for following Torah
Based on Torah Rediscovered by Ariel and D'vorah Berkowitz
There are several reasons why the Torah is to be lived. These are
not presented in order of importance; they are meant to be
considered equally. As we do so, a more complete picture will
Because G-d Tells Us To!
One word frequently used to describe much of the content of the
Torah is the Hebrew mitzvah. This simply means
"commandment." It is something G-d has told us to do.
Don’t be frightened by that word "command," as if it
is something only for the Tenakh. Although Jewish scholars are
quick to assert that there are 613 commandments in the Torah, New
Testament scholars have noted that there are over 1,000 such
"commandments" in the Brit Hadasha (New Testament)! A
commandment is a commandment. After all, what is the difference
between celebrating Shavuot and choosing elders to govern your
fellowship? Both are commanded.
Torah Gives Definition
What does it mean to be Jewish? What does it mean to be part of
the physical nation of Israel? Does it mean listening to Klezmer
music? Does it mean eating blintzes? These and many other
traditions are purely cultural. But the Torah presents a required
lifestyle of holiness that is cross-cultural. Whether from Morocco
or Brooklyn, Jewish people are bound together by certain
practices, such as circumcision and eating kosher. These are
taught in the Torah. It is the Torah, then, that gives the
descendants of Jacob their identity. Believing in Yeshua only
makes that identity complete.
Because It Is Who We Are!
If we follow Torah only because it is commanded, it can easily
turn into legalism. Let us enter by a different door altogether.
Let us enter the arena of Torah through the door of our identity
in Messiah, and see where it leads us.
The Scripture teaches us a critical truth. In bringing us to faith
in Yeshua, G-d has made us into completely new people. We are new
creations, with the Messiah living in us. Moreover, we are
receivers of and participants in the Brit Hadasha. Jeremiah 31
teaches that G-d promises to write Torah on our hearts when He
makes us new. Do not miss the full implications of that. Torah is
written on our hearts! Among other things, this means that Torah
is part of our basic makeup as believers in Yeshua. The
new-creation man or woman, therefore, should only do what comes
naturally to him or her. In this case, it means living out what is
written in the Word—all of the Word.
Why do we follow Torah? Because it is who we are as new creations.
When we read of the redeemed person as described by the precepts
of Torah, we are, in reality, reading a description of who G-d has
made us in the Messiah. Let us return again to the concept of the
mirror image referred to in James 1:22-25. Here we learn the
importance of being doers of the Word instead of listeners only.
The illustration is of a person looking at himself in a mirror,
but verse 25 describes that "mirror" as the Torah.
(Though translated "law" in nearly every English
translation, it is actually Torah.) He who does not do the Word is
one who looks at his face in the Torah and immediately forgets
what he looks like. In that state, therefore, he does not do the
Word. But the person who sees himself in the mirror—the
Torah—and remembers what he looks like, this is the one who does
the Word. When we look into the mirror of the Torah, our
reflection is that of a redeemed person as described therein. The
individual teachings, in essence, describe what the redeemed one
looks like. Because it is Yeshua who has made us new, made us the
righteousness of G-d (II Corinthians 5:21), all that is left for
us to do is to choose to walk in that new life—the righteous
life of Yeshua—the life of Torah.
Therefore, we do not follow Torah as though it were merely a list
of do’s and don’ts. We follow it because it is written on our
hearts. It is who we are as new creations. It comes naturally to
us because G-d has made us into new people! But unless we know
what our real spiritual identity is, we can’t enter into the
whole realm of our new life in Messiah that is available through
Because Our Messiah Yeshua (Jesus)
Don’t all believers want to do what the Lord did, and to be like
Him? We are quick to practice letting His love flow out from us,
and learning to worship and pray as He worshiped and prayed.
Rightly so. But what about how Yeshua followed Torah? His life was
so characterized by Torah that even as late as the next generation
of Jewish believers after Him, He was referred to as "The
Torah." Even John 1 describes Yeshua as the Word, a reference
to the Torah.
There is one more key to this point which will unlock its
importance for us. The key is to remember that Yeshua is in us! We
are new creations with the Living Torah inside of us. This truth
is so powerful that, when we think about it, the question we
should be asking is not "Should we follow the Torah?"
but "How do we come to know this ‘treasure in jars of
clay’?" (II Corinthians 4:7)
Because of What It Communicates to
This is our final and most emotional point. We are speaking here
to Jewish believers and making an appeal to non-Jewish believers,
who need to be awakened to a major theological tragedy that has
been perpetuated for the last 1,800 years.
The anti-Torah theology which so dominates the body of Messiah
today, originally taught and practiced in the second century,
arose from a distinct anti-Judaism propounded by some of the most
influential scholars and leaders in the body of Messiah. And
because many theologians in the Body today have swallowed the
anti-Torah teachings of the Church fathers, the conclusions they
continue to teach and publish naturally reflect the same bias. The
believers of our era may not be as anti-Jewish as many of the
Church fathers were; nevertheless, many have inherited their
anti-Torah, anti-Jewish interpretations of the Brit Hadasha
Many today do not think for themselves or practice honest exegesis
of the Brit Hadasha. If they did, they would conclude that the
Brit Hadasha, in reality, is very Torah-positive and encourages a
Torah lifestyle. And while it is no easy task to change beliefs
that have been dearly held for over 1,800 years, change they
must—if for no other reason than to be honest with the Bible.
But there is another reason. We need to ask some very serious
questions. What does the prevailing anti-Torah theology saying to
the traditional Jewish world? How do they see us? What do they
understand of our thinking?
Moreover, Jewish believers, what is the message being conveyed to
our families and Jewish friends by our attitude toward Torah?
Simply stated, we are communicating confusion and error to the
people through whom the Word of truth originally came. As a
result, on the human level (that is, apart from the elective grace
of G-d) there is very little motivation within the traditional
Jewish world to hear the Good News.
Rabbi Benjamin Blech is a prominent teacher at New York’s
prestigious Yeshiva University, a major educational institution
for the Orthodox Jewish world. In his excellent textbook on basic
Judaism, he makes this very poignant criticism of
"Christianity" as he understands it:
Christianity therefore rejected
the law and gave a new interpretation to the covenant at Sinai.
This is the crucial distinction between the Old Testament and the
New. The Torah was assuredly given to the Jewish people at Mt.
Sinai, but its laws were no longer binding, according to
Christianity. How could G-d have given directives that He Himself
later saw fit to change?
Blech is saying that by rejecting Torah we have, at best, confused
the Jewish people in regard to G-d’s revelation in the
Scriptures. At worst, we have written them off as a people group.
Inasmuch as the Church’s anti-Torah bias led to the theological
(and physical) persecution of the Jewish people, Christian
rejection of the Torah has ultimately resulted in Jewish rejection
of Yeshua. Judaism has simply written off the Good News of Yeshua
as irrelevant. In short, for our people, the Good News has become
nothing but the sad and bad news.
The Church’s anti-Torah theology is a tragic flaw as concerns
the Jewish people. Dr. Stern recognizes this when he says,
I am certain that the lack of a correct, clear, and relatively
complete Messianic Jewish or Gentile Christian theology of the
Torah is not only a major impediment to Christians’
understanding their own faith, but also the greatest barrier to
Jewish people’s receiving the Gospel. Most Christians have an
overly simplistic understanding of what the Torah is all about;
and second, that Christianity has almost nothing relevant to say
to Jews about one of the three most important issues of their
Are We Listening?
Our goal in pursuit of Torah will be accomplished when each reader
can sing Psalm 19:7-11 along with David. Many believers do sing
this song, in reference to the whole Word of G-d. This is fine.
But it should be remembered that when David wrote these words, he
was writing about the Torah.
The Torah of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; the
testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The
precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the
commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear
of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord
are true and righteous altogether. They are more desirable than
gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the
drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them your servant is
warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
Blessings, Cameron MMin.