Torah

What Does “Torah” Mean To You?

For clarification, by the word “Torah,” I do not just mean the Torah, as in the Five Books of Moses, but to all Jewish religious texts such the Hebrew Bible, rabbinic and halakhic texts, and kabbalistic and hasidic texts.

-Rabbi Joel E. Hoffman
“Why I Learn Torah Daily”
Aish.com

This somewhat dovetails with what I wrote in The Torah Without Judaism, and particularly the brief exchange I had in the comments section of that blog post with reader ProclaimLiberty.

The question for the Messianic and particularly the “Messianic Gentile” or “Talmid Yeshua” is what the word “Torah” means to us.

There’s probably no one answer, since depending on the given disciple, Jewish or Gentile, the perspective is going to vary.

What do I mean by “Torah?”

This is just my personal opinion. I’m not trying to tell anyone what to do. But I think it’s a helpful question we should all ask ourselves periodically, rather than just assume that our answer is “the answer.”

From my point of view, “Torah” includes the whole Bible, and by that I mean the Five Books of Moses, the Prophets, the Writings, and the Apostolic Scriptures. However, I also habitually read articles and commentaries found at Aish.com and Chabad.org, mainly to get a Jewish viewpoint on what I’m studying.

Granted, I am doing a lot of mental editing when I read content from those resources, since those sites and their information are written by and for Jews, not Gentiles, particularly not for Christians, and absolutely not for anyone with my unique conceptualization of scripture, Messiah, and Hashem.

christian books
Photo: sharonglasgow.com

I don’t typically read traditional Christian resources, even though they are far more Yeshua (Jesus) focused, because, frankly, I just don’t relate to them. I’ve always had a problem with “Christianese,” even when I first became a believer about twenty years ago.

I do read the occasional Christian-oriented book here and there, but either I don’t get very much out of them, or I actively criticize their content.

There have been other resources I have heavily consumed in the past, and they still guide the majority of my thinking and beliefs, but for a variety of reasons, I’ve chosen not to pursue them further, at least to any significant degree.

I have become aware that a debate somewhat like the one I previously mentioned is occurring at a Hebrew Roots blogspot, and the discussion there is very contentious.

However, the blog owner did provide a link to a brief review of a book by Rabbi Chaim Clorfene called The World of the Ger. You can learn more about it at the blog Soul Mazal.

I know that there are some “Messianic Gentiles” who at least suggest the path of the Noahide is an appropriate journey for them/us as well, and I’ve written on this before.

I think there are some things we might take from that example, but it’s also filled with trap doors and land mines. It’s far too easy for some of us to confuse our faith in Hashem and devotion to our Rav with the practice of Judaism or Noahidism. Hence the fact that we see some non-Jews in our communities as well as in churches leave Yeshua-faith and either join the ranks of the Noahide or convert to (Orthodox) Judaism.

It would almost be better for believing Gentiles to stay in their churches rather than take such a risk.

But then, in my opinion, their perspectives regarding what the Bible really says about Israel, the Jewish people, the redemption of the world, and yes, about Judaism, would remain limited if not misguided.

studyAs with many other questions I bring up, I don’t have a hard and fast answer for you. Interestingly enough, this brings us back to Rabbi Hoffman’s brief essay:

I learn Torah every day because it gives me a cohesive set of answers to all of the ultimate questions.

I suppose, from Rabbi Hoffman’s perspective, it does, but it doesn’t work that way for me. I still have far more questions than I do “ultimate” answers.

But here’s another wrinkle R. Hoffman introduces:

I learn Torah every day because it connects me with the millions of other Jews worldwide who also learn Torah every day.

That works if you are a religious Jew, but not so much for we non-Jews, even Noahides, I suspect. After all, how Torah applies to the Ger is remarkably different from how it applies to the Jew, at least in the details, although keep in mind that I also previously mentioned a private Jewish school in Utah that teaches Jewish values to a student body made up of 75% non-Jews.

And that’s one of the reasons, maybe one of my top reasons, for studying the Torah as I understand it. To seek a common ground where I as a non-Jew can stand and learn who God is and who I am to Him through a Jewish lens.

But I craft that “lens” to fit more my particular “eyesight” requirements, since I’m not a Jew and I consider myself more than a Noahide.

The one advantage I have is that I stand outside of actual, face-to-face Jewish or Christian community. Neither one can have too strong a pull on me, although the Pastor at the church I attended for two years certainly tried as hard as he could to turn me into a good Baptist.

But since, as I’ve admitted, I find Jewish thought more appealing, I suppose if I were constantly exposed to Jewish community of the non-Messianic variety, I’d be putting myself at risk of being influenced to the point of challenging my faith. I don’t know if it would go that far, but why take the chance?

That may be why so many of us are unaffiliated, although there are plenty of other reasons.

Laying TefillinIf I study Torah as I understand it and don’t adopt the praxis of Judaism, I can’t be as strongly influenced to confuse Judaism with my identity and role as God created them for me. I also can’t be accused (as sometimes occurs) of misappropriating the things unique to the covenant relationship between Hashem and the Jewish people, such as Shabbat, Kosher, the prayers, donning a tallit gadol, or laying tefillin.

If you’re Jewish, then I say what’s yours is yours.

If I’m not Jewish and I don’t identify as a traditional Christian, all that’s left, assuming I retain my Yeshua-faith, is a journey to discover who I am uniquely in my relationship with my Rav.

If you confuse that with either Judaism or Christianity, you might already have lost your way.

Advertisements

11 thoughts on “What Does “Torah” Mean To You?”

  1. Your posts always make me think. It is hard to identify ourselves to Christians and to Jewish people in a way that they understand and in a way that affirms their own beliefs and practices. It’s been a long journey! Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.

  2. I think of Torah as more or less the five books. The rest is application or commentary thereupon. It doesn’t hurt to keep in mind that the Word wasn’t written down (as in: books) when Moses was the authority.

  3. Walking toward G-d with only a Bible in hand is a challenge to one’s beliefs as taught by formalized Christian Religion, and it does get scary at times when you question everything that has been written by Christians…one has to really make up one’s mind to step back again and again from the temptation to let others think for you, and ask the painful questions of one self, and of G-d. I take refuge in the 5 books of the Torah and the remainder of the Tanakh, which formed the basis of the Brit Chadashah, as there is so much there that simply lays the groundwork for all that Yeshua was and did, and now is.

    Jews are forbidden to doubt within the construct of Orthodox Judaism, as it leads to inconvenient questions, and to those questing for answers to asking questions outside the box of the permutations of law as it has been decided since the Nazarene Way upset the apple cart, so to speak.

    Aish.com often troubles me, as this week when they were posting the convoluted arguments of Jews for Judaism…as it is never an argument for Judaism, but an argument as to why one should not look at Jesus, not Yeshua, and thus both maddening and sad, particularly since they still are fighting Catholic Christianity, not Nazarene Judaism, as described to some degree in the Scriptures.

    And so one prays a great deal, for one’s own sense of certainty, and for all the Jews to have their minds released from the careful construct of Modern Judaism, however Orthodox they may believe it to be. It was, after all, constructed in opposition to the Way and to the growing Ger involvement after AD70.

    I keep trying to imagine what might have been had the Adversary not moved the Greeks against the Jews, and the Jews against the Greeks in regard to the Nazarene Assembly. Knowing that there have always been a remnant throughout time carrying what was taught before John the Revelator died, and what the Jerusalem Church attempted to promote as a better way of Judaism, with an astonishing solution to the Dual Messiah in Jewish thought being accomplished in two stages in Rav Yeshua, given by G-d, appointed Son, and Mashiach, and glorified for his righteousness, and obedience and self-sacrifice.

    I cannot see as far as I might into the past, but scholar after scholar is digging for the remnants of Nazarene Judaism, and the more I can learn, the more I can add to my walk as Ger that worships YHVH, and thanks Him daily for the gift of Yeshua.

    People forget that one must begin in the search for the heart of the Way with the fact that G-d made us, and there is only one question to begin with. Do you follow G-d to the extent of your understanding, or do you follow your own inclination? Like most humans who believe, I fight against my inclination to put myself as G-d, instead of YHVH.

  4. Since at least part of this blog post has to do with different applications of Torah based on whether you’re Jewish or Gentile, I thought the following quote of Rabbi Tzvi Freeman from Chabad.org was appropriate:

    A tyrant can steal everything from you but your knowledge of who you are. That, only you can give away.

    When someone else imprisons or enslaves you, you still know who you are—even if you are prevented from expressing it.

    But when you make your goal in life to be someone you are not, or to be part of something that is not you, that is the ultimate surrender. There is no greater captivity, for your essence and being have been locked away in a dark cell.

    It is an oppression of the worst sort, but also the easiest to escape. After all, you admitted yourself into this place. So who is preventing you from signing out?

  5. For me Torah has been a mindset shift. EVERYTHING about the way man runs/views this world and its processes is backwards and upside down. A falsehood a counterfeit given to us by haSatan. Torah has taught me to think and discern and question my first reaction/explanation in all situations. And to think more about what my fellow man is thinking and feeling. To put myself in their shoes.
    But most of all (and I think I was taught this prior to Torah awakening) to love the Father above all.
    Before we woke up (about 6 months before) we were in a dark place. Had been away from church for half a year and we’re learning a lot of conspiracy type stuff and we just cried out to Him “we want to do Your will. We don’t know what it is but we don’t care what what anyone will think we just want to live for You! We don’t care what You make our lives look like just please show us!” We had know idea at that time that Torah was going to be the answer. AMAZING!

  6. What do you consider a ” traditional Christian”? A Christian who keeps to the false teachings of the Trinity or the real Christians who worship only One True God, the God of Israel, who is the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Jesus and his apostles? we have the impression you appreciate more the trinitarian Christians instead of those who keep to the Torah.

  7. Greetings, Bijbelvorsers.

    When I say “traditional Christian” or “normative Christian”, I mean mainstream Christian denominations, usually referencing the theology and doctrine they all (or the vast majority of them) have in common, which would include the Trinity, the Divinity of Jesus, the Resurrection of the Saints, and so on.

    If you want to know what I believe, just read my blog posts. It’s pretty much all there.

    Just out of curiosity, who is “we”?

  8. “If I study Torah as I understand it and don’t adopt the praxis of Judaism, I can’t be as strongly influenced to confuse Judaism with my identity and role as God created them for me. I also can’t be accused (as sometimes occurs) of misappropriating the things unique to the covenant relationship between Hashem and the Jewish people, such as Shabbat, Kosher, the prayers, donning a tallit gadol, or laying tefillin.

    If you’re Jewish, then I say what’s yours is yours.

    If I’m not Jewish and I don’t identify as a traditional Christian, all that’s left, assuming I retain my Yeshua-faith, is a journey to discover who I am uniquely in my relationship with my Rav.

    If you confuse that with either Judaism or Christianity, you might already have lost your way.”

    VERY yes! The problem for talking to either Christians or Jews as a Talmid Yeshua, in my opinion, is that I neither identify with Christianity or Judaism…only what is said plainly in the Scriptures.

    Yes, I love to educate myself in Christian/Hebraic Roots/Noahide/Rabbinical Judaism, but I cannot agree with any of them entirely, and I am very tired of being required to…in many people’s eyes.

    Yes, I would prefer other people to do as I do, and agree with me on how I view G-d because it would be simpler and less lonely for me, but not enough to stop standing outside the classifications, and make a lot of room for other people’s viewpoints. No one person’s explanation of G-d is ever going to be sufficient to me because He is too big for any one viewpoint, or Religion, but I have my minimums in who I will agree with, in order to pray with them, for instance…since that agreement is necessary to pray with another, and when agreement is absolute, and in accordance with G-d’s will, it has enormous power.

    The belief in a trinity as stated in Christian dogma to me is Idolatrous.

    Believing in YHVH’s existence and role; Yeshua’s assignment by YHVH and how Yeshua fulfilled that assignment, and will in the future; and the necessary help of the Ruach ha Kodesh in Yeshua’s life or anyone’s life are the key points to attempt any Torah adherence, in my opinion.

    They are also the key points, in my opinion, for a sanely conducted conversation with anyone, regardless of religious affiliation or background. If I do not know where someone stands, I am left to assume that they stand on nothing at all.

    We who follow Yeshua must begin to set down minimums we will all agree to as a matter of salvation, not praxis. Then one by one, we can address what to do to please G-d, and then how to do it, if there is any need to agree on that.

  9. “We” are Bible scholars, being part of several non-trinitarian Christian groups, most of the members belonging to the Bible Students and Christadelphians.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s