The Heart and Intent of Torah
How often is it quoted, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’? How often do the Prophets constantly remind us that ritual without compassion and justice is meaningless? The books of the Prophets were meant to be a balance to the books of the Torah. As Followers of the Way we have both; we have Torah and the Prophets; form and intent. And we have to maintain a proper balance between the two.
If intent is so important, why not just dump the form? Why not abandon Torah and the Covenant? After all, what’s God gonna do, send us all to hell?
Why have Torah?
The Way teaches us to have compassion for those less fortunate than ourselves. It teaches us to show kindness even to our enemies; to love those who hate us, to give in order to help those in difficulty. This is the ideal.
In reality, human society is not like that. Most humans would really prefer to look out for themselves and theirs, to make sure that Number One was OK, and if anyone else was in difficulty, well – tough!
What Torah does, is give us a framework within which we grow towards the ideal, even if we really do not feel like it. Actions have an effect on the human psyche; doing Torah helps us become something more than ourselves. Torah also gives to the world a vehicle of witness to YHVH’s eternal Presence. Kill off Torah – the form – and you kill off that witness.
‘Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling-block in front of the blind, but revere your God in awe, for I am YHVH.’ (Lev 19:14) The commandment connects having concern for the deaf and the blind with the holiness of YHVH; it has a psychological effect. It makes us think more about the deaf and the blind, AND how much God considered them worth mentioning.
The living purposes behind Torah
God gave Torah so that even the least of society would be taken care of. That’s why in the Israelite religion, charity is not a choice, it’s an obligation. That’s why the prophet Yeshua` said to his followers, ‘Give to anyone who asks; don’t turn away someone who wishes to borrow from you.’ (SY 33:1)
Then there are the ritual commandments, like observing New Moon festivals, and calculating New Year. People outside the Israelite community may think, ‘How dumb are those Jews to debate over something so inconsequentially stupid! Those backward Jews are never gonna be saved or enlightened – just look at what they argue over!’
God does not give instructions for nothing. The consequence of observing New Moon and New Year is that we develop a respect for the rhythms of nature; we come to realise that we are part of it and dependent on the natural cycle of life; that we need to take care of it. The consequence of not doing it, is not that ‘we are all going to hell’, but the rabbinical one, that we are disconnected from nature, it’s there to serve us; that spiritualising nature is pagan, and that we should have nothing to do with it.
Then there is the consequence that we lose the corpus of laws that were intended to act as a visible witness to YHVH’s presence in the world. The ancient Israelites in the Sinai wilderness needed a god they could see, so that built a golden calf. God, who has no physical form, saw that He was going to have to give Israel mechanisms by which they would be eternally reminded of God’s presence – the Sabbath and the Festivals, for example.
Then there is the protective purpose. Through the centuries, missionisers mocked, derided and killed Jews for believing that the messiah was yet to come; we were looked down on as being unenlightened, backward, ignorant, stupid and unsaved for persisting in following Torah. We were seen as a people who would cower in silent submission whenever missionisers told us we crucified their Chr-st and rejected their saviour. Throughout all that, Torah gave us our identity, and enabled us to put up with everything that missionisers made us suffer and endure. Torah enabled us to say, ‘We’re still here’.
Then came the State of Israel. Israel gave back to the collective Jewish consciousness our dignity. We were able to stand up once more and tell the world, ‘We’re not going to quietly sit back and take this any more.’
How we react to those who persecute us
Perhaps we have taken this a little too far to heart. Any missioniser gives us grief, do we just verbally ‘bomb the living c**p out of ‘em’?
If we, as Followers of the Way of YHVH, react to those who disagree with us by arguing and fighting with them, we have indeed lost our way; we have lost the very reason for our existence.
The prophet Yeshua` said, ‘bless those who curse you, and pray for those who abuse you, so that you may be called the children of the Most High. For if you love only those who love you, what credit is that to you? Because even tax collectors do the same! And if you do good only to those who do good to you, what more are you doing than others? Don’t even Gentiles do the same?’
If we fight and argue with those who hold different opinions and beliefs to us, what more are we doing than others? If we hold an abiding resentment to those who have hurt us, how are we being different from others?
We are called to be witnesses to the holiness of YHVH’s teaching. We are called to live a life that demonstrates who our heavenly Father is. The very nature of the Way that we follow, is that we are called to be different.
When you are missionised by people who hurt you, who pierce your soul with sorrow, and inflict grievous wounds on your spirit, remember that YHVH is your shield and your defender. Do not let them goad you into a fight; they are cowardly bullies who want a reaction. If you give them an argument, THEY have won, not you.
YHVH has given you your dignity and strength; He has told us not to fret over or envy wrongdoers, instead to put our confidence in YHVH alone and do good, to take our delight in Him (Ps 37:1-4).
Show that you are not ashamed of following Torah or adhering to the Covenant, not by arguing, fighting and debating with others, but by the abundance of divine compassion, mercy and kindness that overflows from your