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Want to Learn Torah? Start Here
Are you new to Torah? Have you been wondering what is the Torah or Shabbat? Are you wondering if you and your family should be keeping the Biblical feast days and following the Biblical calendar? Many people we’ve talked to feel like they are the only ones in the world who believe these things. That is not true at all! There are literally thousands of families around the world who are responding to Yahweh’s awakening of the heart in these days.
So what’s the first step? How do you start to learn Torah?
If you haven’t already decided for sure that you even should keep the Torah, or you have a family member that is on the fence, you’ve come to the right place!
We’re going to walk with you step by step on this exciting journey, and hopefully answer many of the questions you have. Like these…
These are just some of the questions that many Christians are asking themselves as what is commonly known as the Hebrew Roots Movement is rapidly growing around the world.
At the same time, those who practice traditional Judaism have long dismissed Christianity because they cannot reconcile Jesus with the Bible’s description of a prophet or a messiah. A prophet or an anointed leader of Israel, by definition, cannot teach against the very laws and commandments of the God of Israel.
Yet that is how the Christian church has presented Jesus for centuries: Jesus (Yeshua in Hebrew) came to do away with the Sabbath and with distinguishing between clean and unclean foods and with keeping the holidays (holy days) established by God through Moses. In fact, Jesus came to start a brand new religion called Christianity and to do away with Judaism.
But is that what the Old Testament (the Tanakh) predicts and what the New Testament (B’rit Hadasha) teaches?
Christians teach that through Jesus there is no longer a distinction between Jews and Gentiles, but they require Jews to give up the keeping of the law (Torah in Hebrew) in order to be accepted into the Christian community–or else be labeled a ‘legalist.’ But how could any practicing Jew abandon the Sabbath and Passover and the rest of the holy days and commandments found in the Bible? Should they have to?
Or should Christians have to keep the Jewish holidays and follow the Jewish calendar in order to be accepted by the Jews? And what about all of the additional traditions that Judaism practices that are not found in the Bible? And after all, wasn’t the law only intended for the Jewish people anyway?
The Law is only for the Jewish people, right?
That’s certainly what we were taught–that the Law (or Torah in Hebrew) was given to the Jews by Moses. But that’s not what the Scriptures say. The Bible shows us that it was God Himself who gave His commandments to all of His people, and that He simply used Moses as the way of giving it to them.
Then Yahweh said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘You yourselves have seen that I have spoken to you from heaven.’ Exodus (Shemot) 20:22
In other words, Moses did not invent the Torah, it’s God’s law given through Moses. And to whom was it given?
To all 12 tribes of Israel and the mixed multitude that came out of Egypt with them.
The Egyptians urged the people, to send them out of the land in haste, for they said, “We will all be dead”…Now the sons of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, aside from children. A mixed multitude also went up with them, along with flocks and herds, a very large number of livestock. Exodus (Shemot) 12:33ff
So we can clearly see that is was God Himself who gave the law (Torah) to all 12 tribes of Israel and the mixed multitude that came out of Egypt with them. The ‘Jews’ are simply those of the tribe of Judah and are but one of the twelve tribes. The ‘mixed multitude’ are those who were not of the 12 tribes of Israel by bloodline–in other words, Gentiles. (Wait a second…didn’t the apostle Paul say something about how there’s no longer Jews nor Gentiles? We’ll get to that.)
So it was the Jews (tribe of Judah) and the other 11 tribes of Israel and the mixed multitude who God led out of Egypt. And so it was this entire group of people who made up the assembly at Mt. Sinai where God gave His law to His people.
That’s what the Bible says. If that’s not what you were taught in church or synagogue, seminary or yeshiva, maybe you should keep reading…
That’s a great question! Only God knows for sure who is a physical descendent of one of the 12 tribes of Israel–including the tribe of Judah better known as the Jews. We certainly don’t know. But we don’t have to either, because the Scriptures don’t teach that Israel has ever been or will ever be made up only of those of the physical bloodline of the sons of Jacob (Israel). The bigger and better question we should be asking is why does it matter who Israel is? Here’s a good reason to want to know…
But Jesus answered and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Matthew 15:24
These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Do not go in the way of the nations and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” Matthew 10:5-7
So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” Acts 1:6
Click to learn more about Who is Israel?
But doesn’t the Apostle Paul teach that the Law was done away with?
That’s certainly what the church teaches. The problem is that Paul frequently contradicts himself, at least he seems to. Sometimes he seems to be saying that the law is good and still applies, sometimes he seems to be saying it’s bondage and has been done away with:
For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. Romans 2:13
Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. Romans 3:20
So which Paul do we listen to and why does he seem to contradict himself? Click to learn more about the apostle Paul’s teaching on the law.
But what does Jesus have to say about the Law?
After all, to the Christian he is the Lord and Savior, the Word made flesh, the embodiment of the law. And regardless of what Paul says, Christians should always follow what Jesus teaches, right? Here’s what Jesus says in Matthew 5:17-20:
Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
We know, we know–we’ve been in church for 20+ years–everyone knows that ‘Jesus did away with the Law, so we don’t have to keep it.’ But is that what Jesus Himself says? Here’s some questions we have after reading Matthew 5:
- Have heaven and earth passed away?
- Did Jesus accomplish all at His first coming, or is there more to be fulfilled at His second coming?
- Why is there a second coming if there’s nothing left to fulfill/accomplish?
- If ‘fulfill’ means to do away with, what does ‘abolish’ mean? (e.g. ‘Do not think that I have come to do away with the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to do away with them but to do away with them.’ Huh??)
- Why would those who keep the Law and teach others to do so be called “great in the kingdom of heaven” if the Law is bad and has been done away with?
- What does Jesus mean when he says that our righteousness has to surpass that of the religious leaders of his day in order for us to enter the kingdom of heaven?
Click to learn more about what Jesus taught about the Law.
Believers who are new to Torah are often confronted with opposition from family members or friends from church. It is not at all uncommon to be called a Jew or a legalist. We gently remind them that Jesus was a Jew and He kept the law in every detail (which is why He was qualified to be the sacrifice for our sins).
Others will tell you that it is impossible to keep the law because there is no physical Temple or Levitical priesthood. That is, while the so-called moral laws are still in effect and binding, the so-called ritual laws are done away with. And while there is some truth to this statement, this overly simplistic division and terminology comes from an incomplete understanding of the Temple and the priesthood and our relationship to both.
Rather than focusing on what we must keep or what we can’t keep, we prefer to focus on those parts of the law that we can keep and we get to keep!
We Get to Keep the Law!
Unfortunately, Christians have been taught that the law is bad for them and it was a punishment from God. The Bible doesn’t teach this, it is a man-made doctrine. In fact, we would argue that it is a lie from the father of lies–the adversary (satan in Hebrew).
To the contrary, the Bible says that the law is good, and eternal, and a blessing, and a delight–it is truth! This is why Jesus (Yeshua in Hebrew) is ‘the Word made flesh.’ He is the Living Torah. He is the very embodiment of the law!
He only spoke what His father spoke, He was obedient (to the point of death)–not rebellious or lawless.
He didn’t keep the law perfectly so we don’t have to keep it, He kept it as an example that we should imitate and walk in! Obedience is a blessing for us and our families. It is how we say ‘thank you!’ to Yahweh our God for His grace towards us that resulted in our salvation.
Instead of focusing on what we can’t do, let’s start with what we can do:
- Keep the Sabbath – The Sabbath is the seventh day of the week. It is the day that Yahweh rested from His work of creation. It is the fourth commandment of the 10 Commandments (depending on how you list them). ‘Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy’ Exodus (Shemot) 20:8. Ever wonder why Yahweh would need to say remember the Sabbath? It’s because He knows us well! Many have indeed forgotten the Sabbath, but you don’t have to.
- Keep the Biblical food laws – Yahweh makes a distinction between clean and unclean animals. He defines what is food for us and what is not food for us. It may be edible, but that doesn’t make it food for us. Dogs, cats, skunks, maggots, flies, and cockroaches are all edible, but they’re not food for us. Only the Creator gets to decide what is food for His creation.
- Begin to make a distinction between His ways and the ways of the nations – There are only two groups of people in the world: (1) the covenant people of Yahweh the God of Israel and (2) the people of the nations who are not in covenant with Yahweh. Spiritually speaking, there is Israel and everyone else. Yahweh has a set of instructions on how His people are to live (the Torah); and so do the gods of the nations! Believers must learn to distinguish between the two.
This is by no means a complete list of the instructions found in the Torah, it is simply the starting point.
Many believers coming into an understanding of Torah soon discover the Biblical feast days, especially Passover because of its obvious ties to Jesus (Yeshua in Hebrew). You may have been invited to a Passover meal (seder) or heard of folks who were going camping in the fall as part of the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot in Hebrew).
This leads to obvious questions about the feast days and calendar. Unfortunately, there is much confusion and division over how and when to keep Yahweh’s set apart holy days (holidays). There is also debate and division over how to pronounce and spell the names of God and the Messiah.
One Torah believes and teaches that while these issues are important and worthy of discussion and debate, they are not worth dividing the body over or breaking fellowship!
If the Scriptures regarding these matters were clear and simple and unambiguous, there would be no disagreement over them among people who desire to keep His law. The very reason that there is so much disagreement is because the Scriptures leave room for differing interpretations.
We believe that the difficulties with the calendar are part of the consequences of our sin and rebelliousness which has led to our exile among the nations. Only when Messiah Yeshua (Jesus the Christ) returns will He gather us from among the nations and bring us into the land of Israel, and restore the proper observance of the Torah with Himself as the head and king, and His Torah as the constitution of His kingdom.
Until then, we should continue to repent of our sins and the sins of our ancestors and the sins of the people of the nations in which we dwell. We should continue to diligently study His instructions and do our very best to be doers of His word, not just forgetful hearers. And we should show the same grace to those who disagree with us as He shows to us.
One Torah considers ourself to be Torah pursuant, therefore, rather than Torah observant.