Bereshit – Year A – October 29, 2016
27th of Tishrei, 5777 / כ״ז בתשרי תשע״ו
The Torah is our life. It is at the core of a mature Messianic Judaism. The Torah is the way of living out the covenant between God and the Jewish people and, therefore, a relation to Torah is a required part of any expression of Judaism (especially for us as we seek to build a Messianic Judaism for the future. So then if we desire to build a mature Messianic Judaism, then we must live our life by the instructions that God has given in the Torah. The “Torah” is given a broader meaning in Judaism to the full range of rabbinic texts (Mishnah, Talmud, Midrash, etc.). These texts are important in our development of a Messianic Judaism because they lay out how Judaism has been lived in the past and how we should live as a Judaism if that is where we are going (which I hope we are). We also have within the context of our understanding of Torah, the Apostolic Writings/New Testament as our fuller instructions for living Torah as modeled by our Messiah and his talmidim.
The Apostolic Writings can be seen as the way of understanding Torah life that reflected the views of the early Messianic Jews, much like the Mishnah reflects the views of the early Rabbis.
We should then seek to live our lives in accordance with the Torah, this is vital for our walking in God’s ways and it is also can serve as a demonstration to the larger Jewish world that we as Messianic Jews are a Torah faithful community.
On the issue of what it means to honor Torah and live Torah there is so much debate amongst people within the Messianic Jewish world with extremes from those who hold to an abolishment of Torah to those who are on the opposite extreme of meticulous Torah observance. But we need to step back and look at what the Torah is and how it functions in our lives.
Most basic is that the Torah is not a works-based system of righteousness. No one is “saved” by observing Torah and no one ever was. The Torah is the way of life of the Jewish people and is the guiding document of what it means to live out the covenant between God and Israel. The coming of Yeshua was not the end of the Jewish people’s bondage to Torah and the individual’s attempt to earn salvation by works, but it was the ratification and reaffirmation of the Torah by the one who lived out the Torah’s commands in absolute obedience to God.
The coming of the Messiah was an affirmation of the redemptive hopes embodied in the Torah and it was the flowering of the redemption in the person of the one who was referred to by the early Messianic Jews as “HaTorah”, the Torah in flesh in our midst, a connection to this understanding can be seen in our reading from Yochanan 1:14, where Yochanan writes:
The Word (Torah) became a human being and lived with us, and we saw his Sh’khinah, The Sh’khinah of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.
Dr. David Stern commented on the above verse when he wrote:
“the Word became flesh.” It is not that a man named Yeshua, who grew up in Natzeret, one day decided he was God. Rather, the Word, who “was with God” and “was God,” gave up the “glory [he] had with [the Father] before the world existed” (17:5) and “emptied himself, in that he took the form of a slave by becoming like human beings are” (Pp 2:7).
(Stern, 1996, Yochanan 1:14)
The Torah that is central to Jewish life and practice became enfleshed in the person of Yeshua. The way of life of the Jewish People became one with his People. This is the wonder of the coming of Yeshua and the great mystery that Yochanan reveals to us in this passage.
So then if not as a way to earn salvation (which has always been based on faith in God) we come to the real place of Torah as the way of walking for those in relationship with the God of Israel and the way of life for the Jewish people, as those in covenant relationship to God.
In Yochanan 14:15-16, Yeshua said:
If you love me, you will keep my commands; and I will ask the Father, and he will give you another comforting Counselor like me, the Spirit of Truth, to be with you forever.
In these words of Yeshua we get another level of what Torah observance means above the main level of it being the duty of the Jewish people to order their lives according to Torah, for the followers of Yeshua it is also a way of showing love for Yeshua by observing His commands, being that Yeshua as the physical manifestation of the God of Israel is both the Messiah who came amongst us and was also the one who gave the Torah to the Jewish people. So by observing Torah we also show our love for Yeshua. As an added benefit, Yeshua also promised that by obeying Torah that we would also be given the Spirit of God which will be our Comforter and will help us live Torah. So in obeying Torah we are granted the Spirit of God so that we can more earnestly live a Torah life.
So then let us seek to live lives of Torah faithfulness and in so doing we will show love to Yeshua, our righteous Messiah, and the Torah made into human form for us and also receive the power of God’s Spirit to more fully live the Torah.
This Shabbat may we better connect to the Torah and the Living Torah, Yeshua, our righteous Messiah.
Stern, D. H. (1996). Jewish New Testament Commentary : a companion volume to the Jewish New Testament (electronic ed.). Clarksville: Jewish New Testament Publications.