(Mat 15:1 NASB)  Then some Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem, saying,
(Mat 15:2 NASB)  “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.”

Mat 15:2:      In this chapter, Yeshua will engage the Pharisees on their observance of meaningless traditions and rituals that are outside of Torah.  In this passage, the Pharisees were insisting on the disciples performing the traditional hand washing that they made a part of their Jewish laws.
This law is one that Orthodox Jewish people still practice.  It is described as follows:

The laws of Netilat Yadayim for a meal are quite complex. The following is not to be viewed as a comprehensive compilation of all the pertinent laws. We mention only the most basic laws which are applicable on a daily basis.

[1] Before eating a food upon which the Hamotzie blessing is recited (such as bread or matzah), one must ritually wash both hands. If one eats more than 1.89 ounces of such a food, than the Netilat Yadayim blessing is also recited.

[2] Before Netilat Yadayim the hands must be free of anything which will obstruct the waters from reaching the entire surface of the hand. Therefore:

1) The hands must be completely clean beforehand (wash up before you wash up[3]). Only dirt with substance poses a problem; an ink stain, for example, is not considered an obstruction. 

2) All rings should be removed.

3) If there is a bandage or Band-Aid on the hand which is painful to remove, one may wash Netilat Yadayim without removing it.

[4] The Netilat Yadayim must be poured from a cup which is complete without any cracks or punctures. If the cup has a spout, the water must be poured from the side of the rim which is not spouted[5].

[6] Water is poured twice* on the right hand and then twice on the left hand. According to Kabbalah, the cup should originally be lifted with the right hand, and be handed over to the left hand which then pours the water onto the right hand. (Left-handed people reverse this entire procedure). Those who follow Chabad custom wash each hand three times. There must be sufficient water so that the entire hand is covered by water until the wrist with each pouring. The fingers should be slightly separated to allow water to cover their entire surface.

[7] After the washing, the hands are raised above the shoulders and the following blessing is recited:**

Baruch atta Ado-noy Elo-hai-nu Melech ha’olam asher kid-sha-nu b’mitz-vo-tav v’tzi-vanu al Netilat Yadayim.
[Blessed are you, Lord our G-d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded concerning the washing of the hands.]

After reciting the blessing the two hands should be rubbed together and then dried. Bread is not to be eaten while the hands are still wet.

[8] If there is a kosher Mikvah (or river, stream, lake or ocean) available, you may dip your hands in there in lieu of Netilat Yadayim.

[9] If one is traveling, and there is no water to be found for a distance of 72 minutes forward in the journey or 18 minutes rearward, one may eat bread without touching it  either the bread must be wrapped in a napkin or the hands must be covered with gloves.

[10] One who uses the facilities touches a part of the body which is normally covered, or scratches his hair during a meal, must wash again. The blessing, however, is not repeated.

*With the first pouring of water, the hands become pure but the water becomes impure. We therefore pour water a second time in order to purify the first waters. The Chabad custom is to pour water on each hand a third time just in case the second pouring didn’t reach all the impure waters of the first pouring.

**Generally, blessings are recited before actually performing a Mitzvah (e.g. before putting on Tefillin, before lighting the Chanukah candles). Netilat Yadayim is an exception to this rule. Since hands are often unclean before the washing, one waits until afterwards to say the blessing. Furthermore, drying ones hands is also part of the Mitzvah (when washing for bread), so the blessing does precede at least part of the Mitzvah.

Naftali Silberberg

We may look at such practices as silly.  Yeshua agreed with that assessment.
(Mat 15:3 NASB)  And He answered and said to them, “And why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?

Mat 15:3:      This is a passage that should be memorized by every believer.  Man-made traditions should not be compelled or be imposed upon the worship of Elohim.  To obey such things is to add to Torah.  That is strictly forbidden (Deut. 4:2).
Paul speaks of these man-made traditions also (Col. 2:8, 20-23, Titus 1:13-14).
Traditions may be fine.  But they cannot be put on the same level as the Torah of the Father.  They cannot be aligned as mandatory or compulsory in our lives in order to please the Father.  That is what Yeshua is going to scold the Pharisees for in this chapter.



Mat 15:4:      Once again, we see that Yeshua upholds His Father’s Word.  He is affirming the Torah of His Father as being Truth (Ex. 20:12, 21:17,19).


(Mat 15:5 NASB)  “But you say, ‘Whoever shall say to his father or mother, “Anything of mine you might have been helped by has been given to God,”
(Mat 15:6 NASB) he is not to honor his father or his mother.’ And thus you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition.

Mat 15:6:      The laws of the Pharisees were very specific, especially when it came to money they collected “for Elohim.”  The people could supposedly dedicate money to Elohim and call it “Korban” (Mark 7:10-13).  Korban means sacrifice, or offering.  If that was the case, they were not to use any of it to support their parents.  And naturally, they encouraged as much money to be “Korban” as possible.


(Mat 15:7 NASB)  “You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying,

Mat 15:9:      This is a quote from Isaiah 29:13.  Elohim does not desire false praises from people who do not desire to do His will (Isa. 1:13-15, James 2:20).
Yeshua gave two examples of the Pharisees teaching their traditions as if they were the Commandments of Elohim:  The ritual hand washing and their misuse of Korban.
These things are the subject of message of Yeshua in this passage.  We are not to add to nor take away from the Torah of Elohim (Deut. 12:32, Prov. 30:5-6).


(Mat 15:10 NASB)  And after He called the multitude to Him, He said to them, “Hear, and understand.
(Mat 15:11 NASB)  “Not what enters into the mouth defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.”
(Mat 15:12 NASB)  Then the disciples came and said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?”

Mat 15:12:      Yeshua is speaking of the ritualistic handwashings the Pharisees commanded that supposedly wash away spiritual uncleanness.  This alleged uncleanness is not what defiles a man.  If a man does not go through the handwashings, he is not being defiled.


(Mat 15:13 NASB)  But He answered and said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be rooted up.

Mat 15:13:      The uprooting of bad plants or trees is a common theme in Scripture (John 15:2,6).  Actually, Yeshua just spoke of this very thing to His disciples (Matt. 13:40-42).


(Mat 15:14 NASB)  “Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”

Mat 15:14:      Yeshua is saying that the whole band of Pharisees and those who follow them are blind and going astray from Torah.  This same message was given to Israel in the day of Isaiah.  Isaiah also compares them to brush being burned (Isa. 9:16-18).
Yeshua was obviously referring to this Isaiah passage as He referred to the Pharisees


(Mat 15:15 NASB)  And Peter answered and said to Him, “Explain the parable to us.”
(Mat 15:16 NASB)  And He said, “Are you still lacking in understanding also?

Mat 15:16:      Peter had a difficult time separating Torah from the traditional and Talmudic teachings of the Pharisees.  This is evident also when he was rebuked for denying Gentiles the message of Messiah because Gentiles were considered unclean by the Pharisees (Acts 10).


(Mat 15:17 NASB)  “Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated?

Mat 15:17:      Yeshua is speaking of the uselessness of the ritualistic handwashings.  The parallel passage in Mark is terribly misinterpreted and misunderstood by Christianity (Mark 7:19).  The passage is better understood in the NKJV.


(Mat 15:18 NASB)  “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man.
(Mat 15:19 NASB)  “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.
(Mat 15:20 NASB)  “These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man.”

Mat 15:20:      Many Christians make the mistake of using this passage or Mark 7 as reasons to eat unclean and poisonous creatures.  But Yeshua maintains topic here by noting that He is still referring to the ritualistic handwashings of the Pharisees.  The believer would do well to direct the Christian skeptic to Matthews account instead of Mark’s.  The account in Mark 7 does not include the last comment which reminds the reader He is still speaking of Pharisaic tradition being taught as a Commandment of Elohim.
However, Mark’s account reminds us that the Pharisees make the commandment of Elohim of no effect due to their traditions (Mark 7:8,9,13).


(Mat 15:21 NASB)  And Jesus went away from there, and withdrew into the district of Tyre and Sidon.
(Mat 15:22 NASB)  And behold, a Canaanite woman came out from that region, and began to cry out, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed.”

Mat 15:22:      Yeshua went to the area of Tyre and Sidon.  He knew He would run into this particular woman.  This meeting was no accident.
Notice what she is saying.  She wants mercy.  She proclaims Him to be Messiah.  She has a daughter that is cruelly demon-possessed.


(Mat 15:23 NASB)  But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came to Him and kept asking Him, saying, “Send her away, for she is shouting out after us.”
(Mat 15:24 NASB)  But He answered and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

Mat 15:24:      Christians often do not understand that Yeshua was only sent to the lost sheep of the House of Israel (Isa. 53:6, Psalm 119:176, Jer. 50:6-10, Ezek. 34:5-14).


(Mat 15:25 NASB)  But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, “Lord, help me!”
(Mat 15:26 NASB)  And He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”
(Mat 15:27 NASB)  But she said, “Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”

Mat 15:27:      This woman does not deny her position as a “dog.”  She says she only asks for the crumbs from her Masters table.  She is essentially saying that her Elohim is the Elohim of Scripture and that the Messiah of Israel is her Messiah…


(Mat 15:28 NASB)  Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, your faith is great; be it done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed at once.

Mat 15:28:      This woman displayed great faithfulness.  Yeshua made this trip so that she could display her faithfulness.


(Mat 15:29 NASB)  And departing from there, Jesus went along by the Sea of Galilee, and having gone up to the mountain, He was sitting there.
(Mat 15:30 NASB)  And great multitudes came to Him, bringing with them those who were lame, crippled, blind, dumb, and many others, and they laid them down at His feet; and He healed them,
(Mat 15:31 NASB) so that the multitude marveled as they saw the dumb speaking, the crippled restored, and the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.

Mat 15:31:      They glorified Elohim not only because of the healings themselves, but because this is a fulfillment of prophecy (Isa. 35:4-6).


(Mat 15:32 NASB)  And Jesus called His disciples to Him, and said, “I feel compassion for the multitude, because they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not wish to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.”
(Mat 15:33 NASB)  And the disciples said to Him, “Where would we get so many loaves in a desolate place to satisfy such a great multitude?”

Mat 15:33:      It is rather astounding that the disciples seemingly forgot about the feeding of the five thousand just a little while back.  Not only that, but Elisha had performed a similar miracle on a smaller scale centuries earlier (2 Kings 4:38-42).


(Mat 15:34 NASB)  And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” And they said, “Seven, and a few small fish.”
(Mat 15:35 NASB)  And He directed the multitude to sit down on the ground;
(Mat 15:36 NASB) and He took the seven loaves and the fish; and giving thanks, He broke them and started giving them to the disciples, and the disciples in turn, to the multitudes.

(Mat 15:37 NASB)  And they all ate, and were satisfied, and they picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, seven large baskets full.

Mat 15:37:      Just as in the wilderness, the people were fed with bread from heaven on more than one occasion.
I do not know the significance of the seven baskets of bread left.  It is notable that this time we have “large” baskets full left over.  The word for baskets is not the same word as used in the feeding of the five thousand.


(Mat 15:38 NASB)  And those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children.
(Mat 15:39 NASB)  And sending away the multitudes, He got into the boat, and came to the region of Magadan.

Mat 15:39:      Yeshua has compassion on those who were poor, hungry, and sick.  He is truly the Good Shepherd spoken of in Scripture.

Patrick McGuire

Copyright 2014
Patrick McGuire and Beit Yeshua Torah Assembly
All rights reserved, no portion of this Lesson may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations in articles and reviews.
Beit Yeshua Torah Assembly
Fort Smith, Arkansas


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