Confused by Hebrew Roots/Torah Keeping?

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.

Afterword

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.

Update 2016

Three years later, my position has not changed, but in helping another person on Facebook new to the Torah keeping issue and questioning it all, I wrote the following that I think sums it up even better:

As you said, nobody keeps the whole law today because it’s impossible. Just realizing that, you’re ahead of the field who deceive themselves into thinking they are keeping Torah, which was an all-or-nothing proposition when delivered by Moses to ancient Israel. Yet many still pick and choose to keep Sabbath, feasts, kosher, etc. which all only exist in the Law. As such, feast-keeping IS indeed keeping the law–part of it.

People do this thinking that adoption of these rituals given to ancient Israel would please God today, too. Common reasons?: “Jesus kept them”, “They are eternal”, “They are coming back as prophecy says so why not start today?”, etc. Or they think Christianity has negligently failed to teach these things as evidenced by their invented pagan holiday focus instead. Notice, that among these reasons is not, “Jesus plainly taught us to keep the Law of Moses. Just read the Sermon on the Mount!” because he taught anything but law keeping in his words.

Either way, while this heart to find and do all God wills is great and pleases God, I have personally experienced and observed for three decades how these practices end up being yet another ditch or distraction from what Jesus actually taught and called “good fruit” in the Sermon on the Mount. What Jesus taught is what God prefers we focus on developing, not what Moses taught ancient Israel to keep, yes?

Unfortunately, just as you rightly pointed out that Christianity does not teach us the truth on the days God once set apart and will set apart again and has introduced us to pagan feasts days (whether they are bad enough lies to reject or not is up to each person, as Greg said), Christianity also fails to teach and train us in how to be like Jesus by developing the good fruit he said to focus on. This fruit is the key determiner of how to choose who to let teach us and how to know if we are in the faith ourselves. Since leaving Torah keeping, my focus has been on understanding and developing this fruit which does bring you the fruits Jesus talked about, unlike how Law keeping did.

If it helps you to hear more about my journey out of Torah keeping, you can read about it in this post.

Hope this helps and blessings on your search for truth and to please Yehovah God.

12 thoughts on “Confused by Hebrew Roots/Torah Keeping?

  1. Hi Tim,

    I wrote you some in the last two or three weeks. Told you a little about myself. I told you about marrying late in life and my wife was 20 years younger, you called her cutie.

    What I wanted to say I don’t do Christmas either, If you look at it close it’s false. looks like I’m out of room. Will write more latter, Dan

  2. Hi Tim, I am a big follower of yours and look forward to your newsletters from time to time. I noticed on your last one your blog website and this article.

    Question: What are your thoughts regarding the Sabbath? I am confused, to a great degree, as to 1) keeping it and how, or 2)are we under this law anymore?

  3. Of course I did, that’s why I asked the question! Many of us do not make the connection of Torah to the Christian Bible (old and new testaments). After your reply, I searched the word Torah and found out.

    Bottom line is – thx SO MUCH – CLEAR now and at peace!! U R Awesome!

  4. @Tim, and what about the other nine commandments, don’t lie, don’t steal and so on….Are they not part of the Torah? In other words, either I keep all or nothing. It’s really confusing.

    • Antonio, yes, the Torah was an all or nothing affair as is very clearly stated in both the OT and NT. But the Torah was for ancient Israel only, and for the purpose of staying in the Promised Land.

      However, the commandments of loving your neighbor in love of God (when you obey him you love him) preceded the Torah. They are the universal instructions to all men for salvation.

      The confusing part is that they are included in the Torah and obviously universal which tends to make Torah readers think they should do all the rest of it. They don’t realize that to love your neighbor exists apart from Torah and Torah just included them.

  5. I got to say I had some differences in things you believed but also saw some good stuff. But I never knew until just now that you condone Pagan holidays like Christmas and Easter all part of the false religious system! Someone like yourself who has studied for as long as you have I cant believe you cant see the problem with this. You keep telling yourself it’s ok. Then to also say Yeshua didn’t say keep the commandments and holidays when he and the apostle did and did also after! I’m totally blown away by what I’ve learned about you! Glad I’m finding out this now

    • Pat, I don’t “condone” anything. I’m merely relaying what the Bible does and does not say. If you don’t like my belief, why do you have to make this an issue to judge a fellow brother as a leper or sinner when it’s just my sincere opinion following God?

      My conscience is clear before God that I seek to know his word and serve him and do not judge others who disagree. Can you say the same?

      Simply put: There is no verse making a modern holiday observation a sin. Israel was told not to worship idols, which has nothing to do with modern Christian holiday observances.

      James and Paul in Acts 15 clearly called Torah observance a yoke the fathers were unable to bear and said Gentiles should not be burdened with it. Jesus also never told anyone to keep Torah and when asked how to enter the kingdom did not even say keep the ten commandments but selected five universal commands everyone can learn without a Torah, a Bible or a Christian or Messianic to tell them (Mt 19:17-19).

      If you want to avoid “pagan” (Christian) holidays, then that’s fine with me. What’s wrong here is judging your brother over a day. Romans 14:5 “One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind.”

  6. WRONG!!!!!!

    The scriptures you quoted as a base line for Christ doing away with the Torah is bad interpretation. First of all, Christ kept the Torah. His disciples kept the Torah. The first church kept the Torah for almost 300 years till it was changed during the Christian crusades by Constantine. (History proves that).

    Christ says in the sermon on the mount…”I’ve not come to abolish my Torah or the prophets but to show you how to live within it.” “Not one jot or tiddle shall pass from my Torah until heaven and earth pass away.” “He that teaches otherwise will be the least in my kingdom.” MATT:5 (read the whole chapter! Smh)

    Next topic… So you think Jesus just picked 5 random commands to keep from the 10 commandments huh??? Guess we can worship any graven images and have other gods before him? Lol. Bro get a grip and read the whole chapter and the chapters before and the chapter after the 2 verses you are plucking and doing a bad job of interpreting. I don’t need to go further as this has taken enough of my morning.

    Yours truly,
    Former AG goer

    Isaac

    • Isaac, there’s not a single verse stating Jesus kept Torah. Not even Sabbath. But I can show you two verses where he said he did not have to keep Sabbath as the Lord of it (Mk 2:27-29=Mt 12:7-8) and he worked just as God worked on Sabbath (John 5:17-18) (!!!). If he wanted his followers to follow Moses’ Law he would not have made such statements and instead would have said “Keep the Torah!” again a statement you will never find amidst all his many statements of what he did want followers to do.

      The Torah is not “destroyed” because it is prophetic and “all must be fulfilled” (end time prophecy). But did you catch where he said it would go away? So much for it being eternal like you Torah Keepers think if you’re keeping something given to someone else who stopped keeping it 2500 years ago.

      The “least in the kingdom” “these commands” are the ones that follow in Mt 5-7 which tell you how to get great credit/reward for your righteousness unlike the Pharisees. The Torah had NOTHING to do with salvation, greatness or “leastness” in the Kingdom of God. It was about ancient Israel staying in Palestine.

      Finally, yes of course we can have statues just like good Catholics do who are headed to the Kingdom. If it’s a sin that keeps you from the Kingdom, how would anyone know this since 1) most in history have not had a Torah and 2) the Torah’s audience is not most anyway, but one dead people called ancient Israel.

      Look, “keep Torah” if you want (although no one really does so since 70AD) but don’t think for a second that 1) Jesus did this as an example for us when not a single verse says he did and 2) Jesus taught this in any of his words.

      If you take a look at what he really said to do and what he never said you’ll be quite surprised where it leads you and what it leads you away from. Peace!

      Tim

      • You are using an English dictionary to translate something written in Hebrew and Greek. I teach and speak Hebrew. Unless you understand Hebrew idioms, the language is just as hard as English to translate properly. Jesus historically kept the sabbath, the feast, holy days, and the Torah. The old and new Covenant Are in regards to sacrifice, not keeping the Torah. The Jews made the Torah burdensome and added to it. You can’t mis interpret his sermon on the mount. Matt chap 5.

        God never said in the Old Testament that no one could heal in the sabbath. That was something that the Jews added. You are not even rightly dividing the word in the scriptures you quote. Your 2 scripture you quote in Matt and Mark are simply things incorrectly added to the Torah that Christ denounced. There is nothing biblically to suggest or even began to prove that Christ or his disciples did not keep the Sabbath the feasts or the holy days. And world history proves the exact opposite. That he indeed kept the Torah. And I don’t know where your 70 A.D. is coming from, but again world history proves the Sabbath was kept in till around 300 A.D.

  7. And you are correct, keeping the Torah isn’t a salvation issue. It’s an obedience issue. He made that clear also in Matt chapter .

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