There are 613 commandments in the Torah: 248 positive commands (what we should do); and 365 negative commands (what we should not do). According to rabbinical reckoning, the 248 positive commands correspond to the number of separate parts of our body and 365 negative commands correspond to the number of days throughout a year. We are commanded to do all the commands with all the joints and parts of our body, that’s why religious, Orthodox Jews rock back and forth while praying so that all their body parts are being used!
There is a significant difference between Biblical commands (Mitzvots) and Rabbinical commands. Rabbinical commands are designed as a fence, a hedge surrounding the Torah to protect or buffer people from possibly breaking one of the Biblical commands (Mitzvots) and sinning. Those who don’t fully understand the Old Testament (Tanach) come to the above conclusions. These statements could be true or far from the truth, let me explain further as we go on!
Torah is the Hebrew word meaning Teaching. Its root means to throw or shoot an arrow. God uses the word Torah scripturally to signify His teaching to His people. The teaching that God gave to Moshe on Mt. Sinai is called the Torah of Moses, but Moses did not author it……he only received it from Adonai. God uses the word Torah to signify His instructions throughout the Hebrew scriptures. Some Jews also believe in an oral teaching called the Talmud which is in error as the Word says:
“Moses came and told the people everything Adonai had said including all the rulings. The people answered with one voice: “we will obey every word Adonai has spoken”. Moshe wrote down all the words of Adonai. He rose early in the morning, built an altar at the base of the mountain and set up twelve large stones to represent the twelve tribes of Israel.” Exodus 24:3-4. Gods covenant between Himself and His people is based exclusively upon the written words of God and nothing else!
Christians call the Torah “the Law” because most English translations of scripture translate Torah as law. The reason this came about is because Hebrew scriptures were translated into Greek, called the Septuagint. The Septuagint translated Torah into the Greek word Nomia. Nomia was used in the Greek culture to mean “unalterable law”. Following in the same tradition, the Greek New Testament used Nomia to signify Torah. The Word of God is in fact unalterable and can be construed as Law since breaking one of the commandments could lead to punishment (either from man or from God!). Torah is really a teaching tool of the Most High who loves his people, revealing to them what is or what is not sin. Messiah Yeshua was the payment for our sins once and for all through His Blood, He bought and paid for our righteousness! The Torah showed us what that righteousness was! “7The Torah of Adonai is perfect, restoring the inner person. The instruction of Adonai is sure, making wise the thoughtless. 8 The precepts of Adonai are right, rejoicing the heart. The mitzvot of Adonai is pure, enlightening the eyes. 9 The fear of Adonai is clean, enduring forever. The rulings of Adonai are true, they are righteous altogether, 10 more desirable than gold, than fine gold, also sweeter that honey or drippings from the honeycomb. 11Through them your servant is warned; in obeying them is great reward”. Psalm 19:7-11. Messiah Yeshua also said in Mathew 5:18-19. “ Don’t think that I have come to abolish the Torah or Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete. 18 Yes indeed! I tell you that until heaven and earth pass away, not so much as a yud or stroke will pass from the torah – not until everything that must happen has happened. 19 So whoever disobeys the least of these mitzvots and teaches others to do so will be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But whoever obeys them and so teaches will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.” Messiah Yeshua said here that Sin is forgiven through him and Torah is the life guidelines from God, not the written word of man. Rabbi Shaul (Paul) said in Romans 7:7,12. “7 Therefore, what are we to say? That the Torah is sinful? Heaven forbid! Rather, the function of the Torah was that without it, I would not have known what sin is. For example, I would not have become conscious of what greed is if Torah had not said “Thou shalt not covet””. “12 So the Torah is holy; that is, the commandment is holy, just and good”. Torah makes us accountable for our actions. Mankind must walk within specific divine guidelines and regulations or we pursue perverted and sinful ways. Without Torah, God would be unable to convict and condemn sin for without Torah, what would identify sin! Paul struggled to explain this and stated in Romans 3:20. “ For in His sight no one alive will be considered righteous on the ground of legalistic observance of Torah commands, because what Torah really does is show people how sinful they are”. He also wrote in Galatians 3:23. “Now before the time for this trusting faithfulness came, we were imprisoned in subjection to the system which results from perverting the Torah into legalism, kept under guard until this yet-to–come trusting faithfulness could be revealed”. Paul then explains how sins are forgiven in ACTS 13:38 “Therefore brothers, let it be known to you that through this Man (Yeshua) is proclaimed forgiveness of sins!”. Lets look at some of these Mitzvot’s in the scripture and see what they say:
- Do not blaspheme Gods name or your leaders! Ex. 22:27.
- To know that God is one, a complete unity! Deut. 6:16.
- Do not put God’s word to the test! Deut. 6:16.
- To honor the old and wise. 19:32.
- To learn Torah and teach it. Deut. 6:7.
- Not to add or subtract from the Torah! Deut. 13:1.
- To circumcise the males. Gen 17:12, Lev 12:3. (I would still recommend this even though the New Testament says this is not necessary for the Gentiles to do, it is healthier for men. It’s a testament to the supreme knowledge of God. Recent medical studies have shown that male babies antibodies and coagulants peek on the 8th day of birth, the day when Brit Milah (circumcision) is commanded to be perform, miraculous isn’t it!.)
- Not to stand by idly when a human life is in danger. Lev. 19:16.
- Do not cherish hatred in ones heart. Lev 19:17.
- Not to take revenge. Lev. 19:18.
- Not to bear a grudge. Lev. 19:18.
- Rebuke the sinner. Lev. 19:17.
- Don’t refrain from maintaining the poor man and giving him what he needs. Deut. 15:7
- To honor father and mother. Ex.20:12.
- Not to withhold food, clothing, and conjugal rights from your wife. Ex. 21:10.
- Not to indulge in familiarities with relatives which may lead to incest. Lev. 18:6
- Not to do wrong in buying or selling. Lev. 25:14.
- Not to commit fraud when measuring. Lev. 19:35.
- Not to delay payment of a hired mans wages. Lev. 19:13.
- That a man should fulfill whatever he has uttered. Deut. 23:24.
- Not to make a graven image (idol), don’t make it or have someone make it! Ex.20:4
- Not to covet what belongs to another. Ex. 20:14.
- Do not murder. Ex 20:1, 20:13.
- Not to indulge in evil thoughts and sights. Num 15:39.
- Not to practice astrology. Lev. 19:26.
- Not to consult wizards. Lev. 19:31.
- To set apart the tithe (ten percent). Lev. 27:30, Num 18:24.
These are sound rules to live by and of course there are many more, these are just a random sampling. Some deal with Government that should be abided by in Israel (and we really need these in our own legal system) and some deal with sacrifices which are no longer required as we are covered and cleansed of these commandments through the blood of the Messiah. Yaacov stated in James 1:25. “But if a person looks closely into the perfect Torah, which gives freedom, and continues, becoming not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work it requires, then he will be blessed in what he does”.
Even in the early congregations, some from Judah to Antioch were saying that you could not be saved unless you undergo b’rit-milah (circumcision) (legalistic observance of Torah!). The early Messianic Movement was in discord over Torah and the new Gentile believers, which we observe in Acts 5:5 “But some of those who had come to trust were from the party of the P’rushim; and they stood up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and direct them to observe the Torah of Moshe””. This was taken to Jerusalem and a council meeting took place to decide the issue. A decision was made and a letter was written to the Gentiles and sent with Paul and Barnabas. Their decision reads in Acts 15:28-29. “For it seemed good to the Ruach HaKodesh and to us not to lay any heavier burden on you than the following requirements: 29 to abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from fornication. If you keep yourselves from these, you will be doing the right thing. Shalom!”. Yeshua said himself in Mathew 13:52 “ He said to them, “So then, every Torah teacher who has been made into a talmid (disciple) for the Kingdom of Heaven is like the owner of a home who brings out of his storage room both new and things and old”. The Master Himself states that both new and old are valid and one! The old is not done away with the new. Dr. Michel Brown in: “OUR HANDS ARE STAINED WITH BLOOD” writes “Of course, most of us realize that the roots of our faith are Jewish. But did we ever stop to consider that Jewish roots mean Jewish fruits? Our faith not only began in Israel with Jewish people in the middle of everything, but it will also end in Israel with the Jewish people in the middle of everything.” Torah is clearly for today!