Coming out of Christianity into a Torah-observant lifestyle, one of the most surprising aspects of the shift has been discovering that many more things are “kosher” than I thought. I found this particularly amusing because Christians typically refer to the Jews as being “in bondage” to the Torah while they’ll turn around and make rules against alcohol consumption, smoking, dancing, saying certain words, and even consuming caffeine. Here are some things that aren’t as “unkosher” as you thought.
While it is very true that letting alcohol (or anything, for that matter) control your life is against Torah, consuming alcohol is certainly a kosher activity. Heck, in the ninth chapter in Judges, it reports that wine not only brings joy to man, but to God as well….and that’s in a book entitled “Judges”! King David said in Psalm 104 that wine gladdens a man’s heart and even the Apostle Paul even wrote in the New Testament in a letter to Timothy saying to drink wine to help ease the stomach (1 Timothy 5), which it has been shown to be a very remedy for the common “rumbly-in-the-tumbly”as wine eases digestion. My wife and I along with my in-laws welcome the Shabbat every week with wine and we frequently use wine to bless God. While, yes, it’s very true that drinking can be taken too far, the same can be said for eating or shopping. The key is to take all things in moderation.
It has always perplexed me why some denominations ban all dancing. I can understand some modern forms of dancing because they aren’t really dancing; more like fully-clothed, simulated you-know-what. Still, dancing remains the body’s expression of the soul. Even though David did end up inadvertently flashing the help with his moves, it was because he was dancing before the Elohim with “…all his might” in a linen garment; not the best material for immense sweating from dancing as vigorously as you humanly can. Even though this didn’t put David on good terms with Michal, it didn’t keep him from writing extensively about the joys and benefits of dancing. I have a feeling if “the worm” dance had existed in his day, David’s tunic would have been dirtier than it probably already has from gettin’ down.
While some words might not sound as pretty as others, they certainly aren’t always sins to utter. The modern stigmatization of certain forms of speech has more of a cultural background than Biblical significance. While the Scriptures do not really put much emphasis against saying certain words, the Torah is very thorough in Its instruction to not take the Name of God (יהוה) in vain (Exodus 20:7) and further explains to the extent of saying those who do so will not be held guiltless. What does it mean to take It in vain? That means to make His Name common or devoid of meaning. This can be done by swearing by Name of the Creator in promises you don’t intend to or just don’t have the ability to keep. When a promise with His Name added to it is devoid of weight, that detracts from the importance of His Name and lessens Its holiness in the world. Another concept that blows my mind is when religious individuals will criticize someone over their use of a certain culturally unsavory four-or-five-letter word, yet the same individual will tell bold-faced lies about themselves or others. So, while it is prudent to be mindful of what you say, a lie is much more frowned upon Scripturally than a certain four-letter-world uttered when you hit your thumb with a hammer.
Again, smoking is yet another activity that has much more of a cultural stigma than Biblical stigma. I personally find it extremely interesting that tobacco smoking has been a cultural normal since before the exodus from Egypt, and the Torah takes no stance on its consumption. Even though the Torah does make statements forbidding certain types of meat, it never mentions tobacco once. In fact, God specifically says in Genesis 1:29 “…’Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.” David goes on to describe herbs as being “for service of man” in Psalm 104. Many will make the claim that “Well, that’s because they did not know the potential harm that tobacco smoke can pose that the body”, yet that argument wouldn’t hold up when tobacco is compared to the consumption of pork or shellfish; which modern research has revealed these foods to be harmful to the human body beyond any understanding that the ancient Israelites could have had; yet God forbade them anyways. While it may not be the most savory of habits, smoking cigarettes, cigars, or tobacco from a pipe is certainly not a sin according to the Scriptures. In fact, smoking a pipe has been shown to lower stress levels in many individuals and stress kills more people than all other substances combined.
While many of these “kosher” habits aren’t always the most favorable in religious circles, most of the same religious circles have much greater issues to attend to. While it’s very easy to forbid the usual frowned upon activities, many of these communities suffer from gossip and lies that tear their communities apart, infidelity that tear their families apart, and abuse that leave children and spouses permanently emotionally and spiritually damaged.
It’s time to shift the focus from the easy-to-condemn to the must-condemn.