Don’t let anyone pass judgment on you in connection with eating and drinking . . Colossians 2:16 (The Complete Jewish Bible – David Stern)
Eating and Drinking – David Stern correctly notes that Paul is not talking about all eating and drinking. He is addressing the assembly in Colossae, an assembly consisting of Jews and Gentiles. Therefore, his message is about kashrut, that is, kosher food and drink. Stern notes, “here it appears that Gentile Judaizers . . . have set up arbitrary rules . . . about when and how to eat and drink,” Stern argues that these added rules are rejected by Paul because they do not follow Torah. Paul is only interested in the observance of Torah in the community. Anything else is outside the bounds set by God.
But Stern introduces this remark with a claim that Paul teaches “Gentile believers are free to observe or not to observe rules about dining and Jewish holidays.” Stern claims Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 clearly support this view. I am not convinced. If Paul teaches that Gentiles are grafted into the commonwealth of Israel, that Israel is the root and the Gentiles are the wild branch, that he himself never deviated from Torah, and that those in Christ are equally children of the Father, then where is the teaching that the “adopted” Gentiles are not expected to live like the rest of God’s elect? God does have a special role for Israel. They are the chosen priests to the nations. They are the ones God uses to bring His message to the rest of the world. But how can it make sense to say that there are two classes of citizens in the Kingdom; those who follow Torah and those who are free not to follow Torah? How are the Gentiles supposed to provoke Jews to jealousy if they are free to ignore Torah? This is, unfortunately, precisely the problem in the Church today. Heschel once said that a Jew without Torah is obsolete. A Christian without Torah is irrelevant. Christians without Torah are exactly what Jews claim they are: converts to some new religion unrecognizable as Jewish. The idea of two Torahs, one for Jews and one for Gentiles (the optional one), lacks Scriptural basis. It doesn’t square with the theological or cultural position of Paul. It strains credulity to think that Yeshua didn’t mean “keep Torah” when He said, “teaching them to observe all the mitzvot I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:20)
It seems to me that Stern has allowed the theology of the “replacement” Church to influence his interpretation of this verse. To make Torah observance optional removes any distinctiveness in Kingdom behavior, obliterating the purpose of the Kingdom on earth. Furthermore, how will Stern decide which of the Torah commandments are optional and which aren’t? It’s a problem, isn’t it?
To be Jewish is to be part of God’s revelation of Himself to the world. To be grafted into the commonwealth of Israel is to voluntarily decide to adopt the constitution God established at Sinai. In other words, to convert from paganism to Messianic Judaism is to be different, by choice, certainly, but not optionally.
Topical Index: kashrut, Torah, David Stern, Colossians 2:16
 David Stern, New Testament Jewish Commentary, p. 610.