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In Practice

Book of Deuteronomy Perspectives From Faith Communities In Practice

Getting Biblical in Daily Life

Dietary Laws

To keep kosher, or not to keep kosher? That is the question that many people are asking today. And even within faith communities, there are some diverging opinions. Let's take a look.

Jewish Perspective

First, let's get something straight. Not all kosher law comes from one specific place. It's been added to, changed, and interpreted over thousands of years. And to this day, Jewish observance of kosher laws varies widely. (Sorry, still no bacon.)

Now that we've got that covered, let's take a look at what Deuteronomy has to say about what you can and can't eat:

You shall not eat any abhorrent thing. These are the animals you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat, the deer, the gazelle, the roebuck, the wild goat, the ibex, the antelope, and the mountain-sheep. Any animal that divides the hoof and has the hoof cloven in two, and chews the cud, among the animals, you may eat. Yet of those that chew the cud or have the hoof cloven you shall not eat these: the camel, the hare, and the rock-badger, because they chew the cud but do not divide the hoof; they are unclean for you. And the pig, because it divides the hoof but does not chew the cud, is unclean for you. You shall not eat their meat, and you shall not touch their carcasses.

Of all that live in water you may eat these: whatever has fins and scales you may eat. And whatever does not have fins and scales you shall not eat; it is unclean for you.

You may eat any clean birds. But these are the ones that you shall not eat: the eagle, the vulture, the osprey, the buzzard, the kite of any kind; every raven of any kind; the ostrich, the nighthawk, the seagull, the hawk of any kind; the little owl and the great owl, the water-hen and the desert-owl, the carrion vulture and the cormorant, the stork, the heron of any kind; the hoopoe and the bat. And all winged insects are unclean for you; they shall not be eaten. You may eat any clean winged creature.

You shall not eat anything that dies of itself; you may give it to aliens residing in your towns for them to eat, or you may sell it to a foreigner. For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. You shall not boil a kid in its mother's milk. (14:3-21)

Translation? For our broad and modern American purposes, no shellfish, no pork, no milk and meat together. Sounds tough, but if your whole community is doing it, it's not as much of a challenge.

Orthodox Jews are considered to be the strictest when it comes to kosher laws. Many less orthodox Jews will keep kosher in their home, a much more tackle-able challenge than keeping kosher in cities of non-kosher-keepers. Reform Jews, on the other hand, made a complete break with kosher practices, serving pork at their first meetings in the late 1800s. They thought it was too ritualistic and detracted from helping Jews be a part of their adopted countries. Today Reform Jews have a variety of practices.

Think not eating cheeseburgers is a meaty topic worthy of your consideration? Check out "Should Cheeseburgers Be Kosher?" and let us know what you think.

Christian Perspective

When Christianity broke away from Judaism, there was some major discussion about whether new Christians should keep kosher. The first waves of Christians were originally Jewish, so it wasn't really a big deal for them. But when Gentiles (non-Jews) became Christians, the apostles started wrestling with issues like dietary laws and circumcision. In the book of Acts, these guys determined that Christians should not eat meat sacrificed to idols, blood, or an animal that had been strangled (15:29), but it's definitely not that long list we find in Deuteronomy.

Islamic Perspective

Islamic dietary laws are actually pretty similar to Jewish ones, but they call it "halal" instead of "kosher." Where do their rules come from? Well, Surah 5:5 in the Qur'an states that Muslims may eat the food of "the people of the book"—i.e., the Jews.

To find out what Muslims can and can't eat, check it out for yourself.

Who's the Next Great Prophet?

In sports, we love to talk about the greatest of all time. We rank quarterbacks in football, homerun kings in baseball, and scoring champions in basketball. But let's be honest—we're always waiting for someone to come along and dethrone our hero.

You probably know what we're getting at. In Deuteronomy 34:10, we read:

Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. He was unequalled for all the signs and wonders that the Lord sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants and his entire land, and for all the mighty deeds and all the terrifying displays of power that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.

Moses is the greatest prophet of all time. Case closed.

Or is it?

Moses himself said that God would raise another prophet just like him:

The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet. (18:15)

So who is this great prophet?

Before we get into the various religious perspectives on the subject, we want to take a minute to talk about what this idea was originally intended to accomplish. At its most basic level, we're talking about a political endorsement. The writer is probably hedging his bets by saying that somebody will rise to lead the Israelites in the future. This way, if somebody comes along who the writer likes, he can point and say, "Hey! I called that!" It's a pretty smart move, if you ask us.

Naturally though, future generations picked up on this cryptic line and shouted to the moon that here, finally, was proof that an older text foresaw their chosen guy. All three major Abrahamic religions have done this.

What Do You Say?

Judaism has a few picks, but never comes right out and says who that predicted prophet turned out to be. Here are a few possibilities:

  • Joshua
  • Samuel (see Psalm 99:6)
  • Elijah
  • Elisha
  • Jeremiah
  • The Messiah (who hasn't shown up yet, according to Jews)

Christians believe that Jesus is this prophet. Acts 3:22 comes right out and says it, quoting Moses's words about the prophet and declaring that Jesus is the guy.

Muslims also believe that Jesus was a prophet, but not the prophet (i.e., not the Messiah). Instead, Mohammed gets that title. According to Muslims, he was the last great prophet in a line of prophets that included Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. Allah gave Mohammed the divine revelation of the Qur'an through the angel Jibrīl.

The Shema

Jewish Perspective

Talk about staying power. Jews still recite words from Deuteronomy as a fixture of prayer services:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (6:4-9)

This specific prayer encourages community cohesion, loyalty to God, and generational listening—all very Deuteronomical concepts, if you ask us.

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