Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Yeshua HaMashiach, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Before even the end of the first century, non-Jewish believers reading Paul’s letters outside of their original Jewish contextual matrix misunderstood them and forsook the Torah’s dietary laws. Not only did they forsake the ideas of food being tahor or tamei (ceremonially fit or unfit), but also the idea of certain animal species not being fit for consumption. It is true that when read outside of their natural context, Paul’s letters seem to indicate that faith in Yeshua makes these elements of Torah observance obsolete. The same problem actually appears with any text and ruling when read outside of its original context. Even the American Constitution ideas of freedom of press and religion suffer from an identity crisis when quoted outside of their original context and intent into today's.
The Jewish community of believers on the contrary had no issue with the whole idea of tahor and tamei (Acts 15: 20, 29; 21:25). It always was part of their lives and of Torah and they understood Paul’s letters within a Jewish contextual understanding. They also continued adhering to the injunction that sin is the breaking of Torah (1 John 3:4) and that a false prophet is one who teaches to disobey it, consequently, they could not have imagined the Master or Paul teaching against these things (Deuteronomy 13:1—5; Matthew 5:19).
Would it have been clear from the beginning that the Master taught non-observance to these issues, Paul would not have needed to address them. The very discussion about it in the apostolic letters tells us that there were concerns about the levels of obedience on that issue, especially concerning Gentile observance; but that there were no problems concerning the issue itself being obsolete or not. From the very start of the Nazarene Movement Yeshua himself rebuked two Asia Minor congregations for promoting the consumption of meat sacrificed to idols, which would then be tamei (Revelations 2:14, 20). I would even claim that nowhere in the apostolic texts are issues of relevance concerning consumable and non-consumable foods or of ceremonial fitness raised. Jews already knew these things as clearly defined in the Book of Leviticus. The only issues raised were concerning the levels of observance to these things concerning the new Gentiles followers of Messiah. And what did both Yeshua and Paul say about it? That whereas these are legitimate Torah concerns to be observed, it should be done within the balanced perspectives of our obligation to love and fellowship, to help those in need, and of teaching the Torah. The Master also taught that these concerns did not require a spirit of self-righteous separatism, which was what was happening in the days when he walked the earth.
The whole idea of Torah wisdom rests on knowing how to apply Hashem’s commandments with balance and the right spirit, especially when these commandments cross path with each other. It is so easy to apply the outer letter of the Torah and forget its weightier matters of justice, compassion and mercy which Yeshua mentioned recalling the exhortations of former prophets (Matthew 23:23; Hoseah 6:6; Micah 6:8).
May we not be guilty of the same. May Abba give us the wisdom to apply his commands in his spirit, not forgetting that from the realms of sanctified glory, of his own volition Mashiach came down. He put on the Tamei garment of humanity; being tahor he made himself tamei so he could bring us to the tahor-ness of the Father.
P. Gabriel Lumbroso
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