8 Tishrei 5776
by David Weiss
“When you build a new house, you must build a low wall around your roof; otherwise someone may fall from it,and you will be responsible for his death. “You are not to sow two kinds of seed between your rows of vines; if you do, both the two harvested crops and the yield from the vines must be forfeited. You are not to plow with an ox and a donkey together. You are not to wear clothing woven with two kinds of thread, wool and linen together. “You are to make for yourself twisted cords on the four corners of the garment you wrap around yourself."
This chapter of Deuteronomy has a series of commands in it that seem somewhat random at first. If you read them in the context of the entire Torah then you see how they show the theme of the Torah. A big part of what G-d was showing in the Torah was the idea of being
different than the people who were living in the land they were about to possess. Over and over, we see the idea he was communicating was to not be like them. He did not want intermarriage with them nor to worship their idols. That is why he wanted the Israelites to defeat them in battle as they entered the land. He didn't want them to be
influenced into idolatry by them.
Here in this section of verses he gives rules for things he did not want to exist side by side. He didn't want two kinds of crops sewn side by side, or two different kinds of animals to plow side by side or two kinds of material to be sewn together. Sometimes people try to look for a modern application of these rules. Not that there is anything wrong with understanding the modern day application of eating pork (for example, from the dietary laws) but that it somewhat misses the point. It's okay to understand them in that light but the
original purpose is found in the context of the obedience it required of them.
Some people also believe that the dietary rules and other aspects of the Torah no longer apply. They base this on verses in the New Covenant which are often taken out of context. They use Kefa's vision in Acts of a sheet being lowered with unclean animals, and the command to eat from it as being a nullification of the dietary laws. But he never actually ate from them. It was a picture from G-d to not call Gentiles unclean but for Kefa to tell them about the Gospel. I personally believe the dietary restrictions still apply, but only to
Jewish people. The book of Acts makes it clear that they do not apply to gentile believers. Are they a matter of salvation? I am not convinced they are, but neither am I convinced they have been nullified for Jewish believers.
This context of the Torah does apply to all believers. The Bible teaches us to be in the world but not of the world. It is telling us that it is still true that we are to be different than the world around us. How else can we show unbelievers that we are different from
the world? If we make business decisions like them, how will they see
us as different? If we act just like them, how will they see us as different? You may not feel led to wear garments with only one kind of material or not believe you can only eat certain foods. But when we go the opposite direction and do everything the same way as the world
does it is hard for them to see a difference in us and therefore a need to change.
I know two different people whose faith led them to make hard decisions in their work a number of years ago. One is a police officer who was told to sign a blank arrest report because the person arrested was the child of a politician. He refused to do so and eventually
everything worked out. Another was a plant manager whose boss wanted him to do something similar. (Sign a paper that was not true.) When he refused, he ended up losing his job and had to get a job that paid half of what that one paid. Both were led by their faith. Both had different outcomes. We do not know what results our faithful actions will bring about and that is why it is called faith.
The bottom line for us today is not whether I am correct in my assertions or whether you agree with them. The bottom line is that from the beginning of any kind of organization to how we worship G-d,he has been very clear about one thing: we are supposed to stand apart
from the world and how they live for themselves, versus how we are supposed to live our lives for G-d. Whether we do that by following the rules of the Torah or by living our lives in a way that shows the world we are different is not the important part. Living for G-d;
walking with him, and listening to his counsel are how we set ourselves apart for him. The great part is that it does not have to befor show in any way. We just need to live our lives for him and they will see the difference in our lives. Then we will have the opportunity to tell them about him.