In this continuing series, we are examining evidences that God never intended for non-Jews to keep all of Torah.
I respect the heartfelt longing for Torah that many in the One Law or Torah revival movements feel (these are movements which do not distinguish between the duty of Jews and non-Jews with regard to Torah).
What I cannot respect is sloppy exegesis, repeating “one law for the native and the sojourner” like a mantra, and using arguments from logic as if they trump the revealed text of the Torah, prophets, and apostles.
I would rather know what HaShem thinks about non-Jews and Torah rather than hearing the very logical arguments from human reason (such as, “It is not God’s way to give differing sets of commandments to different groups.”).
I have already made some substantial arguments. No one has argued against me using sound textual interpretation to the contrary on these points:
1. God told Noah, and through him all the nations of the world, that the eating of all animals is permissible (see Part 2).
2. In the same place God said there is one law for the native and the sojourner, he also said that sojourners need not be circumcised and may not eat of the Passover sacrifice unless they are circumcised (see Part 3).
3. God specifically denies that Sabbath is for the non-Jews, but says it is a sign between Israel and himself (see Part 4, the exception is non-Jews living within Israel’s borders who must keep the Sabbath with the nation).
Next, we turn to the dietary laws. Are the dietary laws for non-Jews? Remember, God already told non-Jews in Genesis 9 that all meats are permissible. That ruling seems to be reflected later in Deuteronomy 14:21.
Treifah. That is the Hebrew noun (could be an adjective, perhaps) for meat that is found torn or dead. The word treifah, or treif, is common language in Jewish talk for all unclean meat, even meat unclean for other reasons.
The Torah has three things to say about treifah:
You shall be consecrated to me. Therefore you shall not eat any flesh that is torn by beasts in the field; you shall throw it to the dogs. Exodus 22:30 (31 in Christian Bibles).
And every person who eats what dies of itself or what is torn by beasts, whether he is a native or a sojourner, shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening; then he shall be clean. Leviticus 17:15
You shall not eat anything that has died naturally. You may give it to the sojourner who is within your towns, that he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner. For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. Deuteronomy 14:21
The rabbis deduce from Exodus 22:30 that any animal with a defect that would have led to death within 12 months is unclean. Thus, a kosher butcher inspects a carcass looking for perforated organs and various ailments that would have caused an animal to die. Any carcass found to have such a defect is sold to a non-kosher slaughtering house at a great discount (and a loss to the slaughterer).
What are we to make of these three statements in Torah about meat found dead?
Exodus absolutely forbids eating it. There is no mention in Exodus of selling it to a foreigner or a sojourner (resident alien). It is food for dogs.
Leviticus neither forbids nor permits it. It is possible to interpret Leviticus as permitting meat found dead since it merely states that eating such meat will result in impurity (and those who study Torah know it is no sin to contract impurity). Nonetheless, Leviticus is ambiguous about whether eating meat found dead is permitted.
Finally, Deuteronomy does not permit an Israelite to eat such meat. An Israelite may either donate the meat to a sojourner or sell it to a foreigner.
Let’s remember who the sojourner is: a non-Jew who has come to dwell in Israel and who takes on many of Israel’s obligations, though not all.
Now, I am out of my league and no authority whatsoever on establishing Messianic halakhah, but I will, as a sort of student in the process of learning halakhic matters, make an argument:
1. A sojourner in Israel had a status that would have to be considered greater toward the Torah than a non-Jew in the Messianic Jewish movement today. That is, the position of a sojourner was not at all ambiguous. Such a person lived within Israel’s borders and was obligated by Israel’s law to observe the Sabbath and holy days along with Israel. Circumcision and full participation (today it is called conversion) was optional, but a certain set of standards was not optional.
2. The converse of that realization, is that non-Jews in Messianic Judaism cannot be said to have a greater obligation to Torah than the ancient sojourner. The status of a non-Jew in Messianic Judaism is ambiguous. Such a person has not moved within the borders of Israel. The laws of the sojourner do not necessarily apply. Such a person may be, in fact, a foreigner and not a sojourner. I believe that such a person may choose the life of a diaspora sojourner, a person who dwells with Jews outside the land and identifies with the Jewish people without converting.
3. The sojourner, whose Torah status is greater than a non-Jew in the Messianic movement may eat treifah. Therefore, so may a non-Jew in Messianic Judaism.
What does this teach us about the application of the dietary laws of Torah to non-Jews? It affirms what Genesis 9 had already said: all meat is permissible to non-Jews. (Meat sacrificed to idols is a separate issue and deals with idolatry more so than dietary law).
Some will argue, “God merely permitted the meat to be given to sojourners or sold to foreigners. He did not say the sojourner and foreigner were permitted to eat it.”
This is a spurious argument. If eating treifah would lead to judgment for sin in the case of a foreigner, then God would not permit an Israelite to cause a foreigner to sin. Can you imagine God saying, “You shall not smoke crack, but you may sell it to someone who is a junkie”?
When we in the UMJC argue that Jews and non-Jews have a differing relationship to Torah, we are not making this argument merely from the New Testament. It is not as though Torah gave one set of rules to all mankind and that the New Testament somehow changed this. The distinction is within the Torah.
Thus, my challenge to the One Law/Torah Revival/Hebrew Roots type movements is to follow Torah accurately, making the proper distinction.
Thus, my challenge to non-Jews in the Messianic movement is to realize your different relationship to Torah. Do not assume the place of Israel. Your obligation with regard to Torah is not inherent as it is with the descendants of Jacob. Do not look down upon Christians who follow God’s Torah by exercising their freedom to enjoy babyback ribs (be honest, if you were not Messianic Jewish, you would seriously enjoy them yourself!).
As a non-Jew in Messianic Judaism, I believe you may decide to follow the dietary law for various reasons. You may do so as part of identifying with the Jews in your community. You should do so if you are married to a Jewish person. You may do so because you feel called to join with Israel. Just please, interpret Torah accurately. That is all I am asking.