Food has been a problem for mankind since the very beginning. Adam and Eve had a choice in the garden of Eden. We still feel the effect of their choice today (Genesis 2:16-17, 3:4-6, 16-19; 1 Corinthians 15:22). There is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9-10). We today still must distinguish between what has been appointed as food and what has not. Just because something is edible does not mean it is food. Yahweh has set a standard that defines food from non-food. He calls it "clean."
Noah understood the difference between clean and unclean animals (Genesis 7:2-3, 8:20). It was important to Yahweh, so it was important to Noah!
Today it should be important to us, as well, because we wish to be obedient children of the loving Father. If we are not trustworthy in small matters, how can we be trustworthy in greater matters (Luke 16:10)?
WHAT ARE CLEAN FOODS?
Clean foods are not difficult to distinguish in their simple forms. From Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14, we find that the animals which were created for meat are to have a divided, split hoof and will chew the cud. Fish are to have both fins and scales. Birds are not to be birds of prey or carrion birds. The locust-grasshopper family of insects are also clean.
Christianity in general rejects "clean foods" just as it does the Sabbath (Matthew 5:17-19; Mark 2:27-28; and Hebrews 4:9-10). The only sign Yahshua gave to an evil generation to verify his Messiahship is found in Matthew 12: 39-40; the New Covenant example is found in Hebrews 8:8-13 and 10: 15-17.
Christianity views Scripture from a lawless perspective, missing the point in many passages. The Scriptures are a whole document—the Word of Yahweh from Genesis to Revelation. Harmony of the Scriptures is evidence of correct interpretation and is to be sought (2 Timothy 2:15 and 1 John 3:23-24).
Christianity's lawless perspective also hampers the understanding of Peter's vision in Acts 10. Peter was repulsed at the thought of eating the unclean so much that he cried out (verse 14). This is the same reaction the prophet had in Ezekiel 4:12-15. Knowing that Yahweh and Yahshua are consistent (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8), and that Scripture cannot be ignored (John 10:35), Peter was puzzled as to the meaning of the vision (verse 17). Yahweh then revealed that man was not to be reckoned as one does food: "But Yahweh has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean (verse 28). Then Peter began to speak: "I now realize how true it is that Yahweh does not show favoritism, but accepts men from every nation who fear Him and know what is right" (verses 34-35). This reference has nothing to do with distinguishing between clean and unclean foods. The true meaning was further confirmed by the Holy Spirit and the men referred to in these Scriptures were baptized in the name of Yahshua the Messiah.
YAHSHUA SPOKE OF THE CLEAN
Scripturally clean food was a matter of everyday life for observant Jews. Yahshua used the parable of the net and fishermen throwing unclean fish away (Matthew 13:47-50) as an example. He also used the clean/unclean contrast in teaching about the loving Father's response to prayers for the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:11-13). His listeners could recall that Daniel and his three countrymen did not want to defile themselves with the Babylonian court food (Daniel 1:8-17). They also knew of the prophet's inspired proclamation about those "religious people" whose ways were disgusting. Even their foods were disgusting (Isaiah 65:1-5, 66:1-3). "Those who consecrate and purify themselves to go into the gardens, following the one in the midst of those who eat the flesh of pigs and rats and other abominable things—they will meet their end together, declares Yahweh," (Isaiah 66:17).
"Clean" is not the same as today's kosher. Kosher is the term for Rabbinical certified foods which are considered to be scripturally clean. In addition, kosher must meet many other requirements which may or may not be scriptural. The traditions of Judaism are questionable, with some being acceptable and some not acceptable. The same is true for Christianity. Some traditions are right, and some are not. Agreement with Scripture is the key.
Rabbinical law ("traditions of the Sages") hinges upon Judaism's claim to an "oral law" separate from the written law delivered to Israel at Sinai. Judaism uses its "oral law" to surround and protect a Scriptural law. But too often, the intent of the Scriptural law is lost, being buried under the "fence laws." Yahshua's words were sharp as Hi deliberately and repeatedly confronted the Pharisees, Sadducees and "teachers of the law." His words of greatest condemnation were for the "religious experts" of His day.
DOES THE TALMUD SUPERSEDE SCRIPTURES?
Kosher laws are in peril of defying Scripture (Deuteronomy 12:32 and Revelation 22:18). "Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of Yahweh your Elohim that I give you," (Deuteronomy 4:2). The Judaic Talmud does this very thing.
To be kosher, fish scales might be required to be thumbnail size, but Scripture simply requires scales and fins, not specifying size (Deuteronomy 14:9 and Leviticus11:9). To be kosher, wine must be grown, harvested and prepared by Sabbath-observing Jews. To be kosher, meat must be slaughtered in a certain manner with a knife blade whose edge is nick free. The Scripture states that meat found "torn" is not clean. "You are to be My holy people. So do not eat the meat of an animal torn by wild beasts; throw it to the dogs," (Exodus 22:31). Other texts may just say torn (Leviticus 17:15, 22:8; Ezekiel 44:31). Additionally, to be kosher, the meat must be drained of all blood and possibly soaked or salted to draw out any residual blood. The Scripture is quite clear that blood is not to be eaten (Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 17:10-14; Acts 15:29) but does not describe anything more than bleeding the animal. "But you must not eat the blood; pour it out on the ground like water," (Deuteronomy 12:16).
The prohibitions about blood and the requiring of blood for atonement made the understanding of Yahshua's shed blood even more dramatic for law keepers. "In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness," (Hebrews 9:22). The physical covering of Adam and Eve with garments of skin in place of their garments of leaves, can be compared to the shedding of blood as an atonement for mankind's sins.
Kosher meat will also have its fat removed, even possibly extracting every trace of visible fat. The Scripture prohibits the eating of fat (Leviticus 7:23-24), which appears to be defined by Leviticus 4:8-10 as the fat which covers the inner parts or connected to them. Yahshua's parable spoke of the father having the fattened calf prepared for the celebration of his son's return (Luke 15:23). While there seems to be nothing improper about a fattened animal for food, the meat should be trimmed so that the layered fat is not eaten.
IS THERE A KOSHER CHEESEBURGER?
Jewish kosher laws require the separation of meat and dairy products. The kosher traditions are elaborate, requiring preparation of meat with certain pots and pans; and preparation of dairy products with other certain pots and pans. Meat and dairy items are not supposed to be served together in any form. So, according to Jewish kosher laws, there is no such thing as a kosher cheeseburger. Kosher laws also require dairy products to be refrigerated in a separate unit from meat.
All of these kosher laws are rabbinical elaborations to "protect" the very simple statement Yahweh gave: "Do not cook a young goat in its mother's milk" (Exodus 23:19b). Yahweh's laws are simple and easy to follow. Only man's attempt to "improve" them has caused difficulties and confusion.
The meat-dairy prohibitions of Judaism appear to be in conflict with the account of Abraham serving meat from a tender calf with curds and milk to the three heavenly visitors in Genesis 18:6-8. Abraham was not a law breaker (Genesis 26:5).
ARE CLEAN FOODS KOSHER?
The person wishing to be obedient to the Heavenly Father will eat only clean foods. There is no scriptural requirement for food to be more than "clean." This requires a conscious effort to read labels or to ask questions about contents. Sometimes the labels do not define the contents clearly enough. An example is the use of "porcine" to refer to a pork product. Sometimes a waitress, cook or clerk will say something is clean when they really don't know, simply because they might not see the importance.
Clean foods by scriptural standards may not be kosher by Judaic standards. In most cases, though, foods certified as kosher are scripturally clean. However, there are many certifying agencies, and all with a different set of criteria. There are many rabbinical certifying agencies such as the Orthodox Union (a circle with a "U" in it), the Star-K (a star with a "K" in the middle); and the Kof-K (a Hebrew Letter "K" with a "K" in the middle). You can easily find out which agencies are most prominent in your geographical area via a search on the internet. One symbol which is definitely UNRELIABLE is the plain "K." They claim gelatin is "kosher," and their symbol is not to be trusted if you are following the scriptural guidelines for clean foods. Purchasing certified kosher products should not alleviate looking at the ingredients and occasionally calling for more information, but it is added insurance of better quality and preparation under good hygienic conditions. There are more and more companies seeking certification in past years as even the general public is realizing the value of purchasing those items due to the overall conditions of the manufacturing plants. You will find the kosher certification mark in various areas of the package, sometimes at the end of the ingredient list; other times on the very front of the package.
There is a blessing for the person who meditates on Yahweh's ways, "...and in keeping them there is great reward" (Psalm 19:7-11). The physical acts of obedience are to teach us about spiritual matters of even greater magnitude. The physical acts should become second nature so that our focus of attention is on the spiritual forest and not on the physical trees.