Book Review: Biblically Kosher

I know … I’m way behind on my book reviews. I’ve been so incredibly busy lately that it has been hard to keep up on my weekly blogging. Although I am a little behind other bloggers who have already reviewed this book, I think the book is still worth contributing my own few thoughts on.

In January First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) released one of its most recent books, Biblically Kosher: A Messianic Jewish Perspective on Kashrut, by Aaron Eby. With a title like, “Biblically Kosher,” it would be easy to assume that Eby would tow the common Messianic party-line on what it means to eat “kosher.” However, knowing Aaron Eby, and FFOZ, I knew this not to be the case and to ‘not judge a book by it’s cover’ … errr, it’s title.

Let me be clear before proceeding, I applaud those who hold to some sort of semblance of kashrut, including the level of what is often called ‘biblically kosher.’ I recognize that in today’s world, maintaining a “diet for the soul” is not easy and that it changes everything – what you can eat in restaurants, what you can eat in other people’s homes, and the requirement to ask lots of questions about ingredients whenever you purchase or order anything. As one who believes that an “all or nothing” approach to observance can often lead to ‘no observance’ or quick burn-out within a year or two, every small step is a step in the right direction. Therefore, when taking on a greater level of observance, it must be done in a way that is both meaningful and maintainable.

But it is also important that we are honest with ourselves about what we do … or don’t do.

A Common Misconception

What most people within the Messianic movement today call “Biblically kosher” is in reality only  ‘kosher-style.’ To truly be ‘biblical’ it would require not only the avoidance of forbidden foods like pork and shellfish, but also the purchase of kosher meat – something quite difficult outside of major urban centers with large Jewish populations. Therefore convenience has dictated the common ‘kosher-style’ approach.

However, there is a growing movement within Messianic Jewish circles of those who desire to take on a greater level of kashrut. This is especially true among a number of those in their 20’s and 30’s. Here in LA, for example, most of the Messianic Jewish 20 and 30-somethings I know active in Jewish life all have kosher kitchens and primarily only eat kosher food. And this is true in other cities as well. Many younger Messianic Jews desire a greater level of observance in this area.

Hence the need for Eby’s book. Biblically Kosher is an excellent resource for understanding not only the Bible’s approach to what we eat, but also what Jewish tradition has understood over the last 2,000 years. There is actually great wisdom, as Eby points out, in maintaining a semblance of kashrut that is recognizable to other Jews.

Contents of the Book

There are three parts to the book. In part I Eby discusses in-depth reasons for keeping kosher and why it is important. He also addresses common objections to keeping kosher. In part II of the book, Eby specifically goes into what the Torah itself says about kashrut and what we can and cannot eat. In the final part of the book, part III, Eby then discusses keeping kosher within the Messianic Community, and particularly addresses issues and questions related to Gentiles who desire to keep kosher.

The final portion of the book includes a few reference materials, including a glossary and a scriptural reference index.

Most importantly, Eby brings a Messianic Jewish perspective into every part of this book – discussing how Yeshua either directly fits into it, and/or what the New Testament has to say on the various issues.

Important Topics

I must say that I was quite impressed with the depth of Eby’s book, as well as the breadth of all he discusses … and yet does so without being too technical or overly wordy. This book is written with the average person in mind. It is a thorough, yet quick read.

I was also particularly impressed with the way he handles the discussion of mixing meat and dairy, and the way he breaks down various biblical verses including the often quoted command, “not to cook a kid in it’s mother’s milk (Ex. 23:19, 34:26; Deut. 14:21).” Eby demonstrates clearly through the biblical text how the rabbis came to the conclusion of not mixing meat and dairy from the Torah itself, and that this ancient practice goes back even before the time of Yeshua.

Eby also does a tremendous job demonstrating from the biblical text itself the importance of ritual slaughter and the importance of eating kosher meat.

Whether you are relatively new to the idea of ‘keeping kosher’ or already quite knowledgeable of the issues, this book is for you. I recommend this book as a beginning place for understanding how rooted in Scripture kashrut is,  and its importance for those at the beginning of their journeys. But I also recommend this book to leaders and others already well-versed in kashrut, as this is an excellent resource for later consultation. No matter your current level of knowledge and observance – this book is for you! There is something new everyone can get out of this important contribution.

I highly recommend this book – and you can get your copy right HERE.

About Rabbi Joshua

I'm a Rabbi, writer, thinker, mountain biker, father and husband ... not necessarily in that order. According to my wife, however, I'm just a big nerd. I have degrees in dead languages and ancient stuff. I have studied in various Jewish institutions, including an Orthodox yeshiva in Europe. I get in trouble for making friends with perfect strangers, and for standing on chairs to sing during Shabbos dinner. In addition to being the Senior Rabbi of Simchat Yisrael Messianic Synagogue in West Haven, CT, I write regularly for several publications and speak widely in congregations and conferences. My wife is a Southern-fried Jewish Beltway bandit and a smokin' hot human rights attorney... and please don’t take offense if I dump Tabasco sauce on your cooking.
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1 Response to Book Review: Biblically Kosher

  1. Lisa W says:

    We just finished reading “Biblically Kosher” late last week and thoroughly enjoyed it as well. The material is easy to follow and very thorough, yet not in a way that makes you feel as if you’re drowning in facts and foreign words. We also appreciated that no matter what your kashrut observance, there is no condemnation for the reader. We’re very thankful for this resource in our small and growing community.

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