Hebrew Roots/Torah observance/Shemini

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Shemini—“Eighth” Vayikra/Leviticus 9:1-11:14

Symbolism of the Eighth Day

The name of the Parsha, Shemini, means “the eighth,” and refers to the day on which Aaron and his sons were inducted as the priests of the Sanctuary. There is a relationship between the numbers “seven” and “eight” in Torah. “Seven” is associated with the physical space and time. The “level of holiness” man is capable of reaching in this world is symbolized by the number seven. “Eight” represents a level of holiness beyond the normal confines of space and time. It is related to “being wholly united with Yahweh as He is in Himself, rather than as He is related to the world.” This is why a circumcision is done on the eighth day and can be performed on Shabbat (which is the “seventh day” of every week). Shabbat belongs to physical space and time, but circumcision belongs to the realm of the Holy. “Eight” thus represents a level of holiness that goes beyond the idea that God and the world are two distinct entities.

The number eight is associated with the Time of the Redemption. As seen in this Parsha, the “seven days” working on the Tabernacle prepared everyone for the “eighth” day, when they experienced the presence of God. This is related to the idea of seven thousand years of human history (including the Millennial Kingdom) followed by the “eighth day” of the Olam Haba (World to Come).

The Consecration

And he said to Aaron: “Take you a young calf for a sin offering, and a ram for an ascent offering, without blemish, and offer them before God. “And to the children of Israel you shall speak, saying: Take a kid of the goats for a sin offering; and a calf and a lamb, both of the first year, without blemish, for a burnt offering; also a bullock and a ram for peace offerings, to sacrifice before God; and a meal offering mingled with oil; “For today God will appear to you...”

The offerings are brought as instructed, following which, Moshe and Aaron went into the Tent of Meeting, and came out, and blessed the people: and the glory of God appeared to all the people. Leviticus 9:22-24

In an awesome display of His holiness, Aaron, the High Priest, blesses the people and a fire consumes the burnt offering. At this point, the children of Israel shout and fall on their faces. Apparently, the Holy One was pleased with their obedience and He accepts their offerings by His Shekinah appearing again, the first time since the Tabernacle was finished. Now with all the preparations completed and the priests ready to minister, the Tabernacle can begin to be used for what it was intended.

The Talmud tells us that when the fire came down from heaven, 1. It crouched majestically over the altar like a lion. 2. It’s flame was of a substance that appeared solid 3. It was able to devour even wet wood. 4. It caused no smoke This only happened on three other recorded occasions - at the birth of Samson (Judges 13); at the dedication of Solomon’s temple (2 Chronicles 7); and when Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal. (1 Kings 18) - Also in Acts 2 with the tongues of fire. Then within some undetermined amount of time, tragedy comes to the House of Aaron. For unstated reasons, Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron take unauthorized fire before Yahweh and in His displeasure He consumes them with fire from the altar. When you reflect on the descriptive verses, you can readily conclude that reverence, respect and awe for the Holy One of Israel are some of the things that He requires of His servants.

Strange Fire

Nadav and Avihu, the sons of Aaron, took each of them his censer, and put fire in it, and put incense on it, and offered strange fire before God, which He commanded them not. A fire went out from God, and consumed them, and they died before God. (10:1-2) Aaron’s sons died on account of four things: “For drawing near"--because they entered into the innermost precincts of the Sanctuary. “For offering"--because they offered a sacrifice which they had not been commanded to offer. “For the strange fire"--which they brought, not as commanded. “And for not having taken counsel from each other"--as it says, “Each of them his censer,” implying that they acted each on his own initiative, not taking counsel from one another.

“Then Moshe said to Aaron, ‘It is what Yahweh spoke, saying, “By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, And before all the people I will be honoured"’ So Aaron, therefore, kept silent” (Vayikra/Leviticus10:3)

Aaron’s sons, Nadav and Avihu, sinned with fire and were punished with death by fire. However, within a few short verses, the text turns to the problem of serving Yahweh while under the intoxicating influence of “wine or strong drink”. Hence it has been concluded by Biblical scholars that it is conceivable that Nadab and Abihu could have been under the influence of alcohol and that they simply did not show a reverent fear of the Holy One. As an example for eternity, the dramatic loss of life by a consuming fire has indelibly reminded people in positions of spiritual responsibility that the Holy One requires absolute sobriety when one is conducting his priestly duties.

In Ecclesiastes 5:1, it is written, “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God; for to draw near to listen is better than to give the sacrifice of fools, for they don’t know that they do evil.” (HNV revised)

The Artscroll Chumash says that they went into the Tabernacle after having had wine. (p. 594) Many other Rabbis also understand this to have been the case. The same fire which blessed the people for meeting His requirements of obedience in doing things after His pattern, destroyed those who did not. Surely our God is a consuming fire.

Anyone who does not come to God His way, is approaching Him in rebellion and disobedience. That was the sin of Nadab and Abihu. They thought they could come to God another way, their way. In doing so they elevated themselves to a position of insolence to the Most High, presuming they could enter His Presence on their own merit and in their own way, as having the power to choose what the Almighty should accept from them.

This is not a judgement that occurred because they were under a different covenant. It was not just how God handled rebellion and disobedience in the Old Covenant. He did similar in Acts chapter 5 with Ananias and Sapphira. The difference today is that we do not have His manifest Presence amongst us. The heavenly fire is missing whenever complete dedication is missing.

Yahweh’s fire falls on the sacrifices that are offered with hearts completely dedicated to Him, as it is written in 1 Kings 18:38, “Then the fire of Yahweh fell, and consumed the ascension offering, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench."(HNV revised) But the fire will consume those who come before Him in arrogance and self-will. If we want to experience the glory of Yahweh’s fire in our lives, we must give ourselves as ascension offerings with hearts completely dedicated to Him. Then the fire will fall as in Acts 2: 3, “Tongues like fire appeared and were distributed to them, and one sat on each of them."(HNV)

Separation Unto Him

As the text continues, the linkage is made to the requirement to make a distinction between the holy and the profane and the clean and the unclean. This is where the balance of the portion begins to rivet our attention For it is in this verse where the Hebrew word badal,translated for “distinction or separation,” becomes the primary emphasis. Here the royal priesthood, the nation of priests, the children of Israel who have been called out to be, as Isaiah declares centuries later a “light unto the nations,"are commanded to make a distinction between the holy and the profane and to understand the difference between the clean and the unclean.

And Moshe called Mishael and Elzafan, the sons of Uzziel the uncle of Aaron, and said to them: “Come near, carry your brothers from before the Sanctuary out of the camp.” So they went near, and carried them in their robes out of the camp; as Moshe had said.

Because of the centrality of their role in the revelation of the Divine Presence in the Sanctuary that day, Aaron and his two remaining sons are forbidden to engage in any of the customary mourning practices: “And Moshe said to Aaron, and to Elazar and to Itamar, his sons: “Let not the hair of your heads grow long, neither rend your clothes; lest you die, and lest anger come upon all the people. Your brethren, the whole house of Israel, shall bewail the conflagration which God has burned..." And they did according to the word of Moshe.

Nadab and Abihu were executed by the fire of Yahweh for not following his commandments. Likewise, at the end of the Messianic Age (Millennium) unrepentant sinners will be executed by the fire of Yahweh in the Lake of Fire. We are now living in an age of grace where, thankfully, each of our sinful actions is not met by instant divine judgment. Does knowing that we will not be instantly “zapped” when we sin cause us to become lax and even calloused toward sin in our lives? Do we truly walk in the fear of Yahweh? Do we fear the consequences of sin even though the results may not be immediate? How loose is your spiritual walk? How many hidden sins that no one knows about do you have that you are failing to deal with? The path of righteousness is becoming narrower and narrower. Not everyone is going to be “the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 5:19).

The Clean and the Unclean

“‘For I am Yahweh your God Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. And you shall not make yourselves unclean with any of the swarming things that swarm on the earth. For I am Yahweh who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God; thus you shall be holy, for I am holy” (Vayikra/Leviticus11:44-45)

This week’s Torah portion contains the laws of distinguishing between clean and unclean animals. The Bible says that those animals which God designates as unclean are not to be regarded as food. When God speaks about that which is unclean and clean in Scripture, He not referring to physical cleanliness. Yahweh God has taken everything in the world and divided it into two categories, - That which is clean and that which is unclean. Everything unclean He has placed in the category of sin and death, Whereas every thing clean is in the realm of life and righteousness.

Coming into contact with anything which God has declared unclean, by either touching or eating it, renders a person “tamei” or spiritually unclean, they have come into contact with what God has declared to be in the realm of sin and death. This does not mean that the person is now physically or morally unclean, but that they are spiritually unclean and therefore unable to participate in communal worship. They will remain in this tamei state until they have taken the necessary steps to become “tahor” or clean. So the kashrut laws were given to us for the purpose of being holy, why? Because our God is holy!

“Therefore,gird up your minds, be sober, hope perfectly on the grace to be brought to you at the revealing of Yeshua the Messiah As obedient children, do not be conformed to the previous lusts of your former ignorance, but like the Holy One Who called you, be holy yourselves also in all of your conduct,because it is written, ‘YOU SHALL BEHOLY, FOR I AM HOLY'” (1Peter 1:13-16)

The reason why God gave us the dietary commandments and why certain animals such as pigs, shrimp, crabs, lobsters, and birds of prey are considered inedible, is because Yahweh is a holy God who makes distinction between the clean and unclean and He wants us to live it out in our daily lives. Many Christians might scoff at the idea that separating clean and unclean meats is archaic and too “Old Testament.” But how many of the same fail to separate the clean and unclean when choosing friends? How many of the same fail to separate clean and unclean when reading books, watching television, or looking up Internet websites? You see, even “smaller” principles as they relate to what we eat can have larger consequences. For when we learn to separate “small” things that He considers acceptable and unacceptable, we will learn how to separate much larger things and be part of the separated people that He desires.

Their food is one of the most important things that mark the difference between the children of Israel and other people. This chapter teaches us that what man eats is very important to Yahweh. From the beginning He has been very interested in man’s diet. The first commandment given to man had to do with food. Sin came into the world through forbidden food. So, if what man eats is so important to Yahweh, it ought to be important to man as well. Yahweh is the one who determines what is important and what is of less importance for man. The Scriptures teach us that what we eat is very important. Food has a lot to do with consecration and sin.

According to Rabbi Shaul, when a person does any part of Torah to earn, merit or keep any part of his atonement, his justification received by grace through faith and accomplished in total by the death and resurrection of Yeshua Messiah, then that becomes legalism! It should not be done at all. But, on the other hand, because Yahweh has written Torah on our heart as a New Creation, it has now become part of our basic identity. We then can join with Rabbi Shaul as well as tens of thousands of other Jewish believers about whom it is said in Acts 21:20, “You see, brother, how tens of thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the Torah.” We can be zealous for keeping the Torah in an attitude of devotion and reverence for Yahweh our God. If Shaul wanted to teach against a believer, especially a Jewish believer, living according to the Torah (which would include the dietary laws), this would be the time to nail it down. But, in fact, he teaches the opposite and confirms that not only is it permissible but he himself lives that way too!

Thus, if Israel, especially the believers in Messiah among Israel--and those who are grafted into Israel--see the importance of maintaining our identity as a holy nation, just like our spiritual forefathers did by expressing it through the Torah of the dietary laws, then why should anyone be discouraged from it.

A Wholesome Lifestyle of Daily Bread

The biblical kosher (or kasher/rvk [Strong’s H#3787] meaning to be straight, right, acceptable) laws involve many areas: health issues, holiness (not defiling the body, the temple of Yahweh’s Set-apart Spirit), separation issues we’re to act, live, eat, worship, think, dress and talk differently than the heathens around us. We’re a called-out and sanctified (set apart) people. Therefore, we do not have the liberty to act, speak, dress, eat and live the way the heathens do. We can’t expect to be called the Children of the Most High yet live like the children of the world. We must choose who we are going to serve: Yahweh or Mamon.

The same God who has placed boundaries around our behavior in every other area of life has placed boundaries around our diets. If we acknowledge that he has the authority to regulate our sexual inclinations and appetites, we must also recognize he has the authority to regulate our stomachs. “Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for Yahweh, and Yahweh is for the body.” (1 Corinthians 6:13) In chapter 11 instructions are given with regard to clean and unclean foods. The dietary laws of Kashrus were lovingly given to protect us. “You shall worship Yahweh, your God, and He shall bless your bread and your water, and I shall remove illness from the midst of you.” Exodus 23:25

Oftentimes, many of the diseases that scourge and ravage our bodies today are brought on because of what we eat. We eat unwholesome foods, junk and fast foods, which were not sanctified biblically. These unwholesome foods over a period of time begin to attack our bodies with sickness and lead to many chronic illnesses that are preventable if we follow the prescribed diets that were given to us biblically. We would greatly enhance our quality and length of life, if we were to follow Yahweh’s grocery list.

Many brethren are led to believe that it is acceptable to eat pig. They readily quote: “I Timothy 4:3-4 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God has created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving."

On face value, this particular passage of scripture would do nicely to license one to eat whatever she/he wishes since every creature God has created is good, and that nothing is to be refused if received with prayer and thanksgiving right? This in fact is a good example of taking a text out of context. Many who quote and use this text fail to read verse 5, “For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.” Sanctification means that which is set apart, holy. And in order for us to know what is sanctified by Yahweh’ word, we would need to return to the book of Leviticus and read chapter 11, which details for us the laws of Kashrus. Unclean animals are not holy - set apart for us to eat.

If we are what we eat, then by mere deductive reasoning we can logically conclude that if we eat that which is not sanctified by Yahweh’ word; then are we not eating what pagans eat? This of course places us smack in the middle of idolatry. In order for our bread to be blessed, we would first need to worship Him. In order to worship Yahweh, it requires us to obey His commands. And if we obey His commands, then are we entitled to all His many benefits. Let us not fall for the entrapments of apostasy, but let us return to our first love, Yahweh. Let Us Run This Race with endurance!

Clean and unclean meats:

11:4, 47 The word unclean is tawmay meaning defiled, impure, polluted ethically, ritually or religiously and the word clean is tahowr which means pure physically, ceremonially, morally, ethically. In verse 43 Yahweh says that in eating unclean meats one becomes abominable (or detestable, filthy). In Ezekiel 22:26 Yahweh rebukes his people because, “Her priests have violated my Torah-law, and have profaned my set-apart/kadosh things: they have put no difference between the set-apart/kadosh and profane/polluted/common, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my Sabbaths, and I am profaned among them.” In Leviticus 11: 45 the Torah states: For I am Yahweh that brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your Yahweh: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”

What is Yahweh trying to tell us here about the foods we eat? Is this more than just an issue of physical health? Why the mention of leaving Egypt here? There are many issues here that need to be explored. How serious are you about obedience? Is your god your belly? Do your taste buds or the Word of Yahweh rule your life? Remember, Torah covers all aspects of life: physical, spiritual, emotional, relational, etc. Torah is a very holistic handbook on life. Are you one who takes the (humanistic) pick-and-choose approach to Torah-obedience?: “I’ll obey only the biblical (dietary) laws that suit me.” Isn’t this akin to what the serpent told Adam and Eve?: “You can have it your way...Yahweh didn’t really mean what he said when it comes to obedience."

We obey him simply because he has said these things. It is certainly true that when we obey the commandments we will have a long life and health in our bodies. It is also true that the meat of several of these unclean animals is harmful and may contain things that are dangerous for man to eat. It is also true that the nature of the animals is in the blood, and if one eats part of their blood, which is unavoidable when eating meat, it is possible that the nature of the animals affect the character of the person who eats it. These things are secondary, however, and the Torah does not focus on them. The Torah says that one who avoids eating certain animals that have been classified by heaven as unclean, will be consecrated. These rules have mainly to do with consecration, and consecration has a lot to do with food. Obedience to these commands will also bring healing. A bi-product of this obedience is health and prosperity in all things, but the main purpose for these commandments is, as mentioned, not man’s health, but his consecration.

Specified Clean Foods

Animals have to have a split hoof and chew the cud. Horses chew the cud but do not have a split hoof. Rabbits chew the cud but do not have a hoof. Pigs have a split hoof but do not chew the cud. These animals are all unclean. Here are most of the (Torah) clean animals from Leviticus 11: sheep, goats, cows, dear, oxen, buffalo and moose all have split hooves and chew the cud. Here are some unclean animals: dog, cat, possum, squirrel, rat, ferret, monkey, kangaroo, elephant, rhinoceros and all reptiles.

Fish have to have both scales and fins to be clean. It would be easier to list a few of the common unclean fishes than all the clean. Among the unclean are: catfish, squid, octopus, shellfish, dolphin, whale, jellyfish, crab, shrimp, eel, mussels, abalone, clam, tuna etc.. Fish with fins and scales live in the higher and clearer waters. They are sustained by the air that enters there, and therefore their bodies contain a certain amount of heat which counteracts the abundance of moistness of the waters. The fish which do not have fins and scales dwell in the lower turbulent waters and cannot repel the abundance of moistness in their native habitat. Hence, the cold fluid in the area in which they swim, cleaves to them and can cause death to people who consume them.

Spiritual Issues

In 2 Corinthians 6:16-17 we read: “And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith Yahweh, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.”

The issue of clean/pure and unclean/polluted/abominable meats is not simply a dietary/health consideration, but a spiritual issue with Yahweh. Both Moshe (Lev. 19:2) and the Apostolic writers had a clear sense of the fact that without holiness no one will see Yahweh (Heb. 12:14), and that holiness or being kadosh/set-apart from the ways, lifestyles, ideologies of this world (i.e., from spiritual Egypt) is an absolute requirement of Yahweh for his people. Is it possible to spiritualize away the concept of set-apartness and still be true to Scripture? Can one be spiritually sanctified (set-apart) through the atoning work of Yeshua at the cross, but then have a polluted lifestyle? In other words, can one follow the spirit of the law and violate the letter and still be acceptable to Yahweh? What did James say about faith without works (James 2:20)? What did Yeshua teach at the Sermon On the Mount (Matt. 5-7) about uniting the letter and the spirit of the law and practicing both?

The Holy Spirit enables us now to keep His commandments and convicts us when we are about to violate His commandments. This creates more liberality for those who have received the Messiah and the Holy Spirit. We are no longer under a system where we are bound to consult a written code of interpretation of the Torah. The law is spiritual and a liberated spirit whose heart is renewed in such a way as to desire to obey, walks in liberty in the keeping of the commandments - they are not burdensome.

We become holy (kadosh/set-apart) through the blood of Yeshua, the Lamb of God and we remain sanctified by retaining our fellowship with Him by confessing and forsaking sin. on a regular basis. (1 John 3:4)

“If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness (our own ways=sin) we lie, and do not the truth, but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Yeshua Messiah his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:6-9)

“Come now, and let us reason together, saith Yahweh: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)

Yahweh cares about our entire person: body, soul and spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23). We are to worship and serve him with the totality of our being (with all our heart, soul and might (Deut. 6:5; Mark 12:30). At the beginning He made us in his very own likeness/image (Gen. 1:26), and He gave instructions as to what we were to eat. The original sin was in regard to what was eaten. Man chose to disobey and eat from the wrong ‘tree’, contrary to the command of Yahweh. There is a saying, You are what you eat. Adam and Eve sinned when they ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. They became defiled by what they ate.

That which is pure and set-apart/clean, is good while that which is polluted, defiled or unclean is evil in the eyes of Yahweh.

What are some other ways we can defile/pollute/destroy the Temple of our bodies? Alcoholism, nicotine, junk food, pornography, illicit sex, watching immoral and unrighteous movies and television gossip/slander and wrong thoughts (lust, bitterness, pride, etc.) to name a few.

Have you turned away from eating things which are abominable physically and also that which is polluted spiritually (traditions of men which nullify the Word of Yahweh, lies, false doctrines, false teachings, false prophets and false messiahs (i.e. those we reverence and from who we take counsel?) We need to cleanse ourselves from every defilement of the flesh and the spirit and be clean in His sight. Babylon means mixture or confusion and in the last days Yahweh is calling his people out of Babylon (Rev. 18:4).

From which tree are you feeding? .... from the Tree of Knowledge or from the Tree of Life ??? (1 Timothy 4:5)?