dietary laws

Parasha: Shemini

Biblical Dietary Laws

Tags:  creation


Sheminiשמיני : “Eighth”
Torah : Leviticus 9:1–11:47
Haftarah : 2 Samuel 6:1–7:17
Gospel : Luke 7–9

Thought for the Week:

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 the LORD, and the LORD is for the body. (1 Corinthians 6:13)

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.

As believers in Yeshua, those of us who live according to the Torah are often challenged by sincere, well-meaning believers who say that according to the New Testament writings, we should not follow the biblical dietary laws. This writer himself, a Jewish believer, has said that many times years ago. What can be said?

First, as we have noted, we cannot pick and choose what parts of Torah are going to characterize our lives. Thus, it is really a question of: is it permissible for a New Covenant believer to follow any of the Torah of Moshe?

I will answer in a very “Jewish” manner and refer you to a great commentator before me as so many others have done: 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 the LORD 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 [the thrust of the Greek word usually rendered here as just “thousands”] of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the Torah.”

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?

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