What is Torah?
The word Torah literally means instructions or teachings and is the manual for life. It comes from the Hebrew word the root word “yara” which literally means to flow. Torah can therefore be seen as a flow of instructions from a father to his children in order to foster obedience and safeguard them. In proverbs 1:8 we read “listen my son to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching (Torah)”
While all of Scripture can be seen as God’s instructions the man, Torah specifically speaks to the first five books of the Bible, also known as the Book of the Law or the Book of Moses. Many persons believe that those instructions are no longer applicable to individuals today, and if they are, they are only for the Jews.
Is Torah only for Jews/ Israelites?
In the Jewish wedding, the Ketubah is the contract that lays out the groom’s obligation to his wife. At Mount Sinai, God entered a covenant relationship with Israel. The Torah was given by God to lay out what was expected of Israel as His people. The ordinances, commandments and statutes were to be a guide for them in their worship of God and their relationship with each other, for which God promised His blessings upon them. Failure to walk in obedience would
incur God’s wrath and curses would come upon them. By walking in obedience to God’s holy standards, the nations would see God’s light and be drawn to serve Him. In this way, they would be a light to the nations. Although Torah was given to Israel, it is for all men who want to live in harmony with God and each other.
Does Torah still apply to these modern times?
In 2 Timothy 3:16 Rav Shaul (Apostle Paul) told Timothy “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…” If the Torah emanated out of God, and God is eternal, it means the Torah is also eternal. In Psalm 119:88 we read “Your Word oh LORD is eternal; It stands firm in the heavens.”
There are many instructions within Torah that we are not able to observe in our time because there is no Temple in Jerusalem. In addition to this, some of the Laws are only applicable to those living in Israel. For example, laws concerning the agricultural produce and the land’s sabbatical year of rest (Shmittah) would have no bearing on those in the diaspora. However, there are instructions in Torah that are still binding upon all persons who are in covenant with the God of Israel, regardless of where we live.
Is the Torah for believers in Messiah Yeshua?
Torah is the foundation of faith in Yeshua. All the concepts of the New Testament are to be found in the first five books of the Bible. These include salvation, sanctification, holiness, righteousness, sin, sacrifice, repentance, forgiveness and grace. Without the foundation, we are unable to truly understand and appreciate God’s redemption plan fulfilled in Yeshua. Many hold to the view that the commandments are done away with since Yeshua is the fulfillment of the Law. However, nothing could be further from the truth. In Matthew 5:17 Yeshua said “do not think that I have come to destroy (abolish/incorrectly interpret) the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to destroy but to fulfill (to give it its full meaning).”
Does Torah provide Salvation?
Torah was never given as a means of Salvation. The purpose of Torah was to be a guide for us to be able to decipher right from wrong. It was also God’s way of revealing His heart and His Salvation plan to restore mankind to His image. We do not obey what is written in Torah in order to be saved; we obeyed Torah because we are saved. We walk in obedience to what is written as an act of love and gratitude for God’s grace. Yeshua told his disciples “if you love me keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)
The Oral Torah
The Oral Torah or Traditions of the Elders is a body of Jewish teachings, culture and practice that are based on rabbinical writings. These customs and traditions can be traced all the way back to Mount Sinai. While some of the instructions that God gave to Moses were written down, like the Ten Commandments, some were transferred orally from God to Moses, and then from Moses to the people. These oral traditions were later documented and formed the basis for understanding how the written Torah is to be walked out. In order to be able to understand a lot of what we read in the Brit Chadashah (New Testament), especially the writings of Rav Shaul, we must understand that there is a distinction between these two bodies of Jewish Law: namely the Written and the Oral Torah.