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Posted April 13, 2018 - 7:08am

Parashat Shemini contains the primary passages in the Torah that spell out the laws of kashrut, laws pertaining to clean and unclean foods. It is entirely in regard to animals. It defines which animals may be eaten by the Children of Israel and which animals may not be eaten. Many modern-day readers quickly dismiss these laws as antiquated, irrelevant, and having been repealed in the New Testament. However, these attitudes do not reflect those of Yeshua or the Apostles. Let’s briefly review what the Torah says about food and then look at one implication for us today.

The Torah begins its food laws with land animals. It tells us that in order for a land animal to be fit for consumption it needs to have two qualifications: It needs to have a completely split hoof, and it needs to “chew the cud” (Leviticus 11:3). Animals that have one trait, but not the other, are forbidden for consumption. The Torah gives the example of the hare who chews the cud but does not have split hoofs, and the pig who has split hoofs, but does not chew the cud. Animals such as these are off limits.

Water-dwelling creatures, however, have other criteria. They have to have both fins and scales. So, for example, catfish would be off limits. Although they have fins, they do not have scales. Other water-dwelling animals that would be off limits would be things like shrimp, lobster, crab, sharks, eels, shellfish, etc.

Winged creatures, however, have no classification, per se. The Torah simply gives a list of winged creatures that may not be eaten. And to complicate matters, many of the creatures listed in the original Hebrew cannot be identified with absolute certainty. Therefore, oral tradition plays a large part in determining what kinds of foul are considered permissible and which are not.

Posted April 3, 2018 - 8:40pm

Omer chart thumbnailOmer stickers thumbnail

Counting the days between Passover and Pentecost is a biblical mandate! Here is a free activity download for 5778/2018 to help your family both remember to count the omer between Passover/Pesach and Pentecost/Shavuot, as well as make it fun (see link below). We have created a calendar sheet and cut-n-paste “stickers” (bring your own glue stick -or- print onto some crack-n-peel) to count the omer all the way to Shavuot. Why do we count the omer? Read up on it here.

Feel free to download these, print them out and use them for your family or congregation. Be sure to share this page on your Facebook timeline as well as Tweet it to your friends so they will be able to enjoy it as well. Enjoy! Chag Sameach!

Download now:

Posted March 30, 2018 - 6:32am

Tonight: Suffering. Tomorrow: Victory.

A Passover Devotion

Reading: Exodus 12:21 - 12:51 & Numbers 28:16 - 28:25

Tonight begins the time of our redemption in more ways than one. Tonight, approximately 3500 years ago the mighty hand of God prevailed over the gods of Egypt. The Children of Israel slaughtered the Passover lamb for the first time, applied its blood to the doorposts of their Egyptian homes, "roasted on the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it” (Exodus 12:8). But it wasn’t a leisurely meal like it is today. They were to eat it as the LORD had prescribed:

In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. (Exodus 12:11)

We know what happened after this. The Children of Israel fled Egypt, inaugurating their redemption to a new life of freedom. But this wasn’t merely a moment in history to be read about from time to time. It was to be commemorated and relived year by year:

This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven out of your houses, for if anyone eats what is leavened, from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. On the first day you shall hold a holy assembly, and on the seventh day a holy assembly. No work shall be done on those days. But what everyone needs to eat, that alone may be prepared by you. And you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall observe this day, throughout your generations, as a statute forever. (Exodus 12:14–17)

Posted March 23, 2018 - 5:32am

Is Holiness Contagious?

Many people work their way through the book of Leviticus like a new sailor staggering across the deck of his ship hoping his sea legs will kick in. Navigating through the complex laws of sacrificial procedures and ritual purifications can be a challenging endeavor. It is a venture into uncharted and difficult waters. But if we desire to truly understand the rest of the Scriptures, taking time to map out these difficult concepts is essential. For instance, take this example from the book of Haggai:

Thus says the LORD of hosts: Ask the priests about the law: “If someone carries holy meat in the fold of his garment and touches with his fold bread or stew or wine or oil or any kind of food, does it become holy?” The priests answered and said, “No.” Then Haggai said, “If someone who is unclean by contact with a dead body touches any of these, does it become unclean?” The priests answered and said, “It does become unclean.” Then Haggai answered and said, “So is it with this people, and with this nation before me, declares the LORD, and so with every work of their hands. And what they offer there is unclean.” (Haggai 2:11–14)

This argument is completely lost on one who has not studied the laws of ritual purity. In this particular case, Haggai is asking a question about the ability of objects to transfer both ritual purity and impurity. He uses this argument of the laws of purity to say that the Israelites are unable to offer a sacrifice that is considered pure, because they, themselves, have been defiled through their unethical and immoral behavior.

Paul, however, uses the laws of ritual purity to make a spiritual point to the congregation at Corinth. He tells them that if they are married to an unbelieving spouse, their spiritual state of holiness is somehow transferred to the spouse:

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Latest Book Review

The Magerman Edition

Author: Daniel Rose & Jay Goldmintz
Publisher: Koren Publishers
Year: 2014

The Koren Ani Tefilla Siddur is one of the latest in Koren’s growing collection of siddurim (prayer books) geared towards a specific demographic. Koren describes Ani Tefilla as “an engaging and thought-provoking siddur for the inquiring high school student and thoughtful adult.” Koren says that Ani Tefillah has been developed in order “to help the user create their own meaning and connection during the Tefilla [prayer] experience.” The name of the siddur is connected with its objective. Ani Tefilla means “I pray.” 

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