One Law or No?

I asked a question once in a forum in which I no longer participate. That question was, “Does One Law believe that the whole of Torah is for the people of G-d — whether Jew or Gentile — and that the adoption of the Torah is a sign that one has become a member of G-d’s family?” After several accusations of being dishonest, I had to restate my question, but really received no good answers. Since some laws are specifically for men or women, for Levite or Cohen, there are whole series of laws that are more specialized and as such, are not for everyone. Under “One Law,” things like the dietary laws, moadim, and cleanliness laws [to name but three] are examples of laws that belong to all who have faith in the G-d of Israel. However, one must set aside Torah to adopt this belief!

Please let me explain.

לֹא תֹאכְלוּ כָל-נְבֵלָה לַגֵּר אֲשֶׁר-בִּשְׁעָרֶיךָ תִּתְּנֶנָּה וַאֲכָלָהּ, אוֹ מָכֹר לְנָכְרִי–כִּי עַם קָדוֹשׁ אַתָּה, לַיהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ; לֹא-תְבַשֵּׁל גְּדִי, בַּחֲלֵב אִמּוֹ.

“You shall not eat of any carcass; you can give it to the sojourner within your gates and he can eat it, or sell it to a stranger, for you are a holy people to Hashem your God…” Deuteronomy 14:21

While this verse is the main text of interest, there are four other passages that must be considered.

  • Every creeping thing that is alive, to you it is for food as the whole of green herb I have given to you; only flesh with its life — its blood — you shall not eat. [Genesis 9:3]
  • And you are holy men to Me, and flesh torn in the field you shall not eat, to a dog shall you cast it. [Exodus 22:30]
  • And when any of the beasts that are food for you dies, he who comes against its carcass is unclean until the evening; and he who is eats the carcass must wash his garments, and shall be unclean until the evening; and he who lifts the carcass must wash his garments, and shall be unclean until the evening. [Leviticus 11:39-40]
  • And any person who eats a carcass or torn thing — among natives or among sojourners — shall both washed his garments, and bathe with water, and shall be unclean until the evening — then he shall be clean; and if he doesn’t wash or bathe his flesh, then he shall bear his iniquity. [Leviticus 17:15-16]

In the beginning, plants were the exclusive diet of all land animals [Genesis 1:29-30]*. Therefore, from the Creation until the days of Noach, there was one diet for all mankind and it involved plant life; I assume plain, cooked, boiled, steamed, fresh, spiced, fried, baked.

After the deluge, Hashem expanded the diet for the descendants of Noach [Genesis 9:3]. It goes without saying the descendants of Noah include both the gentile nations and the progenitors of the Jewish people; the reason I bring this particular point up is that all of mankind were able to consume anything [plant and animal] as long as limbs were not torn from the bodies of living animals or blood was consumed. As an interesting aside, the LXX translates “creeping things” in Genesis 9:3 as “reptiles,” but the addition of “all” indicates anything that moved, and that would include animals that are declared clean and unclean**.

Exodus 22:30 is a restriction on the Jewish diet, where animals that are torn in the field are not to be eaten. Torn in the field is a direct reference to animals mortally wounded or killed by predators, wild animals, or birds of prey. The LXX uses the term, taken of beasts. The Talmud, in b.Chullin 37a, 43a, and 57b, provides a description of the types of injuries that render an animal to be considered torn. Additionally, if the animal is unable to survive and/or if the animal lost certain vital components to its body, it is considered torn, even if it still alive. While a torn animals cannot be eaten, we are able to benefit from the carcass, for Leviticus 7:24 allows the Jew to make use of the fat as long as it is not consumed. Leviticus 3:17 restricts the fat to be the equivalent portion that would be put on the altar and 7:23-27, while notably continuing the restriction of the consumption of blood, clarifies the fat-consumption restriction by prohibiting the Jews [cf. Leviticus 1:2 & 7:23] from all fat that is the equivalent portion that would be put on the altar.

A question arising from statement is, “If we cannot eat animals that die of physical injury [torn animals], are we able to eat animals that die of itself? After all, is not a negative command bound in halacha?” Leviticus 7:24 provides the catalyst for the answer when it makes a surprising distinction between an animal that dies and an animal that is torn to death. Now we have a second type of carcass: animals that die of themselves [be it old age, disease, or by unknown causes]. Immediately in Leviticus 7:23-27 the text prohibits the consumption of [sacrificially equivalent] fats from both carcass types [cf. b.Chullin 37a that deals directly with animals dying prior to shechitah]. Additionally, all blood, be it from a live animal or any carcass, is strictly forbidden and carries with it the penalty of karet.

Another question now arises. We understand eating all blood and all sacrificially equivalent fats are forbidden as well as the meat from torn animals, but are we allowed to eat the carcass of an animal that dies of itself? We receive our answer from Leviticus 11:40 where the restriction against eating an animal that dies of itself is presented. Additionally, Leviticus 17:15-16 also includes the same restriction on birds who either die or are torn.

The texts presented here have a surprising twist that should not be ignored. Leviticus 17:13-14 restricts eating blood for both B’nai Israel and the convert [heb: ger] and provides a karet penalty. Interestingly, this is the same restriction given to all mankind in Genesis 9:3 but with no penalty attached— meaning Jews and proselytes are held to a higher standard!

Until Leviticus 17, there has been no distinction between convert or Jew*** in regard to food, which indicates this particular negative command [eating blood] is bound to include both converts and blood; the rule cannot be loosed to include eating carcasses or fat! As a support, Moshe Rabbeinu in Deuteronomy 14:21 tells us that no Jew may consume a carcass. However, he states we can GIVE it to the convert [heb. ger], or we can sell it to the stranger [Nakri].

Now, with symmetry across all the verses, we can see that the simple concept of “One Law” in regard to dietary restrictions is disingenuous. The concept of One Law drowns in the convert’s stewpot.

* There is room for argument that fish [not having the “breath” of life in them], were not given given the commandment to eat plant life for food; this would mean none, some, or all were omnivorous.

** Clean and unclean are terminologies used during the story of Noach. Unclean animals were brought onto the ark in pairs, while clean animals were brought on as seven pairs. Since the declaration of clean and unclean would be intrinsic to its function, one can only assume the unclean animals had a character trait that was abhorrent, and that revulsive activity continued after the flood. This comes from the concept found in Genesis 2, “Whatever the man called each living creature, that was its function / authority / name.

*** No attempt at dishonesty is made here. A simple search will find several references to “One law” in the torah prior to Leviticus 17 [and after], but all these references are contextually referring to sacrifice — the first being Exodus in relation to the laws of the Korban Pesach and the requirement of brit milah. Additionally, Exodus 12:48-49 provides for a “stranger who dwells with you” who wants to keep the Pesach; again, this indicates keeping Pesach is an option for the “stranger who swells with us.”

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