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Shemini: Kashrut and the New Testament

Updated: Jun 22

 “In youth, one learns to talk. In maturity, one learns to be silent.” Rebbe Nachman of Breslov [1]

In Parashat Shemini (Leviticus 9:1–11:47), we learn of kashrut, or kosher dietary law. “Kashrut” comes from the word kasher כשר meaning “fit,” specifically “fit for consumption.” Through the laws of kashrut, the Bible defines the parameters of what a ‘food’ is.

Today, we tend to define “food” by our social norms and standards of society, and give it little further thought. An example where this may be most evident is when an American travels the world and learns first hand of the exotic delicacies eaten by various world cultures. Numerous examples may spark revulsion on the part of the reader, therefore we will refrain from mentioning some of the more revolting dishes. You’re welcome.

Without the foundation of the Torah, however, these foods become fair game, and those who believe that the dietary laws have been abolished should also believe that it is acceptable to eat spiders, scorpions, eagles, monkeys. Yet the book of Leviticus says,

“…Speak to the children of Israel, saying, “These are the living things which you may eat among all the animals that are on the earth. Whatever splits the hoof, and is cloven-footed, and chews the cud among the animals, that you may eat.” Leviticus 11:1-4

Some of the forbidden animals according to the Torah are as follows:

  1. Camels

  2. Coneys

  3. Pigs

  4. Fish without fins and scales

  5. Eagle

  6. Vulture

  7. Kites

  8. Ravens

  9. Owls

  10. Gulls

  11. Hawks

  12. Stork

  13. Herons

  14. Hoopoes

  15. Bats

  16. Insects

In recent times, kashrut observance among non-Jewish believers has experienced a world-wide revival. A portion of this phenomenon may be attributed to the organic foods movement. In days past, we had local bakers baking our bread. Today, we have chemists. Food production has ballooned into a multi-billion dollar industry today, which is mostly good. Today, more people can be fed by humanity than at any other point in history. However, there are downsides, tradeoffs that have impacted the makeup of what we eat. Hidden ingredients abound in our foods, such as,

  1. Artificial and Natural Flavors Some of these like civet (extracted from cats) and castoreum (extracted from beavers) come from non-kosher sources. “Natural” flavors can mean just about anything.

  2. Food Colorings Carmine, also called cochineal and carminic acid, is made up of ground up, red cochineal beetles used in fruit juices, candies and frozen pops!

  3. Gelatin 90% of gelatin is derivative of pork products.

  4. Glycerin, Mono/Di/Triglycerides Glycerol comes from animal fat – including pig fat. Can be made from a kosher source, but would require supervision to certify.

Today, many cheese products contain animal derivatives that may contain coagulating enzymes that come from pork. While Frito-Lay makes a variety of kosher products, they also state that,

“Pork enzymes may be used in the milk that makes the real cheese for some of our cheese seasonings.” [2]

Some believers emphasize a distinction between “Rabbinic” and “Biblical” kosher. Yet, as identified above, it is impossible to discern whether many of the foods we eat contain hidden ingredients meet the Torah standards. Therefore, a solution to this problem utilizes a kosher symbol, called a heksher. The rabbis have diligently checked that the ingredients meet the requirements outlined in Leviticus 11. Some popular kosher symbols are below:

So why should one keep kosher?

Food for Health

Health has been a frequently cited reason for advocating the observance of kosher dietary laws. After all, G-d designed our bodies and is the best Nutritionist in the universe. He knows what the human body can eat and why. In general, this position is not easily dismissed. There are definitive benefits to keeping a kosher diet. Deuteronomy says,

“It shall happen, if you shall listen diligently to my commandments which I command you this day, to love Hashem your G-d, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, that I will give the rain of your land in its season, the former rain and the latter rain, that you may gather in your grain, and your new wine, and your oil. I will give grass in your fields for your livestock, and you shall eat and be full.” Deuteronomy 11:13-15

It is important to note that the Torah was given so that we can live in blessings, that we may “eat and be full.” Speaking of this concept, the SAS Survival Handbook makes an interesting note the consumption of rabbits, which are forbidden by the Torah,

“Rabbits can provide the easiest of meals but their flesh lacks fat and vitamins essential to man. The Hudson Bay Company  recorded cases of trappers dying of starvation although eating well on an easily available diet of rabbit… the body uses its own vitamins and minerals to digest the rabbit…if they are not replaced weakness and other symptoms of vitamin deficiency appear. If more rabbit is eaten, the condition becomes  worse. Trappers literally ate themselves to death.” SAS Survival Handbook, John “Lofty” Wiseman, pg. 127

It is unsettling to imagine that it is possible that one may die of starvation while having a full stomach. In fact, this is exactly the physical representation of what sin is. Like Esav who sold his birthright for a bowl of lentils, sin satisfies a momentary desire, but rips everything out of you, leaving you empty and unfulfilled. Among treif, or unkosher foods, the most infamous unkosher food is pork, bacon or any derivatives from swine. The Torah says,

“The pig, because he has a split hoof, and is cloven-footed, but doesn’t chew the cud, he is unclean to you.” Leviticus 11:7

Recent studies have shown links between bacon and cancer. While research on this point is still developing, it is important to be aware of the possible connections. There have also been horrifying news reports of brain worms that infiltrated humans via the consumption of swine. Of course, kosher foods if not cooked properly may also cause health issues. One thing is for sure, these laws were not simply in place because “they didn’t have refrigerators back then.” It is much more complex than that, and while all of this is something to consider, this is not why HaShem gave the laws of Kashrut. As R’ Tzvi Freeman says,

“Some of these animals reflect this spiritual negativity in their actual nature and behavior. So Nachmanides speaks of the negative character traits imbibed with the flesh of non-kosher species. In many cases, what is not healthy for the soul is also clearly not healthy for the body, as well. So we have nutritionists confirming that a kosher diet is more healthy. Nice dividends, but not the underlying factor.” Why Do We Keep Kosher? Tzvi Freeman, [4]

Spiritual Dimensions

If it is not for the purpose of health, what are the laws of kashrut for? The Ramban, R’ Moshe ben Nachman, comments,

“The birds and many of the mammals forbidden by the Torah are predators, while the permitted animals are not. We are commanded not to eat those animals possessive of a cruel nature, so that we should not absorb these qualities into ourselves.” Nachmanides cited at [5]

Interestingly, the Epistle of Barnabas preserves an ancient kernel of this idea,

“Now, in that Moses said, “Ye shall not eat swine, nor an eagle, nor a hawk, nor a crow, nor any fish which has no scales on itself,” He mentioned the swine for this reason: you shall not consort, he means, with men who are like swine, that is to say, when they have plenty they forget the L-rd, but when they are in need they recognize the L-rd, just as the swine when it eats does not know its master, but when it is hungry it cries out, and after receiving food is again silent.” Epistle of Barnabas 10:1, 3

Chaya Shuchat says of the pig,

“It enclothes itself in a garb of purity, and seeks to deceive us regarding its true nature. The pig represents the type of evil in the world which is hardest to resist and combat. It encompasses all forms of flattery and deception, the suave and smooth-talking villains who worm their way into our confidence and take root in our hearts, before we become wise to their true intentions. Our greatest challenge is not fighting the blatant evil of the world, but its more subtle and deceptive forms, which come packaged in a guise of goodness and truth.“ The Kosher Pig? By Chaya Shuchat [6]

Rabbi Ari Kahn says,

“It is interesting that the pig is the only animal that has these unique traits – outwardly acceptable, but the inner analysis reveals the deficiency. The pig therefore became synonymous with hypocrisy.” R. Ari Kahn, Moray HaAish: When Pigs Fly, [7]

There are incredible spiritual secrets in the laws of kashrut. The pig itself is a symbol of Rome, and Rome is a symbol of Christianity. The pig will undergo an incredible change at the end of time, which we will explore later. Like pottery in the hand of a Potter, so are we in the Hand of the Creator. Leviticus speaks of earthen vessels,

“Every earthen vessel, into which any of (the creeping things) falls, all that is in it shall be unclean, and you shall break it.” Leviticus 11:33

Earthen vessels absorb what is put inside of them. Stone vessels, however, do not. Lamentations identifies who the earthen pitchers are,

“The precious sons of Zion, comparable to fine gold, “How are they esteemed as earthen pitchers, the work of the hands of the potter!” Lamentations 4:2

A potter shapes his creation through pressure on its sides. Paul writes of this shaping,

“But we have this treasure in clay vessels, that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of G-d, and not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side, yet not crushed; perplexed, yet not to despair; pursued, yet not forsaken; struck down, yet not destroyed; always carrying in the body the putting to death of the L-rd Yeshua, that the life of Yeshua may also be revealed in our body.” 2 Corinthians 4:7-10

Kashrut & the New Testament

Some opponents of the dietary laws derive their arguments from passages in the New Testament. These passages, when taken out of context, seem to support their position. However, we will examine some of these passages and discern whether these arguments are valid. One of the most famous comes from the letter of 1st Timothy,

“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that G-d created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by G-d is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of G-d and prayer.” 1 Timothy 4:1-5

With the revival of kosher observance as previously noted, it might appear that this passage is referring to this trend. This is not the case. What Paul is warning of in this passage is asceticism, i.e. forbidding marriage, requiring abstinence from foods that G-d created to be eaten, as a doctrine of demons. He certainly would not call HaShem’s Torah a “doctrine of demons,” chas v’shalom. In fact, he specifically contradicts such an idea in his second letter to Timothy,

“All Scripture is breathed out by G-d and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of G-d may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17

What about “requiring abstinence from foods that G-d created to be eaten”? First, we must ask ourselves where in HaShem’s word does it list the foods that He created to be eaten? Where it is made holy, or set apart as food, in the word of G-d? Perhaps this answer can be found in Leviticus 11,

“And HaShem spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying to them, “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, These are the living things that you may eat among all the animals that are on the earth. Whatever parts the hoof and is cloven-footed and chews the cud, among the animals, you may eat…For I am HaShem who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your G-d. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.” Leviticus 11:1-3, 45

A Christian shared with me an experience he had in South America. While on the journey, they carried out remarkable medical services to address the needs of the indigenous tribal population deeply rooted in paganism. During one meal, the Christian was offered something unthinkable: monkey. And yes, he ate it. I believe he cited this verse as a justification,

“Into whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat the things that are set before you.” Luke 10:8

I do not write this to criticize him. His love for G-d and people was incredibly admirable. Yet, focusing on the text, was this a proper interpretation of Yeshua’s words? Does G-d care about what we eat? What is, or was, the purpose of the dietary laws? Does the New Testament overturn these laws of kosher? Outside of the context, the words of Yeshua seem clear. If I enter a house and find pork served to me, it seems that I am expected to consume it. However, let’s look at the verse in context,

“Now after these things, the L-rd also appointed seventy others, and sent them two by two ahead of him into every city and place, where he was about to come. Then he said to them, “…Behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves. Carry no purse, nor wallet, nor sandals. Greet no one on the way. Into whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house.’ If a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in that same house, eating and drinking the things they give, for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not go from house to house. Into whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat the things that are set before you. Heal the sick who are therein, and tell them, ‘The Kingdom of G-d has come near to you.’ But into whatever city you enter, and they don’t receive you, go out into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust from your city that clings to us, we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the Kingdom of G-d has come near to you.’ Luke 10:1-11

The phase “Now after these things,” is important, and contains a key to understanding the passage. The previous chapter spoke of Yeshua giving samchut, authority, to the Twelve,

“He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases. He sent them forth to proclaim the Kingdom of G-d, and to heal the sick.” Luke 9:1-2

A parallel text to this section in Luke provides an additional detail. Yeshua commanded,

“Yeshua sent these twelve out, and commanded them, saying, “Do not go among the Gentiles, and don’t enter into any city of the Samaritans. Rather, go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim, saying, ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons. Freely you received, so freely give.” Matthew 10:5-8

To whom were the seventy disciples going? To Jews. To repentant Jews who desired the kingdom of G-d. The food they would have eaten would certainly be kosher. One may ask, why then would Yeshua need to mention ‘to eat what is set before you’? This may be illustrated by a Chassidic tale about Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Peshischa,

“The Yehudi (the teacher of Rabbi Simcha) once told his disciple Rabbi Bunam to go on a journey. Bunam did not ask any questions but left the town with a number of other hasidim . . . they came to a village and stopped at an inn. The innkeeper was so pleased with his pious guests that he invited them to have dinner with him. Rabbi Bunam sat down in the main room, while the others went in and out and asked all sorts of questions concerning the meat…whether the animal was unblemished, what the butcher was like, and just how carefully the meat had been salted. At that a man dressed in rags spoke up. . . “O you hasidim,” he said, “you make a big to-do about what you put into your mouths being clean, but you don’t worry half as much about the purity of what comes out of your mouths.” Rabbi Bunam was about to reply, but the wayfarer had already disappeared – for this is Elijah’s habit. Then the rabbi understood why his teacher had sent him on this journey.” Tales of the Hasidim, Later Masters, by Martin Buber, Schocken Books, pg. 229

The disciples of Rabbi Bunam were not questioning if the food was kosher. They wanted to know how strictly the standards were applied. Eliyahu HaNavi appeared and rebuked them for carrying more about what goes in, than what comes out. To a reader familiar with the New Testament, this entire passage is incredibly familiar, powerfully echoing Mark 7, and its parallel passage, Matthew 15. The Gospel of Mark says,

“Then the Pharisees, and some of the scribes gathered together to him, having come from Jerusalem. Now when they saw some of his disciples eating bread with defiled, that is, unwashed, hands, they found fault. (For the Pharisees, and all the Judeans, don’t eat unless they wash their hands and forearms, holding to the tradition of the elders. They don’t eat when they come from the marketplace, unless they bathe themselves, and there are many other things, which they have received to hold to: washings of cups, pitchers, bronze vessels, and couches.) The Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why don’t your disciples walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with unwashed hands?” He answered them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. But in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” For you set aside the commandment of G-d, and hold tightly to the tradition of men – the washing of pitchers and cups, and you do many other such things. He said to them, “Full well do you reject the commandment of G-d, that you may keep your tradition. For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, ‘Whatever profit you might have received from me is korban’, that is to say, given to G-d; ‘then you no longer allow him to do anything for his father or his mother, making void the word of G-d by your tradition, which you have handed down. You do many things like this.” He called all the multitude to himself, and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand. There is nothing from outside of the man, that going into him can defile him; but the things which proceed out of the man are those that defile the man. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!” When he had entered into a house away from the multitude, his disciples asked him about the parable. He said to them, “Are you thus without understanding also? Don’t you perceive that whatever goes into the man from outside cant defile him, because it doesn’t go into his heart, but into his stomach, then into the latrine, thus purifying all foods?” He said, “That which proceeds out of the man, that defiles the man. For from within, out of the hearts of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, sexual sins, murders, thefts, covetings, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, and foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” Mark 7:1-23, cf. Matthew 15:1-9

There are several points to understand and explore in this passage. While its meaning seems to be simple and clear when read through the lens of 21st century Western culture, it is actually much different when placed in its 1st century context. Context is incredibly important when studying a 2000 year old text, written in another language in the Land of Israel in the Second Temple era. Before we begin, we must keep in mind Yeshua’s own words in Matthew 5, which provides an anchor, a plumbline in interpreting the New Testament,

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not a jot, not a tittle, will pass from the Torah until all is accomplished.” Matthew 5:17-18

Any suggestion that the dietary laws have been abolished stands in stark contrast to what Yeshua says in this passage. Therefore, outdated theologies of the Torah being abolished need to be abolished themselves, and we must attempt to understand his words in their original context. It may be surprising that the passages in Mark and Matthew are not discussing the dietary laws. They are discussing the laws of tohorot, ritual purity. In the Second Temple era, ritual purity was taken more seriously than shedding of blood, as the Talmud laments in Yoma 23a. The focus of this passage is the application of the then-recently introduced tradition of נטילת ידיים, n’tilat yadayim, or ritual washing of the hands. This is different from washing your hands from filth and bacteria. This was for ritual purity, a concept that is mostly foreign to today’s readers. In context, “declaring all foods clean” would mean that they are ritually pure. In other words, they do not contract tumah, ritual impurity, from unwashed hands. 

It is important to note that Yeshua is not criticizing the laws of ritual purity, nor n’tilat yadayim. He was speaking against those who are using traditions as an excuse to bring sinat chinam (baseless hatred), for their own gain. The Rambam writes regarding foods that are tamei, that is, ritually impure,

“Even though it is permitted to eat impure foods and drink impure beverages, the pious men of the early generations would partake of their ordinary food in a state of ritual purity and would avoid all the sources of impurity throughout their lives. They are called Perushim [i.e., Pharisees]. This is an extra measure of holiness and a path to piety: to be separate from people at large, to hold oneself apart from them, not to touch them, nor eat and drink with them. For setting oneself apart leads to the purification of the body from wicked actions. Purifying one’s body leads to sanctifying one’s souls from wicked character traits.” Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Ochalin 16:12 [9]

Like the Gospels, the Rambam is not saying that it is acceptable for a Jewish person to eat a ham sandwich. He is speaking of the laws of ritual purity. Interestingly, the scholar Daniel Boyarin relates a story in his book, The Jewish Gospels, about an insight made by a Jewish student exploring the texts of the Gospels,

“Yair Furstenberg, a young Talmud scholar at the Hebrew University, has recently provided a convincing explanation of the basic controversy between Jesus and those Pharisees. Furstenberg writes that Jesus’ statements need to be read literally to mean that the body is made impure not through ingesting impure foods but only through various substances that come out from the body. As noted, according to the Torah, it is not what goes into the body that makes one impure but only things that come out of the body: fluxes of blood, [etc.]…The only food, according to the Torah, that renders a body impure is carrion – certainly not the eating of permitted food that has become impure, or of forbidden foods generally. . . “ The Jewish Gospels, Daniel Boyarin, The New Press, pgs. 117-118

Yeshua brilliantly used the laws of tohorot, ritual purity, to expose the impurity coming out of the hearts of those who attacked him. It was a particularly biting response considering the importance that ritual purity was given at the time of the Temple. There is one further point to make on this. Found in another misunderstood passage, Peter makes an interesting statement,

“Now on the next day as they were on their journey, and got close to the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray at about noon. He became hungry and desired to eat, but while they were preparing, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and a certain container descending to him, like a great sheet let down by four corners on the earth, in which were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild animals, reptiles, and birds of the sky. A voice came to him, “Rise, Peter, kill and eat!” But Peter said, “Not so, L-rd; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” A voice came to him again the second time, “What G-d has cleansed, you must not call unclean.” Acts 10:9-15

The sheet that Peter saw contained all types of food: lions, tigers, snakes, lizards and scorpions and yes, even pigs. When told to rise, kill and eat, Peter was shocked. He responded,

“I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.”

Considering that this event took place around 38 CE, one may learn from this that Peter did not understand Yeshua’s words to mean that kashrut was abrogated. Peter continued to keep kosher after the death and resurrection of Yeshua. Yet, what about this passage in Acts? Does it indicate that the dietary laws were now abrogated five years after the death of Messiah?’

The Meaning of the Vision

Examining the passage in Acts, Peter is praying mincha prayers at the sixth hour. During this prayer time, he experiences a vision of animals. After Peter protested, the voice from above said,

“What G-d has made clean, do not call common.” This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven. Now while Peter was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision that he had seen might mean, behold, the men who were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon’s house, stood at the gate and called out to ask whether Simon who was called Peter was lodging there. And while Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you. And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but G-d has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean.” Acts 10:15-29

According to the text, Peter pondered the meaning of this vision. Its meaning was not immediately clear to Peter. Ironically, modern interpreters believe they understand the meaning – and in ways that is completely contrary to the text! For example, New Testament Reformed Theologian Simon Kistemaker says that,

“G-d has removed the barriers he once erected to separate his people from the surrounding nations…Peter with his fellow Jewish Christians can disregard the food laws that have been observed since the days of Moses.” Simon J. Kistemaker, Exposition of the Acts of the Apostles, pgs. 378, 380

This interpretation is absolutely incorrect. The Torah is binding upon all Jews forever. Non-Jewish followers of Yeshua are bound to the seven laws of Noach, which form a minimum requirement, but they should strive for more than that. Not out of obligation in the sense that failure to comply would be sin, but as a desire to follow Yeshua – all in a way that is respectful and honoring to the Jewish people. Like Peter, we must ask what was the meaning of the passage in Acts 10.

The Kosher Pig

Thankfully, we do not have to wonder about the meaning of Acts 10. Beautifully, the interpretation immediately follows the passage,

“He said to them, “You yourselves know how it is an unlawful thing for a man who is a Jew to join himself or come to one of another nation, but G-d has shown me that I shouldn’t call any man unholy or unclean.” Acts 10:28

The vision about the animals was about Gentiles, and their acceptance by G-d. Peter related the vision again in Acts 11:4-9.

“I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter, kill and eat!’ But I said, ‘Not so, L-rd, for nothing unholy or unclean has ever entered into my mouth.’ But a voice answered me the second time out of heaven, ‘What G-d has cleansed, do not call unclean.’ This was done three times, and all were drawn up again into heaven. Behold, immediately three men stood before the house where I was, having been sent from Caesarea to me. The Spirit told me to go with them, without discriminating. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered into the man’s house. He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house, and saying to him, Send to Jaffa, and get Shimon, whose surname is Peter, who will speak to you words by which you will be saved, you and all your house. As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them, even as on us at the beginning. I remembered the word of the L-rd, how he said, ‘Yochanan indeed immersed in water, but you will be immersed in the Holy Spirit.’ If then G-d gave to them the same gift as us, when we believed in the L-rd Yeshua the Messiah, who was I, that I could withstand G-d?’ When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified G-d, saying, ‘Then G-d has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life!” Acts 11:7-18

In many passages, Gentiles are likened to animals who surround and attack Israel. Now, through faith in the Messiah, the Gentiles have the opportunity to “become kosher.” R’ Ari Kahn notes an incredible tradition about a change that will happen to the pig,

“Various authorities have mentioned a teaching that in the Messianic age the pig will become kosher. The ultimate symbol of treif becoming acceptable would surely be a sign that the eschatological age has begun.” R’ Ari Kahn, M’oray HaAish: When Pigs Fly citing Sefer Sha’arei Tzedek, Rav Tzadok Hakohen, Machshavot Charutz chapter 11 [10]

How will this be possible? If the Torah will remain until heaven and earth pass away, how will this be possible? R’ Kahn explains,

“The problem with the pig becoming kosher, is the basic tenet of Judaism that the Torah is unchanging, and no person, even a prophet, has the right to add or subtract from the Torah… There is another way to reconcile the two seemingly opposing positions – of the immutability of Torah and the pig becoming kosher in the Messianic age: The pig can change. A number of authorities…suggested that the pig will undergo what may be called an evolutionary process and develop a cud, rendering it kosher!” R’ Ari Kahn, Moray HaAish: When Pigs Fly, [11]

The interesting aspect of the pig becoming kosher,  is that when this happens, I do not believe we will eat meat, although R’ Yehudah Chayoun in his book Otzrot Acharit HaYamim cites some contrary opinions. Regardless, what is the secret of the pig becoming kosher? The book of Isaiah says,

“The wolf will live with the lamb; the leopard will lie down with the kid. Calf, young lion and fattened lamb together, with a little child to lead them. Cow and bear will feed together, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. An infant will play on a cobra’s hole, a toddler put his hand in a viper’s nest. They will not hurt or destroy anywhere on my holy mountain, for the earth will be as full of the knowledge of L-RD as water covering the sea. On that day the Root of Yishai, which stands as a banner for the peoples – the Goyim will seek him out, and the place where he rests will be glorious. . . The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like an ox…” Isaiah 11:6-10, 65:25

The Gentiles, specifically those trapped by Rome (the Pig) will become kosher. This process began two-thousand years ago. Yeshua has transformed the lives of uncountable Gentiles, bringing them into the realm of the Ger. They embrace the Noachide commandments, honor the G-d of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and pray for the Jewish people. As the Yaavetz, R’ Yaakov Emden wrote in his Seder Olam Vezuta,

“It is therefore a habitual saying of mine (not as a hypocritical flatterer, G-d forbid, for I am of the faithful believers of Israel, and I know well that the remnant of Israel will not speak falsehood, nor will their mouths contain a deceitful tongue) that the Nazarene brought about a double kindness in the world. On the one hand, he strengthened the Torah of Moses majestically, as mentioned earlier, and not one of our Sages spoke out more emphatically concerning the immutability of the Torah. And on the other hand, he did much good for the Gentiles (provided they do not turn about his intent as they please, as some foolish ones have done because they did not fully understand the intent of the authors of the Gospels.”[12]

A rabbi was once asked why teenagers in Orthodox Jewish communities are mostly successful in avoiding sexual immorality. The rabbi explained that Jews are taught from a young age to distinguish between what is suitable for them to consume and what is not. When a young Jewish child walks by a McDonald’s and is enticed by the smell of french fries, he or she trains his body to refuse the temptation. When the child becomes a teenager, and a handsome or beautiful person who does not share their faith or values wishes to date them, they are empowered by years of training to refuse what is inappropriate, no matter how enticing. Like a tutor, the Torah teaches us over time to subdue the yetzer hara, the evil inclination, and embrace the blessing of waiting for marriage. R’ Mordechai Becher says,

“The main theme of the kosher food laws is self-control.” Soul Food, R. Mordechai Becher, [13]

Paul identifies self control as one of the fruits of the Spirit,

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

This is the purpose of kashrut. To set us apart. To distinguish us from the world, to be like Messiah our Master and Teacher, Yeshua of Nazareth. As it is written,

כי אני יי אלקיכם והתקדשׁתם והייתם קדשׁים כי קדושׁ אני

“For I am HaShem your G-d. Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy…” Leviticus 11:44



  1. Rebbe Nachman of Breslov cited at Shemini: Parsha In-Depth,

  2. US Products Made Without Pork (Porcine) Enzymes,

  3. All Kosher symbols are copyright of their respective agencies.

  4. Why Do We Keep Kosher? Tzvi Freeman,

  5. Nachmanides cited at Shemini: Parsha In-Depth,

  6. The Kosher Pig? By Chaya Shuchat

  7. R’ Ari Kahn, Moray HaAish: When Pigs Fly

  8. Soul Food, R. Mordechai Becher,

  9. Mishnah Torah, Ochalin 16:12

  10. R’ Ari Kahn, Moray HaAish: When Pigs Fly citing Sefer Sha’arei Tzedek, Rav Tzadok Hakohen, Machshavot Charutz chapter 11

  11. R’ Ari Kahn, Moray HaAish: When Pigs Fly

  12. R’ Yaakov Emden, Except from Seder Olam Vezuta, Translated by R’ Harvey Falk

For Further Reference

  1. The Jewish Gospels by Daniel Boyarin

  2. Handwashing in Judaism – Wikipedia

  3. Parashat Vayera, Jewish Theological Seminary, R’ David Hoffman

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