Biblical interpretation. Anger, accusation, dogma set in cement, and absolute certainty in the individual's understanding of the Word has replaced compassion, love, charity, generosity, and grace. Hasn't anyone read Matthew 25:31-46? The Master teaches us pointblank what we should do and what should be most important in our lives.

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  67. Before I get lumped in with the extremist/"faith healing" crowd, let me clarify my opinion a bit more.

    I don't believe that taking something like a pig's valve to stay alive makes me some sort of a hybrid mutation any more than one who takes a mechanical heart or a prosthetic make them a Borg yearning to become part of a Collective. Having wooden teeth doesn't make my body pass on a genetic code to subsequent children for them become an Ent.

    I have in the past, hung out with Pentecostals and others of the faith healing ilk, and while there are some very nice people, I can't align myself with some of their views. I've seen such declarations of being "healed" and they aren't - they progress to a loss of faith, or worse, death. I know of some who have gone to Mexico for treatments to beat cancer because someone there extended some hope of a cure in the name of science, but end up no better and dying anyway.

    I do value life. I will and have gone out and purchased medicine on a Shabbat for my family when in need. As I said before, I won't judge anyone who elects to take, or not to take, something that they think will or will not help them live longer or is a sin to them. I believe I have a choice and death is not the end of life for me, and it's certainly not an issue of martyrdom.

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  68. Hello, Judah. I've enjoyed reading your comments on Derek Leman's site. And I just perused your blog and found some neat items. I just got a pdf copy of One Law for All that I'm looking forward to reading. It would be really nice to get your email address at some point so I can ask you some questions. Also, I'm getting close to finishing a One Law paper of my own that I started back in law school. Maybe you'd like to read it when it's finished?

    Looking forward to talking with you,



    Peter

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  69. Judah, this is incredibly disheartening to see this as a discussion in the Messianic world, I realize you posted this to bring awareness to the fact that we need a binding Sanhedrin, but I believe this topic (You eating Jello) to be a poor example to the body abroad. This week I read two Messianic posts... The first a post on why it's ok to celebrate christ-mass for the sake of Yeshua's birth being proclaimed even though we know He was born on Sukkot = Barf, sick to my stomach, disheartening, we should be far beyond this as believers in Meshiac! And now you, encouraging people to accept a sham of a kosher ruling by liberal rabbis. Pork is Pork, we need to focus on things that are edifying for the body instead of telling people it's ok to follow the crowed on the status quo. This makes me sick in my heart to even see this coming from you, non the less to take it public. Focus on His upward call, lets stop being brought down to the enemy's level. We need to have the zeal of Yeshua~John 2:16, The Maccabees~1Mac2:20, and Pincas~Num 25:11. You need to be "Judah the SLEDGEHAMMER" not "Judah the TACKHAMMER"! As believers in Meshiac we are to be a chosen people, a Holy nation, lets start acting like it and encouraging it! Shalom - Jesse

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  70. Eph 4:29 Let no harmful language come from your mouth, only good words that are helpful in meeting the need, words that will benefit those who hear them.
    Eph 4:30 Don't cause grief to God's Ruach HaKodesh, for he has stamped you as his property until the day of final redemption.

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  71. Draft for Judah's blog

    Come on guys! I never promoted playing in traffic or playing chicken with a train. I am a believer (believe it or not) -- I have not crossed-out or cut-out Matthew 9:12; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:31.

    The sick person needs a physician. Yeshua did not say that a person dying from a heart disease needs a ghoul who goes beyond Dr Frankenstein to perform an unclean inter-species transplant.

    The RBH context was:

    • Leviticus 11:7-8:
    7 and the swine, though it divides the hoof, having cloven hooves, yet does not chew the cud, is unclean to you. 8 Their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch. They are unclean to you.

    • Leviticus 11:26 The carcass of any animal which divides the foot, but is not cloven-hoofed or does not chew the cud, is unclean to you. Everyone who touches it shall be unclean.

    • Deuteronomy 14:8
    Also the swine is unclean for you, because it has cloven hooves, yet does not chew the cud; you shall not eat their flesh or touch their dead carcasses.

    • 2 Corinthians 6:17 Therefore “ Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.”

    I suppose it is analogous to it being OK for a heathen to dine on the delicacies of the heathen; the heathen may as well become one with the swine with a valve transplant. I'm not telling you naysayers you can't have the surgery if you agree with a surgeon it would prolong your life. I'm explaining the issues so you make an informed decision for yourself because after resurrection it is too late to repent or say "How was I supposed to know what 'unclean' means or what 'don't touch it' means?"

    Anyway, I would not want to be one who causes a child of the Elohim of Israel to stumble [ref Matthew 18:6; Mark 9:42; Luke 17:2]. (But it is more exciting to live risky rather than on the side of caution, isn't it.)

    Shalom, RBH Anon

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  72. @Jesse,

    I sincerely think it's not breaking the Torah to eat Jell-O. :-)

    If I'm wrong, then isn't is also wrong to be eating at restaurants?

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  73. Judah, you could try searching Shamash's Kosher Database for an appropriate restaurant. ;-)

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  74. No, unless you knowingly choose to eat swine at the restaurant... The same thing with yogurt Judah... Yoplat uses Kosher Gelatin in their Yogurt, most others do not use Kosher Gelatin, thus by using swine gelatin in their yogurt, it is not Kosher, the only reason Jell-O is more conflicting is because they paid off some liberal Rabbis to put a K on the box, despite it not being Kosher by Gods standards at all!

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  75. >> "unless you knowingly choose to eat swine at the restaurant"

    If I was knowingly eating swine via Jell-O, I wouldn't eat it. I'm convinced that it's not eating swine.

    If anything, this is one of those technicalities: the Scripture is silent about chemical extracts like gelatin.

    It's just like the issue about eating pizza baked in an oven built with bricks laid on sabbath. You can argue about them, but ultimately the Scriptures are silent about them.

    For technicalities like these, you can definitely argue from the Scripture against them.

    "God said no pork, and gelatine can be derived from pork in a chemical way, but it's still pork!"

    ...and...

    "God commanded rest on the sabbath, and if your oven used a brick laid on the sabbath, it's desecrating God's holiest day!"

    But I think there's a danger is getting ultra-technical about the commandments. Some of the abuses in the Orthodox Judaism world should teach us as much. Ultimately, the bigger issues are justice, mercy, good living. I'd rather attempt those in real life than spend hours on a blog arguing about mitzvot minutia.

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  76. Anon RBH, you said,

    >> "Yeshua did not say that a person dying from a heart disease needs a ghoul who goes beyond Dr Frankenstein to perform an unclean inter-species transplant."

    We're talking about saving a person's life via a pig valve heart implant. Foolish RBH, what's more important, the uncleaness from a pig valve implant, or the person's life?

    You're missing the weightier matters of the Torah.

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  77. @James,

    Do you eat at "normal" restaurants? I'm curious, since you firmly state that Torah observance must be halachically-informed via the Jewish world, as opposed to sola scriptura from the Christian world.

    Do you practice what you preach? Or do you eat at any old restaurant?

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  78. BTW, when a product doesn't have a reliable hechsher and lists "kosher gelatin" in the ingredients, it comes from non-kosherly slaughtered cows.

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  79. Ooooo. Tough one, Judah. ;-) You seem to be missing how Jews actually live. It's not always either be totally Christian or totally Orthodox Jewish, which is what you're suggesting here. As far as eating is concerned, my family and I keep "kosher-style", which is probably most in line with Reform Judaism at this point. Yes we do eat out. No, there are no kosher restaurants in Boise. Also, as my wife is quick to point out to me, I'm not the one in the family who is obligated to keep kosher, she and our children are.

    What I've been saying is that if a person desires to keep some form of kosher, they cannot use sola scriptura as the sole yardstick and believe they are keeping the only form of kosher that exists. There are other standards to consider besides Leviticus 11. Within those standards, Jews all over the world make determinations as to how they will respond to the kosher laws as Jews. When I go into a "food rant", it's usually because a bunch of Goys have gotten together, "studied the Torah" and declared that they know how to keep perfectly kosher by disdaining what those "awful Rabbis" have decided and going their own course instead.

    I'm not applying this to you since you are aware of all the relevant halachah on the matter. You've made decisions on how to respond to what is kosher and so have I, though my participation is voluntary.

    If this means you "won" because I don't live like a Chabadnik, I'm not worried about it.

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  80. A few other points...

    There is no halachic problem with using a pig valve in a human heart. Jews don't eat certain animals, but they obviously can be useful for other reasons.

    Again... messianics like to pick a few commandments here and there while totally ignoring the rest.

    This is why nobody takes messianics seriously. The only Jews that are drawn to a messianic congregation (church) are those that are intermarried and have no jewish educational background.

    You are christians. Don't pretend to be otherwise. We are not so easily fooled.

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  81. Not interested in winning an argument. Clarity over agreement, I always say.

    Now it's clear that you eat kosher-style, rather than, say, glatt kosher.

    I do, too. I eat at restaurants, although I don't eat anything overtly treif, e.g. pork ribs or the like.

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  82. Shabbos queen,

    You say that our not following Jewish halacha is what causes you to "not take us seriously."

    I don't believe you. :-)

    I surmise that even if we kept the most stringent form of kosher standards, and followed the strictest halacha, even more stringent than these guys, you still wouldn't take us seriously.

    Why? Because Yeshua is Messiah. As long as Yeshua is our King, you won't take us seriously. And that is the real issue. Everything else is a smokescreen.

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  83. He is less of an issue than you think.

    Believing a certain person is the messiah isn't a sin. It may be silly, or downright stupid (as in the case of Yoshke), but it isn't a sin. To believe he is divine is another matter (that is idolatry). There have been a host of false moshiachs.

    But when you say that it is ok for Jews to ignore the Torah, which HaShem says is eternal...that is what seperates you from the people of Israel.

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  84. Shabbos Queen,

    I'm glad we can come to some clarity here. It's rare.

    So, as long as Yeshua is Lord, then we've crossed the line; we'd still be outcasts, then, no matter how halachically-stringent we are.

    I realize you don't speak for Judaism as a whole (and be sure to understand, the commenters here do not speak for Messianic Judaism as a whole!). But your view is a prevalent one in the Jewish world: as long as Yeshua is God, the Jewish world won't accept Messianics as anything besides idolatrous Christians.

    I'm glad we could come to that clarification here on this tiny corner of the internet.

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  85. I do, too. I eat at restaurants, although I don't eat anything overtly treif, e.g. pork ribs or the like.

    No worries then, Judah. It was your comment "practice what you preach" that led me to believe there was some sort of "challenge" involved. ;-)

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  86. I'm glad we could cut to the heart of the matter: whether Messiah is divine.

    That's the real issue. I wrote as much several years ago when I made the statement, which I still stand by today, that as Messianic Judaism will never be a legitimate form of Judaism as long as Yeshua is Lord.

    I predicted then, and I still believe it now, that this will lead some Messianics to claim Yeshua was something less than the gospels make him out to be: the divine son of God, the Messiah who takes away the sin of the world. These Messianics will do this in order to gain broader acceptance within the Jewish world. And I predict the folks leading the charge will be Hashivenu types.

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  87.  The Shabbos Queen said..."There is no halachic problem with using a pig valve in a human heart. Jews don't eat certain animals, but they obviously can be useful for other reasons."

    "Again... messianics like to pick a few commandments here and there while totally ignoring the rest."

    Is ~someone~ ignoring the following verses? Or parsing 'touch' to mean only with your own fingers - if a surgeon's fingers puts swine it in your heart, then you haven't touched it? (And one's bodily temple therefore is not defiled?)

    • Leviticus 11:7-8:
    7 and the swine, though it divides the hoof, having cloven hooves, yet does not chew the cud, is unclean to you. 8 Their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch. They are unclean to you.

    • Leviticus 11:26 The carcass of any animal which divides the foot, but is not cloven-hoofed or does not chew the cud, is unclean to you. Everyone who touches it shall be unclean.

    • Deuteronomy 14:8 Also the swine is unclean for you, because it has cloven hooves, yet does not chew the cud; you shall not eat their flesh or touch their dead carcasses.

    At least the first century Apostles (Jewish Messianics) agreed with Torah:

    • 2 Corinthians 6:17 Therefore “ Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.”

    RBH Anon

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  88. If Yeshua is NOT divine, and you worship him, it is idolatry.

    If Yeshua IS divine, and you refuse to worship him, it is blasphemy.

    There is no middle ground. That is clarity.

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  89. Halacha should be local, because practically speaking, if it is central, it becomes a creed. Creeds are for religions that pretend to know men's hearts, not one that is instructed to examine men's fruit.

    However, each community should consider greater Israel in their halacha, so the Sages are a great place to start.

    Just as there is no single halacha for orthodox Judaism (that is a really funny claim, Shabbos Queen), so too people should be at least comfortable going from one community to another.

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  90. David, I thought we were supposed to worship God. Where in scripture does it say to directly worship Jesus (Yeshua) bypassing God the Father entirely?

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  91. Yeshua is worshiped in the Scriptures as God, by his disciples, by the people, and by all of heaven.

    Notice that Yeshua is not worshiped separately from God; in Luke, worshipping of Yeshua and praising God is used interchangeably. In Revelation, not only do you have Yeshua identified as the First and the Last, Beginning and End, Alpha and Omega, but he is explicitly worshiped along with God. The very same worship that goes to God the Father goes to Yeshua; either he is God, or that’s idolatry. And when you get to the end of Revelation, 22:3, the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city and his servants will serve Him. God and the Lamb are one entity.

    Even though the temptation to deny Yeshua and be accepted by Judaism is great, the Scriptures are clear: Yeshua is worshiped by men and angels. So it is with us.

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  92. Actually Judah, I'm worried about some churches that I've attended that are so focused on worshiping Jesus, it's as if God the Father didn't exist and was indeed replaced by Jesus.

    When traditional Judaism accuses Christianity of worshiping a man instead of God, in some cases, they are pretty close to the truth.

    If I say, "I worship God", does that bother you? Do you think I'm wrong to worship God?

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  93. @RBH,

    It's not that we ignored the verses, or interpreted 'touch' to mean something different than you.

    It's that those commandments are small beans in comparison the weightier matters of the Torah, which includes preservation of life.

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  94. James,

    Of course not. Yeshua's followers worship the God of Israel. The religion of Yeshua-the-Messiah isn't polytheism.

    Still, according to the Scriptures, worship of God is worship of the Lamb; the Lamb and God are one entity.

    I do sympathize with what you said about churches practicing a kind of replacement worship, where the Father isn't even mentioned, and instead, "it's all about you, Jesus", as the famous song goes. I've seen that, too, and am a bit uncomfortable with it.

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  95. Didn't figure you would, but I wanted to verify so that the issue was clear.

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  96. Judah,

    I was content to just read the comments until the issue of the Deity of Messiah came up. So I will do what James has often done and make an offer for others to read a four part series (part 5 is still in the draft stage) regarding the Deity of Messiah on my blog, Torah and Grace.
    www.torahandgrace.com
    I have appreciated many times the fact that James has written so extensively about so many topics and likes to share with the whole class.

    As for your original topic, expressing the need for some sort of Bet Din to sort out the daily business of trusting our Redeemer, I hold out little hope that it will happen any time soon. When people can't even agree on the plain meaning of the the text of scripture it is difficult to imagine that the interpretations of those words would gain much traction in the current religious environment.

    And yet I think that there may be a chance for local groups to come to some arrangement for the sake of fellowship and service. From my isolationist position I can see that it would require a truckload of willingness on the part of the small groups to make peace with one another.

    Perhaps in time.

    Shalom

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  97. To use a mathematical idiom - When in Doubt - cancel out. As for Jello, I can live without it until they make a Jello that does not use Gelatin or any other product that contains Jello.

    But - another good answer is that the Ruach HaKodesh will teach us everything we need to know if we are listening Clearly in Spirit and Truth.

    So, If we listen to the Ruach - we will each do what is right individually which should be confirmed by others getting the same answer from the Ruach.

    Gee - what a neat idea letting Elohim give us the answer. Otherwise, why did the Messiah send the Ruach?

    Besides - if someone accidentally eats Jello - they aren't going to pay an eternal damnation price for the error. Just try real hard not to do it again.

    I also think that Messianics should be smart enough to know when to trust the Current Kosher Authorities and when not to trust their decisions.

    Keep your eyes on YHWH and all will go well for you.

    Blessings

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  98. Judah Gabriel Himango said...
    "I can't believe some of you guys are arguing against this. You guys are cancelling the major parts of the law -- life, justice, mercy, for instance -- in order to carry out minutia about mixing seeds. You're missing the point of the Torah."

    My purpose for mentioning the prohibition of mixing seed was not for the minutia of it, it was part of an analogy. You don't crossbreed species; why would you accept a crossbreed transplant - from the preeminent unclean animal?!

    If my reference to seeds is an invalid analogy (in your opinion), does that mean you discount Peter's vision in Acts 10 because it is not about wild and domesticated animals, it is not about unclean animals, it is not about hunting or slaughtering, it is not about our diet, it is not about eating, etc...?

    Matthew 16:26 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

    Shabbat Shalom, RBH

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  99. Shalom Judah.

    I think it is hilarious to read a group of posts by a group of self-thought authorities about who should be their authority. Good one. LOL

    I tried to read the entire list of posts but I never saw anyone comment that the reason we will never have a unified governing body is because of the types of posts we just read.

    Reminded me of a quote:

    "Everyone wants to serve God, but only in an advisory capacity."

    Or how about this one:

    "I don't want to be part of a club that would have me as a member."

    Paul in is teaching said that when all else fails, charity should still exist. I propose that we form a unified organization that does acts of charity before we organize one that will fight all of the time to decide how we should live.

    Our Master spent most of his time teaching on character issues and not the halachic disputes of his day. Paul did the same. Shouldn't we focus on mastering those character traits first, before we move on to the halachic debate?

    As for me, I would rather judge a man by the strength of his character than by the color of his Tekhelet.

    Shalom, Jeff.

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    1. This makes me feel better about not knowing all the ends and out of what the Creator wanted for me as a way to live. Unfortunately, I know I will fall back into guilt over not knowing how to teach my children about small concrete ways to honor Him everyday by what they choose to put in their bodies. I can't help but think its important. I will be reading them this post.

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  100. Besides - if someone accidentally eats Jello - they aren't going to pay an eternal damnation price for the error. Just try real hard not to do it again.

    This is where some people "following" the Torah can get very rigid in their practice. It's about making commitments in order to honor God, not gaining or losing eternal salvation over a bite of Jello.

    I tried to read the entire list of posts but I never saw anyone comment that the reason we will never have a unified governing body is because of the types of posts we just read.

    I have to agree, Jeff. There are too many opinions that are too jealously held in the various incarnations of the Gentile Messianic and Hebrew Roots movement to unite them all under one authority. I don't see anything like that happening this side of the Messiah.

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  101. >> I have to agree, Jeff. There are too many opinions that are too jealously held in the various incarnations of the Gentile Messianic and Hebrew Roots movement to unite them all under one authority.

    Actually, in the Jesus-following Jewish world, there's even greater differences. Consider that most Israeli Messianic Jewish congregations are essentially churches that relegate Torah to a passed-away covenant that needs not be followed.

    How many Jewish followers of Jesus are still in the church and do not keep Torah at all, in fact, consider it dead for all?

    Many. I bet many more than are contained in the Hashivenu MJewish and Hebrew Roots movements combined.

    Bottom line: The Jesus-following world, both the Hebrew Roots and the MJewish world, are greatly fractured, such that it would be near impossible to have a central governing body; no one would accept their authority.

    (Ironically, the unbelieving Jewish world has this same problem today, which is a major reason the Sanhedrin hasn't been reinstituted. And interestingly, the general view in the Jewish world is that the Sanhedrin won't be reinstituted until Moshiach comes!)

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  102. Winter has finally arrived in my part of the world. Had a great fire going last night and roasted marshmallows (with kosher fish gelatin). And despite lacking graham wafers for smores, the mallows were mmmmmmm...... good!

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  103. I did not realize that I had hope building has i read the above until I felt it die at the end LOL. I think this might be the first time I've read an essay or blog and agreed with every point only to feel worse in the end. Don't get me wrong, I'm very glad I read it and, like I said, I agree 100%. It's just that lately I have been thinking that true community is impossible to carry out in this broken world. It's hard to know "a trusted" group of leaders today. The word says I should judge based on the fruit of ones life but given the lack of community today I don't KNOW the fruit of anybody's life. I know that all the man made fences of the Jewish community are not for me. I, after some time, have made peace with that. But the strife in the messianic community is enough to break a heart. If you ask for guidance from five "leaders" you are going in at least three directions. I've been at this since 2007. I have whole heatedly embraced the Torah and have mourned the heritage that was taken away from non Jewish believers in Messiah. But, here I sit without community trying to embrace said heritage and dig for answers to questions like the one posed here. Maybe that is why the Father allowed for Google. :). I could care less about jello and would easily give it up but cheese? That's a different story.

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Husband, dad, disciple of the Jewish Messiah Yeshua, technologist. Author of Chavah Messianic Radio, MessianicChords, and EtzMitzvot. @judahgabriel


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