The Heart of Torah - Part 1
I was once having a conversation with the pastor of a church from mainstream Christianity. In his attempt to understand where I was coming from, or my perspective, he posed several questions to me:
“Where is the focus of the Torah Keepers? Is it on considering precious and personal the whole Torah, or just an emphasis on the commands that they say are being broken.”
“Isn't the point of keeping Torah, to treasure and walk after His and mankind's whole life story and instructions rather than focusing on individual commands that we are afraid will sink our boat with Him if we don't keep them?”
He also made this comment regarding many Torah Keepers he knows
“are fixated on not breaking what they find in the commandment verses of Torah than in immersing in the whole of the Torah and understanding God's heart through it.”
His questions and comment made me wonder two things: Where is our focus? What is the Heart of Torah?
With that said, let’s begin.
Where is Our Focus?
Our focus should be to simply follow YHVH in spirit and truth as much as possible? However, if we focus too much on the words of the laws, then we may begin to lose our focus on the One who gave us instructions for living. Our Creator is multi-faceted, as such, His Torah is also multi-faceted as it is a reflection of who He is. Remember, Yeshua is the Living Torah; if we see Him, we see the Father. We are to strive to be as the Messiah, He is our goal; we are to conform to His image. The whole of the Torah is not the legalistic observance of the commands; that is only one aspect. The heart of Torah is the rest of it. One could keep the letter of the law and miss the heart of Torah altogether. This is what Christ often spoke about to the Pharisees and Scribes. They were more worried about keeping the letter of the law that they ended up breaking Torah according to Christ. In their striving to keep the law of God, they created the Talmud and other oral laws/traditions.
When one takes their focus off of who YHVH is, off of the whole Word, it’s easy to begin focusing on oneself or on only one small facet of the Word. This may lead to misunderstandings of the Word or, as in the case of the Pharisees, an extreme action in a sincere and earnest desire to live within the boundaries of the Torah. When focusing on only one aspect of the Word, it is easy to get caught up in what we are doing to please our Creator, to show Him our love. This is how the Pharisees got to where they did with their traditions and laws; out of an earnest desire to not break YHVH’s words, they lost their focus.
Unfortunately, it is these extra-biblical (rabbinic) laws/traditions that became their stumbling block. They became so wrapped up in their rabbinic laws/traditions that it became bondage for the people. The Pharisees were greatly concerned about keeping the words of the law, the “letter of the law”; their focus shifted from the heart of Torah to the letter of Torah; they lost the freedom intended by the Creator. We must strive to not become as they did. We believe it is important to follow the law as much as possible, but it’s just as (and maybe even more) important to keep the heart, or spirit, of the law.
Next time we will further examine the question “What is the Heart of Torah?”