I am going to discuss, briefly, what the Torah is for the benefit of any readers who may not be all that familiar with it. I could do an entire Bible study on the Torah, not the scripture it has but for all the other aspects of it. However, all I really would like to do today is just give you a brief outline, one I have used in Bible and Messianic 101 classes
Let’s begin with the word, “Torah.” Although it is often referred to as “law”, it’s actual meaning is “Teaching.” The Christian world uses the connotation of “law” as a means to dissuade people from believing they need to obey Torah. The general teaching is that the regulations, laws (mitzvot) and rules that God gave to His people contained in the Torah represent legalism. This is not true, and meat for another discussion. Leave us to say that the commandments are for anyone who wishes to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, at any time, and for all time.
The Torah contains the Five Books of Moses, and is also called the Pentateuch (Greek for Five Books). That is the Torah. The Tanakh is the entire Old Covenant, and is an acronym made of Torah, Nevi’im (Prophets) and Ketuvim (Writings, such as Ruth, Psalms, Proverbs, etc.) The writings of the Prophets are broken down into the major and minor Prophets.
The Torah is more than just five books telling the history of the Jewish people and the laws God gave us. It serves as a Ketuba, or marriage certificate, between God and His people. It is also a Covenant made between God and His people, specifically the Noadic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic and “new” covenant, which was fulfilled when Yeshua was resurrected and the Ruach HaKodesh was given to those who accept Yeshua as their Messiah.
The Torah also serves as a constitution, essentially listing the civil and penal laws that form a nation. Finally, the Torah teaches us about sin, and teaches us right from wrong (Shaul talks about this in Romans.)
The Torah contains a total of 613 commandments, about 1/3 of which describe the sacrificial system that was only valid for use at the Temple. With the destruction of the Temple, non-Messianic Jews have had no place to atone for sins. For those who have accepted that Yeshua is the Messiah, His death was our atonement, so we have to feel great pain and fellowship with the Jewish people who believe they have no atonement. It’s so sad for them to think they have no atonement and are anxiously waiting for the Messiah to atone for them, and He has been here, waiting for them, for over two thousand years. Well, that’s (also) another discussion.
The laws are broken down into different groups:
Mishpatim are regulations:
- Mishpatim- those regulations which we can understand why they exist;
- Dupah- those regualtions that need to be, and are, explained why they are given to us; and
- Hucah-those that are unexplained and/or unknown why we have them (but we still have to follow them)
Mitzvot are laws and Chukim are ordinances. I have never really found anything that definitively identifies the differences between regulations, laws, and ordinances. The important thing for us to remember is that no matter what they are called, they are all what God wants us to do, and are all important to obey.
The Oral Torah (Sheb’al Peh) is a traditional compilation of regulations supposedly given to Moshe which he did not write down. They are today the Rabbinic interpretations of the Torah and have expanded into the Talmud. Talmud details for us Halakha, or ‘The Way to Walk”. In other words, it tells us how to live a Jewish lifestyle, in every part of our daily activities. And I mean, e-v-e-r-y part. The origins are pre-Christian Era, and they come from two “schools” of thought- the Babylonian Talmud and the Jerusalem Talmud.
The Talmud started as the Oral Torah, which was eventually compiled and written as the Mishna, an explanation of the laws. The Mishna didn’t quite cover it all, so they added the Gemara. Together these make up the Talmud, which is a magnificent Tome of some 20 plus volumes of Rabbinic lore, written in groups called Orders and Tractates.
Although considered to be scripture by Orthodox Jews, it is (I say this respectfully) not scripture. It is wonderful wisdom, and helps to identify what a Jewish person is, how to live, and how to perform the things in the Torah we are told to do, but not always how to do it. It is based on the Word of God, but it is not His Word. It is Rabbinic wisdom and Jewish folklore.
Overall, due to the differences in how people (meaning religion) say to worship God, even within the “purity” of Torah, Jews have split into different sects:
1. The Ultra Orthodox, or Chasidic;
2. The Orthodox (leftover from the Pharisees);
3. The Conservative (less reliance on Oral Law)
4. The Reform (believe only moral laws are mandatory, less concerned about “ceremonial” laws);
5. The Reconstructionists (believe in the traditions more than the written laws);
6. The Messianic Jews (believe that Yeshua/Jesus is the Messiah God promised and follow the laws and regulations throughout the Torah.)
We see evidence of the Torah in Jewish lives in different ways: people wearing Tzttzit (the fringes commanded to be worn in Numbers) and a Kippur (covering, also called a Yarmulke). A Mezzuzah on the lentils of the doorways, those who follow the laws of Kashrut (Kosher laws- I follow them according to Leviticus 11, not according to the Rabbinic laws, which are extremely difficult to follow) and the celebration of Shabbat (Sabbath) on the proper day, Friday night through to Saturday night.
The New Covenant writings have been very tough on the Torah. It amazes (and disgusts) me that the teachings of Yeshua have been turned into polemics against the Torah, the very book He helped write! In the Gospel of John, Yochanan (John) tells us there was the Word of God, and the Word became flesh. That was Yeshua. Yeshua told the Pharisees that a house divided against itself cannot stand: so, if Yochanan was correct that the Word of God became flesh (don’t forget- the only Word they had was Torah) and Yeshua was correct that a house divided against itself can’t stand, then how can Christianity teach that Yeshua did away with the Law, which is the Word, which is Him? Oy! Where do they come up with this stuff?
Check out Matthew 5:17, 2nd Timothy 3:16, Romans 7:12 and Isaiah 56. These references all make an apologetic argument for the validity of Torah. Yet, if you look at Galatians 3:10 / 3:28 / 5: 1-4 / 2:15-16, these are historically used as a polemic against the Torah.
The final part of today’s little lesson is to ask: “Who should follow Torah ?” Should it be just Jews? Should it be Jews and Believers (Born Again)? After all, since Born Again Christians accept Yeshua/Jesus as their Savior and are trying to do as He tells us to do, which is to obey Scripture, the only Scripture He taught was Torah. It makes sense and follows, naturally, that they should live in accordance with Torah, right?
My answer is that everyone who professes to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob should follow Torah because (here it is again): God has no religion. If you say you follow God, if you say you accept Jesus/Yeshua as your Messiah, and you love to say how much you love Him, He told us that the way we show how much we love Him is to follow His commandments, which are/is/always have been/ always will be: the Torah!
That’s right, boys and girls: if you profess to follow Yeshua, and you love Him, then you need to obey every rule, regulation, ordinance and law in the Torah, as best as you can. That doesn’t mean pick and choose, that means try to do them all. The only ones that you don’t have to do are the ones you physically can’t, i.e., the sacrifices at the Temple. Therefore, if you haven’t been reading the Tanakh, better get started- that’s where the background and teachings of the entire New Covenant are based and found. There is nothing “new” in the New Covenant.
If you don’t read everything from Genesis through Revelations, you aren’t getting the whole teaching.