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The Secret Codes in Matthew: Examining Israel’s Messiah, Part 10: Matthew 15, by Kevin M. Williams

There is one other potential understanding to consider. Messianic Rabbi Dr. Harris Brody draws on another “tradition of the elders” that may add to our appreciation of the overall context. This tradition is rooted in something called Kabbalah. Kabbalah, simply put, is Jewish mysticism that often has more in common with the occult than the Bible. It has become very popular among the Hollywood elite and New Age adherents. Its foundations are based not on Torah as some might mislead, but on a series of commentaries called the Zohar, allegedly compiled in the second century, but discovered and brought to light during the Middle Ages.3

In this kabbalistic tradition, it is taught that when a person goes to sleep at night, his spirit leaves his body through his fingertips. Once a person’s spirit is gone, it is taught, demonic forces enter one’s body and influence such things as nightmares and unclean nocturnal emissions. As dawn approaches, the demons leave the body—exiting through the fingers—and your own soul reclaims your physical form. For many of us, this thinking is beyond all biblical rational, as well it should be. This is one small sample of Kabbalah that can indicate to us how non-biblical it is, regardless of how carefully or religiously it may be packaged.

Since in their thinking the demons left through the fingers, the kabbalists believed that the hands were therefore rendered unclean every night. After all, the last things the unclean spirit touched were your fingers! When a follower of Kabbalah wakes up in the morning, one of the first observances practiced is the n’tilat-yadayim—the washing of hands. As the theory goes, once the fingers are rendered ritually pure, the person can go about his business without any risk of contaminating anyone else from the “unclean spirits.” Similarly, he can eat without risk to his own person.

Even today, though it is generally understood that God declared all fruits “clean” or kosher, many Orthodox will, for example, peel an apple because, “no one knows who may have handled it or with what [uncleanness] it may have come into contact”

After years of separation from religious Israeli culture, a Christian’s appreciation of these events is sometimes lacking. This discussion of washing the hands, for example, was one of many doctrinal debates that were a part of daily life among the P’rushim (Pharisees), or anyone interested in biblical studies. Even among the separatist Essene community of Qumran (who left us the Dead Sea scrolls), we find a deep regard for ritual purity. It appears to have been a topic of debate and concern among the ancient Israelites. Whether considering the tradition of Hillel, Shammai, Kabbalah, or the Essenes, this interaction with Yeshua would have been a normal part of discourse and religious debate. It would be akin to one of us asking, “So what’s your opinion?”

In a typical Jewish fashion, the Rabbi’s rabbi answers the question with a question.

And He answered and said to them, “And why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” (Matthew 15:2).

In my own life, Yeshua’s response is akin to asking my mother how to spell “such and such.” Her typical response was, “Don’t’ ask me. Go look it up.” She understood very well that if she answered my question, I might find it useful for a moment, but would learn nothing for the long term. By having to investigate the spelling on my own, it was hoped—at least—that I would learn something that could serve me for a lifetime.

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Category: Biblical Studies, Pneuma Review, Summer 2003

About the Author: Kevin M. Williams, Litt.D., H.L.D. has served in Messianic ministries since 1987 and has written numerous articles and been a featured speaker at regional and international conferences on Messianic Judaism.

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