My Conversation with a Confused Torah Keeper
After Nehemia Gordon shared my Facebook status on his Facebook wall, one of his friends found me and said: “Hey Tim, I have questions, how do I get some of them to you? I have tried to ask Nehemia Gordon and I think he’s busy right now! Anyway, I see how good you are about writing back.”
I’m always up for helping people out of their confusion if I can as it feels great to see the fog of confusion lift and peace arrive. It also helps me get clearer on my thoughts along the lines of the Socratic method (used by Socrates to teach his students through questions).
Her confusion was over Torah Keeping. As someone who went through the same questions and confusion she did, I am able to point out some things that are easy to miss and not taught by the Torah teachers.
If you want to see what I said to her, read the complete dialog here posted with permission (but name withheld) in the interest of helping others confused over Torah keeping (TK), “walking as Jesus walked,” and “pagan holidays” like Christmas and Easter.
“Should I Keep Torah?”
Confused Torah Keeper: Long story short, I believe Jesus is the messiah, but have always had a deep interest in the truth of the Bible, how to follow Him in truth and it has taken me on a journey of finding out how much of what I had been taught wasn’t even “truth”. I started by finding out how Easter, Christmas, etc. were pagan holidays all of that. So I then was drawn to Hebraic root, messianic jew online congregations. Okay, now all of my family and friends then called me a jew because I felt that the feasts were something I should study and know about. The more serious I became about all things jewish, the backlash from friends, family, church members became pretty intense. Nehemia, blows my mind on his knowledge and now I have questions about do I follow Him in truth anymore? Do I follow the torah laws, does Jesus intend for us to? Then I was listening to truth2u radio and they talked about Hebrews 8 and how there is a new covenant. I guess the simple question is how do I tell people (and myself) that Jesus never came to do away with the old laws when so much of what Paul says messes that up and then there is Hebrews 8. Does any of that make sense? I do not have the support around me to help me work through some of these things and my spirit is taking a beating.
Tim: I started the same Torah journey back in 2000, so I appreciate your questions and where you are. I have learned so much through it and since then after realizing Torah keeping did not fit with the NT as you are seeing. I don’t regret Torah Keeping (TK) but once I saw that it did not produce the results/fruit Jesus talked about, I had to move on.
First, if you look at all the words of Jesus for what he directly told people to do, Jesus never told them to keep Torah while he instead told them other things, plenty of them. The only way to get that Jesus wanted us to do Torah is to point to the fact that he did it (ignoring why) and take some of his words out of context.
In Mt 19:17-19 when asked how to have eternal life, he specifically listed only five love your neighbor commandments and left off all the other five that come only through Torah revelation. People can learn to love their neighbor by being around people who teach them how to treat them. Plus governments have statutes around those five commandments too. But the five he left off and the rest of Torah only come through revelation that only Israel received. Plus they were about staying in the Promised Land, not about eternal life like the five love thy neighbor commands are.
Why Jesus did not list sabbath and other commands bothered me when I was a TK. He went out of his way to not tell people to keep Torah stuff. Only the love stuff. Why, if TK was required? Well, now you know what I concluded and how I resolved that.
If TK is required, then 99% of humanity is damned because they never heard of it and if they did hear of it they see it as something given to Israel/Judah (and rightly so). But if love your neighbor is all that is required, then 100% of humanity living around people has the chance to figure this out. If God made us all, he would want us to not harm what he made. I think that’s why people universally admire the Mother Teresa’s, Ghandi’s, etc. Everyone knows what’s right.
CTK: I know He did it (because that was the way), that is my reason for wanting to also. Do you feel it’s important to keep the feasts, clean food eating, etc. in your walk?
Tim: Define “important.” As you can see above, if TK is in any way “important” where does that leave 99% of humanity who WE MUST REMEMBER never received Torah?
CTK: I guess, because I know these things I feel that “since I know better” I should follow how He walked.
“We Should Walk As He Walked…?”
Tim: ahh, that verse. Have you looked at it closely?
CTK: The more I study the less I know. I guess I haven’t looked close enough. Remind me where that verse is.
Tim: Read 1John 2:6 now in context and tell me if you had never heard a Torah Teacher tell you it means Torah, what is the context of that verse (verse 6)?
Verse 3 says keeping Jesus’ commands. Read Mt, Mk, Lk and Jn and you’ll never once see him say “Keep Torah” but he will tell people to love one another and explain what that looks like (Good Samaritan, separation of the Sheep and the Goats-“you did it unto me”)
TKs say verse 3 is Torah commands. But that does not fit. Keep reading and see how it talks about love in verse 5 and 10, before and after the verse on walking like Jesus (verse 6).
Jesus’ commandments are love thy neighbor in five points (Mt 19:18-19). By doing this for God, he says you inherit the kingdom. It’s simple, but not easy. That is the good news of the kingdom and why it requires repentance. We don’t naturally love each other. We’re naturally selfish. People who change that really stand out like the great servants I mentioned above. Torah does not produce that fruit. It was for Israel to be a great wise nation that inspired other nations. It was not about salvation.
And I have not even gotten into the fact that nobody can keep Torah today or since AD 70. It was an all or nothing contract with Israel. They were warned for neglecting points. Today people kid themselves when they say they are TK because they are just Torah Fans as Michael Rood says. That was the other thing I saw that made me realize I was just fooling myself about TK being required. How could God require or make important something that nobody can do today?
And when did he ever tell anyone, “It’s OK, just do the parts you can…”?
That’s the little inconvenient truth about TK that we all had to ignore in the movement. We could not even do what we said we did but we winked at it and said the best we could must be good enough.
Is any of what I concluded helping you? I bet you have tons of questions still. Feel free to ask others and just keep doing it until you’re sure. Just sharing why now I focus on Jesus’ actual words of instruction and not his actions (incl. dying on a cross, calling 12 apostles, turning over the money changers tables) or Torah teacher’s words.
CTK: I see what you are saying, and I agree. I guess this search for truth and taken me off track in trying to do His will. It is hard to love your neighbor. Your talk has helped me so much. It’s taken the edge of feeling ashamed that I’m not following right some how.
Tim: Phew! Good. Yes, shame and fear of missing something is a big driving force behind TK. When you can see for yourself that it’s really simple and you can’t possibly be missing it or everyone is missing it and we’re all damned, then you can have peace and confidence to step up and try to do that simple hard thing with God’s help (which he is very happy to give to those who take that pleasing step of faith to serve an invisible God by loving people for him)
CTK: I pray that God blesses you as you have blessed me in helping me see things a little clearer. The fence is not a good place to be, walking between two places.
Avoiding Pagan Holidays?
Tim: Thanks. I’m sure further questions will occur, so don’t hesitate….
CTK: Real quick, I still don’t to celebrate Easter and Christmas! Lol
Tim: oops, there we go…
Then don’t. If your conscience says don’t then don’t. But there is nothing sinful about keeping “pagan” holidays. Israel was told not to worship pagan idols but that is not what the days are today. They are confused dirty syncretism now, but that does not make them sin. Paul’s letters are good on this point. He never says a word about the “avoiding the pagan days” of his culture. He says you can eat food sacrificed to idols if it does not bother your conscience or the conscience of your brother. If they were as bad as TK or Michael Rood says, then it would be different.
CTK: Yep, it does bother me how these holidays were started. I have listened to Michael Rood, but wasn’t sure about his teaching.
Tim: Yes, they are false and I personally have no desire to keep them in my house ever since I knew they were shams. But if someone invited me to a Xmas party I would not be offended or tell them it’s pagan. I’d go if I felt like it without fear that I’m sinning or offending God. You can’t live your life without coming in contact with pagan words, ideas, inventions, traditions and philosophy.
CTK: My family is dead set on keeping them, they just know I’m not big on it. I have 3 grown children with 8 grandchildren and if I gave up on Christmas totally it would be world war three.
My heart is just not the same about it.
Tim: Yeah then I advise you keep the peace by putting aside your own disgust with the holiday’s origins. That’s love. (Love is not telling them it’s all pagan and making them feel ashamed. That’s what I did when I was young and naive in my teens and just figuring out the truth about Xmas. It’s a common mistake played out on Facebook every day.)
CTK: I’ll let you go, bless your heart. I’ll bug you some other day.
I was messaged this after this posting of our conversation. It was very helpful of her to explain which of the arguments presented above were the key to her freedom from worry that she should keep Torah.
CTK: It was good to reread that. … I’m just so glad you took the time to talk, I just hope people don’t judge on how “stupid” I might have sounded, so the anonymous part is awesome! The part about not being able to keep all of it, but trying to “wink”, is good enough, is I think, what really made me wake up and be like, there is the simple truth of it, and I was missing that in my quest to be loyal to Him. Again, thank you.
For Further Reading
To answer some follow-up questions to this post, see How I Came To Abandon Torah Keeping.