Oops! Last week when I posted Parashah Shemini, I was a week too early. I missed the fact that on the Shabbat after Pesach (Passover) we read a different portion of the Torah, specifically for that Shabbat. So, that means I am a week ahead, and as such, I thought we could use this week to review the reason why reading the Torah portion (called a Parashah, the plural is Parashot) is so important, especially if you want to be able to understand what is in the New Covenant writings.
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The Torah is the first five books of the Bible (most of you already know that) and they contain every, single instruction for how to worship God and how to treat each other that God wants us to know. In truth, it is really the only part of the Bible that is made up of the exact words God gave to us, with Moses taking dictation. Every single Torah is exactly the same as every other Torah- when the Scribes who are specially trained to write the Torah (called Sopherim) finish copying one Torah to another, they count every single letter to make sure there is nothing missing or added.
Yeshua taught from the Torah. That was the only scripture that existed. Of course, there were many traditional teachings, which became the Mishna and the Gomorrah (together they make up the Talmud.) But as for the written word of God, when Yeshua was teaching, he was teaching from the only scripture there was, and that was the Torah. And as far as Yeshua being the spotless lamb of God, i.e. a sinless person, he was sinless because he did everything that God instructed us all to do, which (again) is found in the Torah.
My point is that to understand what Yeshua taught, we need to first know what is in the Torah. Shaul (Paul) also taught only from the Torah; in fact, being a Pharisee trained by one of the greatest Rabbis in Jewish history, Gamaliel, he was a Torah expert.
The New Covenant writings have absolutely nothing in them that is “new.” I know, I know…you are going to quote from Ecclesiastes and tell me there is nothing new under the sun, and (of course) I will agree with you, which also proves my point about the New Covenant. Yeshua taught from the Torah, the Disciples of Yeshua taught what they learned from Yeshua, which was from the Torah, and Shaul taught what he knew from the Torah.
Let’s take a break for a minute and go over something important to know. In the letters from Shaul to the congregations of (almost exclusively) Gentile Believers he formed, he gave them a lot of leeway in how strictly they followed the Torah because they needed that. He was against requiring Gentiles to make a complete and immediate conversion to Judaism because he knew that paradigm shift in lifestyle would be too difficult and he would lose a lot of them. That is the same conclusion the Elders in Jerusalem came to, which you can read about in Acts 15. They gave only 4 immediate requirements, and that was never meant to be the only thing Gentiles had to do, just all they had to do for now. It was assumed (and you can see that plainly in Acts 15:21) they would eventually learn all the commandments in the Torah. This discussion, however, is for another time.
If you wanted to build a house, you wouldn’t start with the roof or the second floor, would you? In fact, you wouldn’t even start with the main floor until you had laid the foundation. The Torah is the foundation for the Tanakh, which is what many consider to be the “Jewish Bible”. The books that come after Deuteronomy are either of historical nature (such as Joshua, Kings 1 and 2, Chronicles 1 and 2, Ruth, Esther, etc.) or they are prophetic books. But they all have one thing in common, and that is that they show us how well, or more often how poorly, the Chosen people lived within the covenant they had made with God. They also show how God always kept his side of the covenant, even when we kept breaking our side of it. And how willing God was, and still is, to forgive us when we repent.
The New Covenant writings start with the Gospels, which are the narrative of all the messianic prophecies we read throughout the Tanakh coming to fruition in Messiah Yeshua. His teachings, which we read in the Gospels, are all from the Torah, but what was different was not what he taught about the commandments, but what he taught about how we are to follow the commandments.
The Pharisees were teaching performance-based salvation, i.e. what we call in Judaism the P’shat, the plain language of the Torah. For example, when they taught do not murder, they meant to not kill someone on purpose, and that was all. Yeshua taught the Remes, the deeper, spiritual meaning of the law, so he said we know not to murder, but if we hate in our heart, that is murder.
If you aren’t familiar with the terms P’shat or Remes, look up the Jewish form of biblical exegesis called PaRDeS.
In order to understand what Yeshua taught, we need to know what the Pharisees taught so we can see the difference. Only reading the New Covenant is like reading the second book of a two-book story, without ever having read the first book. You might get some of the story-line, and may understand a lot of what is happening, but without knowing the background you will never really understand the characters or the way things got to where you “came in” to the narrative.
This is why it is important for anyone and everyone who professes to want to follow Yeshua to know what he knew- the Torah. After all, didn’t John say the Word of God became flesh and walked among us? He was talking about Yeshua, and the only Word of God (as we learned earlier) that existed then was the Torah, so Yeshua is the living Torah. That is why he could never preach anything against the Torah, because if he did then he would be a house divided against itself, and we all know what he said about that.
If you are a Believer and have not read the Torah, then you are cheating yourself out of knowing your Messiah. You cannot understand the depth of what Yeshua taught or understand anything in the letters Paul wrote if you do not know the Torah and, in fact, you really need to know the entire Tanakh. That was what they taught from, and that is where we learn about God, the Messiah and God’s plan for mankind.
It comes down to this: if you don’t know the Torah, you can’t really know Yeshua.
Thank you for being here; please subscribe and share these messages with others. I always welcome your comments, and next Friday we will be back on schedule with the Parashah readings.
Until next time, L’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!