Archive for the 'Rabbinic Judaism' Category

Messianic Quandaries about the “Oral Torah” of Rabbinic Judaism

by Geert ter Horst

Carl Schleicher — A Matter of Contention in the Talmud

Torah observant Messianics need to reflect on the status of what is called the “Oral Torah” — and Jewish tradition in general — for their religious practice. On the one hand it is clear that Yeshua followed many of the traditions of the Pharisees of his days, while on the other hand it cannot be denied that he opposed at least some of their traditions (cf. Mark 7:1-23).

Because of our adherence to Yeshua, we seem to enter quandaries and conundrums as soon as we get into the specific details about how actually to practice Torah. For example: It is a divine obligation to recite the Shema twice daily? Are we to follow the rabbinic guidelines about daily prayer, the halachot of Shabbat, &c?

We are in a dilemma here that cannot easily be solved and that carries with it many paradoxes or even outright contradictions. It is very difficult to accept one part of the “Oral Torah” and to reject another, and yet it is clear that we as Messianics cannot accept all of it, because this would imply our rejection of Yeshua. I have made a short list of the difficulties involved, to give a first impression of our whereabouts in this complex field

As already stated, it is part of the “Oral Torah” to reject the claims of Yeshua. Because this rejection is considered essential for Orthodox Judaism’s definition of the Jewish faith, full acceptance of the “Oral Torah” by Messianics is out of the question.

The “Oral Torah” cannot — per definitionem — be identified with any written document. It is actually nothing else but the living voice of Rabbinic Judaism in its own understanding of the normativity of Jewish tradition. For the “Oral Torah” requires the system of rabbinic authority. However, in the same manner as it is clear that we cannot accept Judaism’s rejection of Yeshua, it is also clear that we cannot without qualifications accept the authority of the Rabbis who are the embodiment of the “Oral Torah”, including its rejection of Yeshua.

According to the “Oral Torah” Gentile Messianics are simply Gentiles and nothing else. Paradoxically, our subjection to rabbinic legislation is not accepted by Judaism itself. If a Gentile Messianic should inform an orthodox Rabbi that he is obedient to the Jewish part of the “Oral Torah”, this Rabbi would contradict him by saying that in fact he isn’t obedient at all but instead very disobedient, perhaps even defiantly disobedient. For, the Rabbi would argue, while knowing quite well that Gentiles should only obey the Noachide laws, he tries to observe the laws of Israel that were never meant for him. The proper subjection of Gentiles to rabbinic authority should mean their obedience to only those parts of the “Oral Torah” which are clearly for Gentiles. Thus, on the basis of the prescriptions of the Jewish part of the “Oral Torah” itself it appears that Gentiles in fact disobey it by the very fact that they attempt to obey it. Such an attempt is completely illegal from a rabbinic viewpoint, and from the orthodox perspective it can be compared to the attempts of Korach and his followers who wanted to be priests. The only exception here is the case of giur (proselyte conversion). Gentiles are permitted to obey the Jewish parts of the Torah if they make serious efforts to become orthodox converts.

The Apostolic Writings are in the category of prohibited books by Orthodox Judaism, and this prohibition is certainly part of the “Oral Torah”. So, if we accept the entire “Oral Torah” we — eo ipso — reject the Apostolic Writings.

If we say that we as Messianics have our own viewpoint, and that we in part accept the “Oral Torah”, we seem to run into a predicament. For the very splitting up of the “Oral Torah” into parts seems to be something that, properly spoken, cannot be done at all, because it is clear that the living voice of Judaism is undivided. By its very definition the “Oral Torah” is an undivided whole which is not written and which can never be identified with its written historical sources, e.g. the Mishnah and the Talmud. This seems to exclude that Gentile believers can have proper access to the “Oral Torah” at all. For whatever written sources of the “Oral Torah” are studied by them, these sources, when detached from living Judaism, are not the “Oral Torah”.

The statement that as Messianics we accept certain parts of the “Oral Torah” needs further clarification. Above all, it requires a criterion that can provide us the instrument to decide between which parts of the “Oral Torah” should be accepted and which parts of it should be rejected. But where can that criterion, or instrument, be found? There seem only two available candidates here: The Apostolic Scriptures and the authority of the Christian Church. Of these two the authority of the Christian Church be a easily dismissed, for nothing at all of the “Oral Torah” and very little of the Written Torah is accepted by the Church. If, however, we try to find our criterion in the Apostolic Scriptures we face the big problems that, (1), these Scriptures do not nearly cover the whole domain of the “Oral Torah” and that, (2), these Scriptures were canonized by the same Christian Church which rejects the “Oral Torah”.

Only a few items of the “Oral Torah” are discussed or touched upon in the Apostolic Writings, and it is very difficult to develop from these the general instrument required to judge what to accept of the “Oral Torah”. Although we can safely conclude that for us as Messianics no part of the “Oral Torah” or rabbinic legislation may be accepted which contradicts the words of Yeshua and his Apostles, yet this negative rule of contradiction is by far not sufficient to provide us the criterion we are searching for. From this rule we can only conclude which parts of the “Oral Torah” should be rejected but not which parts should be accepted — except those of course which we find to be observed and taught in the Apostolic Writings.

In particular we cannot, by means of the Apostolic Writings, know which later halachic delopments would have been accepted and authorized by the Apostles, had they lived in our times.

If we accept the “Oral Torah” in part — which seems to be the only possibility for Messianics — then not only a formal criterion is required for determining what parts should be accepted, but also a ruling halachic authority able to make these decisions. But it is by no means clear where this authority is to be found. We don’t have Apostles anymore nor any other undisputed authoritative body.

These difficulties should be duly recognized and as long as they remain unsolved we should try to be moderate in all things and not by our personal acceptance of disputable rabbinic halachot implicitly or explicitly lay burdens on the communities we belong to. However, in order to prevent individualism and sectarianism in our observance, we should accept rabbinic halachah where it is practically undisputed and not in any conflict with either the Written Torah or the other Scriptures, including the Apostolic Writings, as the default option for our observance. In this way we can accept much of it theoretically albeit hypothetically as well as practically.

And we should take heed of the warning expressed by David Stern in his Messianic Jewish Manifesto (p. 172) about making modifications in Jewish liturgy and ceremonies, when he said: “It would be wise for us to make such modifications only after much thought and prayer. For we are dealing with ceremonies weighted with intellectual, emotional and spiritual meaning. Ad hoc changes are likely to prove tasteless, offensive, theologically erroneous, or all three”. In my opinion this warning is not only applicable to ceremony and liturgy, but to the entire framework of halachah.

The Problem of Women Dressing Like Men: An Early Warning from a Roman Cardinal

by Geert ter Horst


Modest and elegant

Modest and elegant

No serious believer will deny that in our time sexual perversions are propagated and modesty and chastity ridiculed. Today’s political correctness is siding with those who attack traditional family life, religion, and the divine laws of nature and revelation.

This counter-culture of perversion has invaded traditional Christianity on a massive scale since the end of the Second World War. It started with the mistaken emancipation of women and feminism and is now involved in the diabolical attempts to destroy all traditinal morality  by the LBGTQ and Gender Ideology movements.

When in the late 50s and early 60s of the XXth century emancipated women began to dress like men, only a few prophetic voices foresaw what was coming. One of these voices was the Roman Cardinal Siri’s. [1] In a pastoral letter entitled: Notification Concerning Men’s Dress Worn By Women, dated June 12, 1960, this staunchly conservative Catholic prelate dealt with the roots of the problem in an excellent psychological and social analysis based on the principles of natural law. [2]

We decided to republish this Notification for our readers. It highlights aspects of sexual morality which are often overlooked by believers of evangelical upbringing, but which are quite familiar to traditional Catholics and religious Jews. Messianics will discover that Siri’s analysis provides a general clarifying background to many Torah injunctions and prohibitions on the domain of the social interacting of the sexes as well as on traditional Jewish fence laws.

I expect that Siri’s letter, given here below, will surprise many readers for its actuality, relevance and depth of vision.

Notification Concerning Men’s Dress Worn By Women

By Giuseppe Cardinal Siri

June 12, 1960
To the Reverend Clergy,
To all Teaching sisters,
To the beloved sons of Catholic Action,
To Educators intending truly to follow Christian Doctrine.


The first signs of our late arriving spring indicate that there is this year a certain increase in the use of men’s dress by girls and women, even family mothers. Up until 1959, in Genoa, such dress usually meant the person was a tourist, but now it seems to be a significant number of girls and women from Genoa itself who are choosing at least on pleasure trips to wear men’s dress (men’s trousers).

The extension of this behavior obliges us to take serious thought, and we ask those to whom this Notification is addressed to kindly lend to the problem all the attention it deserves from anyone aware of being in any way responsible before God.

We seek above all to give a balanced moral judgment upon the wearing of men’s dress by women. In fact Our thoughts can only bear upon the moral question.

Firstly, when it comes to covering of the female body, the wearing of men’s trousers by women cannot be said to constitute as such a grave offense against modesty, because trousers certainly cover more of woman’s body than do modern women’s skirts.

Secondly, however, clothes to be modest need not only to cover the body but also not to cling too closely to the body. Now it is true that much feminine clothing today clings closer than do some trousers, but trousers can be made to cling closer, in fact generally they do, so the tight fit of such clothing gives us not less grounds for concern than does exposure of the body. So the immodesty of men’s trousers on women is an aspect of the problem which is not to be left out of an over-all judgment upon them, even if it is not to be artificially exaggerated either.


However, it is a different aspect of women’s wearing of men’s trousers which seems to us the gravest.

The wearing of men’s dress by women affects firstly the woman herself, by changing the feminine psychology proper to women; secondly it affects the woman as wife of her husband, by tending to vitiate relationships between the sexes; thirdly it affects the woman as mother of her children by harming her dignity in her children’s eyes. Each of these points is to be carefully considered in turn: —

A. Male dress changes the psychology of woman.

In truth, the motive impelling women to wear men’s dress is always that of imitating, nay, of competing with, the man who is considered stronger, less tied down, more independent. This motivation shows clearly that male dress is the visible aid to bringing about a mental attitude of being “like a man.” Secondly, ever since men have been men, the clothing a person wears, demands, imposes and modifies that person’s gestures, attitudes and behavior, such that from merely being worn outside, clothing comes to impose a particular frame of mind inside.

Then let us add that woman wearing man’s dress always more or less indicates her reacting to her femininity as though it is inferiority when in fact it is only diversity. The perversion of her psychology is clear to be seen.

These reasons, summing up many more, are enough to warn us how wrongly women are made to think by the wearing of men’s dress.

B. Male dress tends to vitiate relationships between women and men.

In truth when relationships between the two sexes unfold with the coming of age, an instinct of mutual attraction is predominant. The essential basis of this attraction is a diversity between the two sexes which is made possible only by their complementing or completing one another. If then this “diversity” becomes less obvious because one of its major external signs is eliminated and because the normal psychological structure is weakened, what results is the alteration of a fundamental factor in the relationship.

The problem goes further still. Mutual attraction between the sexes is preceded both naturally, and in order of time, by that sense of shame which holds the rising instincts in check, imposes respect upon them, and tends to lift to a higher level of mutual esteem and healthy fear everything that those instincts would push onwards to uncontrolled acts. To change that clothing which by its diversity reveals and upholds nature’s limits and defense-works, is to flatten out the distinctions and to help pull down the vital defense-works of the sense of shame.

It is at least to hinder that sense. And when the sense of shame is hindered from putting on the brakes, then relationships between man and women sink degradingly down to pure sensuality, devoid of all mutual respect or esteem.

Experience is there to tell us that when woman is de-feminised, then defenses are undermined and weakness increases.

C. Male dress harms the dignity of the mother in her children’s eyes.

All children have an instinct for the sense of dignity and decorum of their mother. Analysis of the first inner crisis of children when they awaken to life around them even before they enter upon adolescence, shows how much the sense of their mother counts. Children are as sensitive as can be on this point. Adults have usually left all that behind them and think no more on it. But we would do well to recall to mind the severe demands that children instinctively make of their own mother, and the deep and even terrible reactions roused in them by observation of their mother’s misbehavior. Many lines of later life are here traced out — and not for good — in these early inner dramas of infancy and childhood.

The child may not know the definition of exposure, frivolity or infidelity, but he possesses an instinctive sixth sense to recognize them when they occur, to suffer from them, and be bitterly wounded by them in his soul.


Let us think seriously on the import of everything said so far, even if woman’s appearing in man’s dress does not immediately give rise to all the upset caused by grave immodesty.

The changing of feminine psychology does fundamental and, in the long run, irreparable damage to the family, to conjugal fidelity, to human affections and to human society. True, the effects of wearing unsuitable dress are not all to be seen within a short time. But one must think of what is being slowly and insidiously worn down, torn apart, perverted.

Is any satisfying reciprocity between husband and wife imaginable, if feminine psychology be changed? Or is any true education of children imaginable, which is so delicate in its procedure, so woven of imponderable factors in which the mother’s intuition and instinct play the decisive part in those tender years? What will these women be able to give their children when they will so long have worn trousers that their self-esteem goes more by their competing with the men than by their functioning as women?

Why, we ask, ever since men have been men, or rather since they became civilized — why have men in all times and places been irresistibly borne to make a differentiated division between the functions of the two sexes? Do we not have here strict testimony to the recognition by all mankind of a truth and a law above man?

To sum up, wherever women wear men’s dress, it is to be considered a factor in the long run tearing apart human order.


The logical consequence of everything presented so far is that anyone in a position of responsibility should be possessed by a sense of alarm in the true and proper meaning of the word, a severe and decisive alarm.

We address a grave warning to parish priests, to all priests in general and to confessors in particular, to members of every kind of association, to all religious, to all nuns, especially to teaching Sisters.

We invite them to become clearly conscious of the problem so that action will follow. This consciousness is what matters. It will suggest the appropriate action in due time. But let it not counsel us to give way in the face of inevitable change, as though we are confronted by a natural evolution of mankind, and so on!

Men may come and men may go, because God has left plenty of room for the to and fro of their free-will; but the substantial lines of nature and the not less substantial lines of Eternal Law have never changed, are not changing and never will change. There are bounds beyond which one may stray as far as one sees fit, but to do so ends in death; there are limits which empty philosophical fantasizing may have one mock or not take seriously, but they put together an alliance of hard facts and nature to chastise anybody who steps over them. And history has sufficiently taught, with frightening proof from the life and death of nations, that the reply to all violators of the outline of “humanity” is always, sooner or later, catastrophe.

From the dialectic of Hegel onwards, we have had dinned in our ears what are nothing but fables, and by dint of hearing them so often, many people end up by getting used to them, if only passively. But the truth of the matter is that Nature and Truth, and the Law bound up in both, go their imperturbable way, and they cut to pieces the simpletons who upon no grounds whatsoever believe in radical and far-reaching changes in the very structure of man.

The consequences of such violations are not a new outline of man, but disorders, hurtful instability of all kinds, the frightening dryness of human souls, the shattering increase in the number of human castaways, driven long since out of people’s sight and mind to live out their decline in boredom, sadness and rejection. Aligned on the wrecking of the eternal norms are to be found the broken families, lives cut short before their time, hearths and homes gone cold, old people cast to one side, youngsters willfully degenerate and — at the end of the line — souls in despair and taking their own lives. All of which human wreckage gives witness to the fact that the “line of God” does not give way, nor does it admit of any adaption to the delirious dreams of the so-called philosophers!


We have said that those to whom the present Notification is addressed are invited to take serious alarm at the problem in hand. Accordingly they know what they have to say, starting with little girls on their mother’s knee.

They know that without exaggerating or turning into fanatics, they will need to strictly limit how far they tolerate women dressing like men, as a general rule.

They know they must never be so weak as to let anyone believe that they turn a blind eye to a custom which is slipping downhill and undermining the moral standing of all institutions.

They, the priests, know that the line they have to take in the confessional, while not holding women dressing like men to be automatically a grave fault, must be sharp and decisive.

Everybody will kindly give thought to the need for a united line of action, reinforced on every side by the cooperation of all men of good will and all enlightened minds, so as to create a true dam to hold back the flood.

Those of you responsible for souls in whatever capacity understand how useful it is to have for allies in this defensive campaign men of the arts, the media and the crafts. The position taken by fashion design houses, their brilliant designers and the clothing industry, is of crucial importance in this whole question. Artistic sense, refinement and good taste meeting together can find suitable but dignified solution as to the dress for women to wear when they must use a motorcycle or engage in this or that exercise or work. What matters is to preserve modesty together with the eternal sense of femininity, that femininity which more than anything else all children will continue to associate with the face of their mother.

We do not deny that modern life sets problems and makes requirements unknown to our grandparents. But we state that there are values more needing to be protected than fleeting experiences, and that for anybody of intelligence there are always good sense and good taste enough to find acceptable and dignified solutions to problems as they come up.

Out of charity we are fighting against the flattening out of mankind, against the attack upon those differences on which rests the complementarity of man and woman.

When we see a woman in trousers, we should think not so much of her as of all mankind, of what it will be when women will have masculinized themselves for good. Nobody stands to gain by helping to bring about a future age of vagueness, ambiguity, imperfection and, in a word, monstrosities.

This letter of Ours is not addressed to the public, but to those responsible for souls, for education, for Catholic associations. Let them do their duty, and let them not be sentries caught asleep at their post while evil crept in.

Giuseppe Cardinal Siri,
Archbishop of Genoa

From a Torah obedient perspective it is clear that believers in Messiah Yeshua shouldn’t be involved in modern cross-dressing or in any attempts to blur moral standards or the natural distinctions of creation. These standards and distinctions should instead be cherised and accentuated by cultural norms. Many of these norms are given and upheld by divine revelation. The Torah explicitly warns us against cross-dressing, which is considered an abomination in Dt. 22:5. The Body of Messiah has the clear and unambiguos obligation to uphold a biblical and traditional culture in matters of sexual morality.


[1] Giuseppe Cardinal Siri (1906-1989) was Archbishop of Genoa. His Notification can be found at:

[2] ‘Natural law’ can be defined as the collection of moral principles and norms detectible by natural reason unaided by divine revelation. The Apostle Paul refers to the natural law in Rom. 1:18-32.

Why Extinguishing a Fire Could be Considered Permissible on Yom Tov

Exploring an Awkward Halachic Problem


by Geert ter Horst

Should it be kept burning during Yom Tov?

Should it be kept burning during Yom Tov?

[This article is exclusively written for scholarly discussion purposes. It’s author, and his opinion expressed here, have no halachic authority or competence.]

The traditional halachah distinguishes between two manners of making fire: (1) creating a flame from a flame, and (2) creating a flame from a non-flame. On Yom Tov the first is permitted while the second is prohibited. [1] On Shabbat both are prohibited. On all other days both are permitted.

Creating a flame from a flame comprises three kinds of activity: (1) Transferring a flame from one place to another place; (2) Increasing the magnitude or intensity of a flame; (3) Numerically diversifying a flame, either by splitting it up or by extending it to other combustible material. [2]

I.      The Problem: Extinguishing a Fire on Yom Tov

My purpose in this article is to address a particular problem which arises on Yom Yov. This is the problem that after cooking — a biblically permitted activity on Yom Tov (Ex. 12:16) — it is not permitted to extinguish the flame of the furnace. The reason for this prohibition is that extinguishing a flame is treated as the negative equivalent to creating it. So if I simply turn off the gas switch of the furnace after cooking, this is considered as the negative equivalent of striking a match. It is creating a non-flame from a flame, which is equally prohibited as the positive creating of a flame from a non-flame. [3]

The alternatives are either to leave the flame burning or to let it extinguish through some permissible cooking activity. The first alternative is often considered dangerous or alarming, especially if there are children around. The classic suggestion is here to put a pan of water on the furnace, using the same flame, for making soup or tea, and to let the water boil over it. This will cause the flame to be extinguished. This solution is often considered awkward and no less dangerous, either because of the risk of forgetting to turn the switch off after the flame is extinguished, or because this method is not infallible and the flame sometimes stays burning.

The question is thus: Are there no halachic reasons why extinguishing a flame could be considered permitted? Actually there are, and I’ll present three of them.

1.     The Yom-Tov rule for creating a fire is that is should be derived from an existing flame. Extinguishing such a derived fire just seems to be the complementary equivalent to creating it. Therefore it seems that such a derived fire may be extinguished under the condition that its source flame keeps burning.

2.     Extinguishing the flame after cooking marks the completion of the cooking process, and for that reason should be considered as part of this process. Since cooking is permitted, its completion must be permitted too.

3.     The traditional prohibition leads to dangerous and awkward situations and thus to discouragement of cooking on the Yamim Tovim. Discouraging cooking cannot be the purpose of the halachah and the dangerous situations are detrimental of experiencing the typical joy of the holy day.

Against the first reason one can argue that, once a derived flame is brought into existence, it is a flame in its own right, which exists independently from its source flame. Its existence is only dependent on its fuel, the combustible material that was brought into contact with the source flame.

Extinguishing a derived flame is therefore not the exact opposite of its bringing into existence. In fact, there is no difference between extinguishing a flame that was derived from a source flame and extinguishing the source flame itself.

The halachic problem is thus that, although there is a difference in the coming into existence between a fire that is generated absolutely and one that is generated from another flame, there is no corresponding difference in the going out of existence between these two types of flames. The reason for this lack of a corresponding difference in the act of extinguishing is that the causal connection between the source flame and the derived flame only concerns the process of generation, the coming into existence.

The secondary or derived flame is not dependent on the source flame for its existence absolutely, but only for its coming into existence. There is no continuous dependence. Albeit the derived flame is generated by another flame, its dependence on this other flame ceases as soon as the generation process is completed. Producing fire by deriving if from an existing flame is thus a case of univocal causality: a new examplar of the same species is generated. Extinguishing a derived flame is a case of producing non-fire out of fire, which the exact complement of producing fire out of non-fire. Since the last is forbidden, the first is also forbidden.

II.     A Possible Solution Considered

Perhaps there may be a way out here if we give a more detailed attention to the above mentioned three ways of creating fire from fire. Nobody considers it prohibited to bring back a flame to its original place or room, after it was removed and transferred to another place or another room. There are also authorities who find it permissible to lower the flame during or after the cooking process — although there is some opposition to this opinion. Now, if two of the three permitted activities of creating a flame from a flame have their permitted negative equivalent in a reversal of these activities, one would expect there to be such an equivalent for the third as well.

If we take the first activity, transferrring a flame to another location, we see that it is symmetrical, meaning that it’s negative equivalent is included in it. If we bring a burning candle from the dining room to the kitchen, the flame not only starts to exist in the kitchen but it also ceases to exist in the dining room. The cessation of existence in one location is here an inseparable aspect of its coming to existence in another location, in a continuous movement. This movement is purely accidental to the flame itself.

This symmetry is lost, however, when we compare the enlargement or intensification of a flame, the second activity, to diminishing its intensity or magnitude. By lowering the flame of a furnace we ‘destroy’ a part of it by making it smaller in size. If we increase the magnitude of a flame no such destruction occurs. The two changes here are not symmetrical. The destruction is not part of the increasing but only of the decreasing. For this reason some authorities are opposed to lowering a flame on Yom Tov, because of the partial destruction involved in it. Enlarging or diminishing its size affects the flame itself. And while the first is undoubtedly permitted, since it is the creating of fire from fire, the second is often considered of dubious permissibility since it involves a destruction, a partial creation of non-fire from fire.

When the third activity of making fire from fire, the numerical multiplication of a flame, is compared to its negative equivalent, extinguishing a derived flame, not only the above mentioned symmetry is lost. There’s the additional problem that the extinguishing itself doesn’t seem to be the proper equivalent of the kindling. For the kindling is done by means of another flame and is in the category of generating fire from fire. But the extinguishing is a simple destruction and is the return of fire to non-fire. So we again meet the obstacle that there doesn’t seem to be a real negative equivalent of the permissible action of creating new flames from existing ones.

We have to conclude now that the three kinds of activity: transferring, increasing and multiplying, are not comparable to each other in all respects. In the first the negative equivalent is simply included in the positive because of the symmetry of movement; in the second this negative equivalent is not included but is a separate action; in the third there doesn’t even seem to exist a real negative equivalent of the activity at all.

However, matters may not be exactly as they seem. For there’s an aspect in the extinguishing which until now was left out of our consideration. We saw in the above that the generation of a new flame from an existing one is a case of univocal causality, whereby a new individual of the same species is generated. It is this analysis in terms of individual and species which may be relevant here.

III.    Analysis in Terms of Species and Individual

By a numerical expansion nothing new is created in the order of the species (flame), only in the order of the individual: the number of light- or fire-bearers is multiplied. What happens is not the generation of fire per se but only of instances of fire. Similarly, by a numerical reduction nothing is destroyed in the order of the species, only in the order of the individual: the number of light- or fire-bearers is reduced.

Now for the purpose of our analysis the species must here be accurately defined as fire or flame of Yom Tov (within the limits of a particular household).

It is clear when we hypothetically consider reducing the number of fire-bearers during Yom Tov as permitted, that care should be taken that this number is not reduced to zero. For then the species (i.e. the Yom Tov fire itself) would be extinguished. Reduction to zero corresponds to the situation in which a numerical expansion would start from zero, which is not permitted on Yom Tov because it implies the act of creating fire from non-fire.

Simply reducing the number without reducing it to zero can be considered permitted, however, because it is the negative equivalent of producing more flames from other flames. In this analysis such a reduction is not an act of making non-fire from fire. For before and after there is fire. It is an act of diminishing the number of flames, or instances of fire. If one considers the extinguishing of an individual flame here as making non-fire from fire, then, equivalently, the ignition of new combustible material (for instance new candles) in the multiplication of flames should be consisered as making fire from non-fire. But this would destroy the whole permission to multiply the number of flames by deriving a flame from another flame. And thus the logical consequence of this permission seems to be that reducing the number of flames is permitted. For fire is not extinguished absolutely or on the level of the species, but only an instance of it or on the level of the individual.

IV.    Hypothetical Conclusion

This halachic option is dependent, as the reader will have noticed, on the opinion that accepts the permissibility of decreasing the intensity or magnitude of a derived flame. If the partial ‘destruction’ of an individual flame is prohibited, then obviously its total destruction will also be prohibited. If, however, the destruction of an individual flame is permitted under the condition that its source flame keeps burning, then obviously the partial destruction of an individual flame is also permitted.

If my conclusion is valid, the awkward and dangerous situations referred to in the exposition of the problem (in the first paragraph), can be easily avoided, without the specific halachic distinctiveness of Yom Tov being damaged.

A question which may possibly arise here is the following: What about the situation in which a Yom Tov fire is in existence and a new fire is produced directly, without deriving it from an existing flame? Is there no danger that this too would become permitted under this new halachic option? For this doesn’t seem to be an expansion from zero to one, because there was already a flame burning.

The answer to this question is simply that a newly created flame is outside the species of Yom Tov fire. For it belongs to the nature or definition of Yom Tov fire that it isn’t created from non-fire. Therefore this procedure would still be not permissible. Under this halachic perspective it would thus remain prohibited to extinguish a Yom Tov source flame, i.e. a flame which was already burning before the arrival of Yom Tov and which was kindled in advance in order to derive other flames from it during Yom Tov.


[1] Ganzfried III.98.1: “Carrying objects from one place to another, and kindling a fire  are also permitted on a festival, even when not needed for cooking but for some other purpose.”
Ganzfried III.98.31: “It is not permissible to draw fire on a festival, either from a flint, , or a glass, or a match.” [R. Solomon Ganzfried, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Hebrew Publishing Company — New York 2004 (1961).]

[2] Zevin I.23: “To produce fire (as opposed to using, increasing, or transferring an already burning flame) is forbidden.” [R. Shlomo Yosef Zevin, The Festivals in Halachah Vol I, Mesorah Publications — New York 2002 (1981).]

[3] The reason why simply creating a flame from a non-flame is prohibited is the legal principle that those parts of food preparation which can be done beforehand, without diminishing the quality of the food, should not be done on the Yom Tov. The prohibition of producing fire is held to be scriptural by some because they hold this legal principle to be scriptural.

On the Separation of Meat & Milk: Why the Traditional Halachah Should be Followed


by Geert ter Horst

Recently, Tim Hegg (TorahResource ministry) has written a paper on the issue of the separation of meat and dairy. [1] He concludes that this part of traditional kashrut is not biblical and can be ignored by Messianics. We at Messianic613 don’t agree with Hegg and are actually of the opinion that his approach to halachah on this point shows some serious defects, and that his exegetical method leads to irresponsible and anti-traditional reductions and simplifications in kashrut observance, to endless community disputes, and even to a dissolution of the traditional halachic framework as a whole. However much as we appreciate Hegg as a reliable biblical scholar on many Torah-related questions — in particular the question of Gentile observance — we are unable to go along when he takes issue with the traditional kashrut laws of Judaism.

We intend to go into the details of Hegg’s exegesis in a separate article. Here we’ll limit ourselves to a critical review of the basic ideas of his paper.

The fundamental problem with Hegg’s paper is that it takes the Protestant Scriptura Sola axiom — plus its accompanying maxim that historical-grammatical interpretation is the all and everything — as the guideline for establishing halachah. But historical Judaism never was committed to this principle or to this exegetical maxim.

Messianics perhaps will be surprised to hear that the kashrut laws cannot be established by means of only the Written Torah. Take for example the question which species of fowl are kosher. The Pentateuch only presents us two lists of fowl families that may not be eaten (in Lev. XI, and Deut. XIV). These lists have never functioned in Jewish tradition as an exhaustive categorization of treif fowl. They are considered to be a summary of the most important prohibited fowl families, which presents us the criteria for determining which fowl is kosher and which is not. The Sages have never concluded that we can eat all fowl species that aren’t explicitly mentioned in these lists. Instead, rabbinic exegesis extracts four indicators from them, which are used as traditional criteria for determining kosher fowl species. [2] To avoid all risk of error the Rabbis have since long refused to add any later discovered species to the list of permitted fowl. Only species uncontested by tradition are permitted. They are the following: All members of the chicken family, domesticated ducks, domesticated geese, pigeons, and domesticated turkeys.

There is no dispute in the messianic world about this, and everyone seems to accept the rabbinic tradition on kosher fowl. At least until now we don’t hear of Messianics that want to expand the list of kosher fowl to everything that isn’t included in the families explicitly prohibited by the biblical texts. However, Messianics generally are so ignorant in halachic issues that the majority of them may never have heard of the fact that the criteria for kosher fowl are to a high degree dependent on rabbinic tradition.

Another important principle of kashrut is that milk and eggs are only permissible if they are produced by kosher cattle and fowl. This is not a biblical commandment but part of the Oral Torah. [3] This principle is also accepted by Messianics, at least in in practice. Or, if it is not, new discussions will inevitably come up, e.g. about the permissibility of camel’s milk and ostrich’s eggs.

The traditional separation of meat and milk has to do with typical features of halachic exegesis, which differs from historico-grammatical exegesis. In halachic exegesis the main purpose is not to find out the literal and/or historical meaning of the text, but to rely on an interpretation which minimizes the danger of transgressing the Torah. From a traditional viewpoint historico-grammatical exegesis is always feeble and unreliable, since historical knowledge can change. One would take great risks if one tried to establish the halachah solely on the basis of the discipline of historical-grammatical scholarship. Now since the Torah text says “thou shalt not seethe a kid in its mother’s milk” and it is difficult to establish what exactlty is meant by this injunction, halachic exegesis opts for the interpretation that all mixtures of meat and milk are prohibited. By doing so we are quite sure that, whatever is the true and divinely intended meaning of this commandment, we won’t transgress it. And that’s the essential thing.

It may be clear from the above that the concept of “biblically kosher” is erroneous and unsustainable. It only leads to endless discussions and congregational quarrels, resulting in the situation of each individual making his own halachah. Such a disaster should be avoided at all costs. The rules of kashrut are a community matter which concerns the whole Jewish nation and the whole Assembly of Messiah. No-one can make decisions here on his own, for this would lead to a complete chaos. And no local congregational leadership or ministry has any say in this matter.

Messianics do better not to try to outsmart the Rabbis in these highly technical domains such as kashrut, the rules of Shabbat, the construction of a mikvah and so on. The classical solutions are often the simplest and the best.

Perhaps it may be added to this that observing the separation of milk and meat is not a burden at all. The point is simply to take the trouble of installing and kashering one’s kitchen once and for all and separate all items correctly. After that, everything goes smoothly. But Messianics often seem to be so concerned with possible ‘burdens’ that they actually prefer to make matters more complicated and burdensome by their endless and repetitive discussions and quarrels on long-established matters, presumably having the idea that they should re-invent the wheel. As said, this is simply not a smart appraoch.

In its classic form, kashrut teaches us symbolically about two great truths of the Torah. The first is that there are things that are bad, e.g. stealing and lying, and that there are things that are good, e.g. honoring one’s parents and speaking the truth in love. This truth is symbolized by the distinction between kosher and treif. The second truth is that there are things that are good in their own right but cannot be combined with other things, e.g. family love and marital love, the combination of which is incest; or working for one’s bread and the Sabbath day, which constitutes a transgression of the Sabbath. Working for one’s bread is good and observing the Sabbath day is good, but working for one’s bread on the Sabbath day is not good. Marital love is good, and family love between children and parents and sisters and brothers is good. But both cannot be combined in one and the same relation. This truth is symbolized by the separation of milk and meat.

Kashrut is full of spiritualtity and beauty, if kept in its entirety and according to its traditional standards. [4] Properly understood and observed, it gives us a ritual awareness in all situations of daily life, which is something to be experienced as a great blessing.

In his paper Hegg relegates everything that isn’t contained in the text of the Pentateuch to the level of rabbinic legislation, which in his eyes can be ignored. He doesn’t seem to realize that his opinion leads to a complete dissolution of traditional Jewish observance. The daily recitation of the Shema for example cannot be deduced from Scripture by historico-grammatical exegesis. Dt. 6:6-7 doesn’t say that we should recite the Shema twice daily. It says that “these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart”. It also says that we “shall talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up, &c”. But it never says that the Shema must be ‘recited’ — as part of the evening and morning prayers. This text doesn’t even properly single out the words of the Shema, for it simply refers to “these words, which I command thee this day”, which may indicate the Torah in general. [5]

Does the fact that the traditional obligation to recite the Shema twice daily cannot be demonstrated from Scripture by historico-grammatical exegesis imply that we can neglect it? Surely not. According to the traditional interpretation the reading of the Shema is indeed part of the scriptural commandments. Maimonides declares that it is expressed in the words : “and thou shalt talk of them” (Dt. 6:7). [6] Here we see how the commandments of the Written Torah are intricately interwoven with their interpretation and determination by the Oral Torah (and later rabbinic tradition). To ensure that we shall “talk of them”, i.e. that the words of the Written Torah are found in our mouth, we are told (by the Oral Torah) to recite that part of it which constitutes its spiritual center, the Shema. This result can never be obtained by historico-grammatical exegesis. It is born out of the halachic mindset to be attentive to all details of the text that may contain injunctions, and to devise practical clues on how to execute them. As a consequence of Hegg’s approach, however, the daily recitation of the Shema should fall under the same verdict as the separation of meat and dairy and be disapproved of as an ‘unbiblical’ practice.

This is only one illustration of the disastruous effects of disrespecting the Oral Torah and Jewish tradition. It leads to a type of observance which differs so much from the traditional, that in practical terms it will be viewed as establishing a new religion, based on the subjective exegesis of the biblical texts by individual ministers and their followers. Messianics should be aware of this typical Protestant pitfall of individualism.

As Messianics we should be firm in maintaining that Scripture has supreme authority. But this doesn’t imply at all the Calvinistic dogma of Sola Scriptura, making Scripture the only and exclusive source of authority. This dogma is never taught in Scripture itself.


[1] Hegg, T., “Separating Meat & Milk: An Inquiry”, at: TorahResource.

[2] The traditional four criteria are: (1) that the muscular wall of the gizzard must be easy to peel off by hand; (2) that the bird doesn’t eat in the manner of hunters, which use their claws for capturing and holding their prey; (3) that they have three toes in front and one in the back; (4) that they have crops. The first two criteria are of primary, the other of secondary importance. Ducks and geese are kosher, despite the fact that they don’t have crops, since they fulfil the two primary and one additional criteria.

[3] View for example the following summary, in the Shulchan Aruch, at:

[4] The only exception to this for Messianics would be the rabbinic halachah on gentile wine, cheese and bread. To keep the rabbinic halachah on wine makes no sense for (Gentile) Messianics, since it stipulates that the wine becomes treif if a Gentile opens the bottle, even if before opening it was rabbinically kosher according to the strictest criteria.

[5] Rivkin 272: “The Pentateuch begins with the creation of the world; the Mishnah, with the reading of the Shema. The first laws commanded to Israel relate to the Passover, whereas the first tractate of the Mishnah deals with prayers not even mandated in the Pentateuch”. [Rivkin, E., A Hidden Revolution — Abingdon, Nashville 1978]

[6] Sefer HaMitzvot #10: “By this injunction we are commanded to read the Shema daily, in the evening and in the morning. This injunction is expressed in his words (exalted be he), And thou shalt talk of them“. [Maimonides, The Commandments. The Soncino Press — London, Jerusalem, New York 1967, 1984]

The Two Parts of Israel: Reflections on the Continuing Relevance of Rabbinic Judaism for the Messianic Community

by Geert ter Horst

One of the causes of the difficulties inherent in either the “One Law” (TorahResource) or the “Divine Invitation” (FFOZ) theological models — which were discussed in our two previous posts — is perhaps that we not duly consider all the factors involved in the issue of Gentile Torah observance. It might be that one of the neglected factors in the problem is in fact part of the solution. By this factor I mean the yet unbelieving part of Israel, more precisely: Rabbinic Judaism.

What I’m thinking of is that perhaps traditional Rabbinic Judaism and the Messianic Community are, in a mysterious way, working in tandem, so to say, for the sake of the redemption of the world.

During the time-period covered by the first parts of the Book of the Acts — the part preceding the introduction of the Gentiles, roughly Acts chs. I-IX — there were two possible results of the mission of Yeshua’s Apostles to the nation of Israel. The first possibility was that all Israel accepted the Messiah; the second was that only a part of the nation accepted him. If all Israel had accepted him, the national restoration of Israel would have happened first, is my hypothesis, and, after that, the ingathering of the Gentiles would have followed. In that schedule of things there would be no problem as we now have it of a premature mixing of Jews and Gentiles, because Israel would have been firmly restored in the Land first.

This is not what happened, as we all know. Only a minor part of the nation accepted Yeshua as Messiah. And this fact caused a change in the historical schedule of things. Now the believing remnant of Israel had to go to the Gentiles and lead them to the Kingdom of Messiah, before the national restoration of the chosen people. In this schedule the remnant minority had to mix with Gentiles in the formation of the Messianic Community. The unbelieving majority was now given the historical role of preserving Jewish national identity. Thus Israel was split “into two bands” (cf. Gen. 32:7, 10). In the great spiritual struggle against the Roman Empire (the spiritual descendants of Esau), Jacob had become two bands. One was made the instrument of “attack”. This was the missionary part that believed in Messiah. The other part stood — and until now still stands — aloof. This state of affairs can be interpreted as being part of a deep spiritual strategy, for “if Esau come to the one company, and smite it — which has happened in the formation of Roman Catholicism, when the remainders of the faithful Jewish remnant were swallowed and Torah obedient messianic faith was destroyed — then the other company which is left (i.e. Rabbinic Judaism) shall escape” (Gen. 32:8).

Maybe Paul is alluding to the emerging reality of an Israel divided in two companies when he says, in Rom. 11:25: “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in”. What I mean is that, after the fact of the rejction of Messiah by the leading majority of the nation, this splitting of Israel, and this division of roles indicated above, became a kind of necessity (with emphasis on “after the fact”). A further indication for this interpretation can perhaps be found in Paul’s words immediately following: “And so (i.e. in exactly this manner) all Israel shall be saved”. Paul’s words seem to signify that the very process of blinding is part of the greater story of Israel’s redemption.

One part of Israel, the remnant, is saved within the Messianic Community. The other part is “saved” — i.e. historically preserved — without it and will ultimately be saved in its eschatological encounter with Messiah at his second and definitive coming.

My guess is that during this time of Israel being “two companies” the Messianic Community is called to express the perfect unity of Jew and Gentile as “one new man” in Messiah (Eph. 2:15). This perfect unity of Jew and Gentile in faith and observance — which naturally includes the possibility of intermarriage — is an anticipation of the state of affairs in the World to Come, when the unity of mankind will be perfectly restored. In the meanwhile the unbelieving part of Israel is functioning — through the sovereign counsel of G-d which cannot be thwarted by their unbelief — as the preserver of the peculiar identity of the chosen nation in preparation of the Kingdom Age, when Israel as a nation will be ultimately redeemed and fully restored (cf. Acts 1:6-7!).

If what I said is true, then there is a solution for the difficulties signalled in the interaction of Jews and Gentiles in the Messianic Community (either according to the “One Law” or the “Divine Invitation” model). The equality of Jew and Gentile in the Messianic Community can be maintained and propagated, including their equal access to the blessings of the Torah and the possibility of intermarriage — which actually is a very beautiful illustration of the union between Jew and Gentile as “one new man” — because the distinct preservation of Jewish national identity is relegated to traditional Judaism and is in save hands there, until Messiah will return.

I acknowledge, of course, that this hypothesis has to be further examined. But what I like about it is that it gives a positive role to traditional Judaism, while at the same time it keeps its focus firmly on Messiah and does not give way to a cheap “two-ways” –theology in dealing with the division between traditional and messianic Judaism.