Torah

If you come from a Christian background, you’ve probably never heard the word. If you have heard the word before, it is possible that you’ve been told a lot of nonsense about it, including the lie that Jesus did away with it. Well, here goes the truth. Blessings!

Overview

Torah is a Hebrew word, erroneously translated as “law”, but it really means instruction or teaching. It is quite possible that this mistranslation was done deliberately, but after these years there is no proof for that. We would like to point out that following Torah is not legalistic, but obedience. The word is derived from the primitive root יַרַה, yarah, which can mean to flow as water, guide or to teach.[1] Ancient tradition holds that Torah existed in heaven long before creation. Since Torah is the Word of God, this is not only feasible, but could also explain the singular verb בָּרָ֣א, barah (created) with the plural אֱלֹהִים, Elohim (supreme ones/Ones).

Torah can mean the first five books of Scripture, or it can be the first of the four parts of Scripture, the other being Nevi’im, K’tuvim and Apostolic Writings. Please follow the link to the Scripture page to get more information on the others.

Although Torah is attributed to Mosheh, it is possible that he may have had help from other sources, but once again this is not attestable, nor is it anything worth fussing about. The most important is that we have five books that convey words directly from our Creator God – words of love, words of caution, words of blessing and words of cursing. When reading Torah in context, no other book in Scripture is actually necessary to understand the basic rules of life for us as human beings. However, when reading books from the other sections and comparing texts, they expand on Torah and confirm everything already written.

In the Christian bibles, most books have different names, simply because the names were changed while translating the entire TaNaKh into Greek. This translation was done at the request of Ptolemy II Philadelphus who wanted to read the Word of God in his mother tongue. Torah was translated in the mid third century BCE by some 70 Jewish scribes. The entire translation is known as “The Translation of the Seventy”, but was later also called the Septuagint, the Latin word that means “seventy”. It is also referred to simply as LXX, the Roman numerals for 70. There is a tradition, though, that six scribes of each tribe of Yisra’el were involved, totalling 72 scribes. The remaining books of the TaNaKh were translated between 200 and 50 BCE. At first, each scribe was to independently produce a translated copy of Torah. When checked afterwards, these translations were identical, in spite of the scribes being isolated. These first five books, or Torah, came to be known in Greek as the Pentateuch, which simply means “five books”.

The following synopsis is also on the Scripture page, but serves here as a summary before each book is discussed in more detail. Before studying the details, the short version of each book is as follows:

B’reisheet: The first book of Torah is called “b’reisheet” which is the Hebrew for “in beginning”, the first word of the first verse of the first chapter. The “b” simply means “in” and “reisheet” is “start” or “beginning”. There is no “the” in the original text, as the translation then should have read “b’hareisheet”; this already is a clear indication that most translations out there have been copied from other incorrect translations or the translators didn’t understand what they were doing. The more acceptable translation of verse 1 should read: “In starting [creation], God created the heavens and the earth.”.

The book of B’reisheet contains the creation of the world, man’s sin, the flood involving Noach, and God calling out a nation, Yisra’el, unto Himself, through which He would work His plan of salvation for all mankind – in short, the start of earth and mankind. The name Genesis was used by the translators of the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the entire TaNaKh, by some 70 Jewish scribes.

Sh’mot: This is the second book of Torah and means “names”. This book gives a clear indication of the tribes that went to Mitzrayim as all their names are mentioned. All the information to build a Sanctuary is given in detail and the book ends where God takes His place in the Tabernacle. It also teaches us many things God considers important and which have never ceased, at least not for the spiritual Yisra’el.

Vayiqra: Hidden between two interesting books mainly dealing with the wilderness, we find the least read and understood book of Torah, Va-yi-qra, meaning “and He called”. God called Mosheh from the Tabernacle to have him instruct the Levites regarding offerings, sacrifices, service in the sanctuary, forbidden relationships and then some. Most important, however, are the food laws in chapter 11 and the festivals laid down in chapter 23. All these festivals are instituted by God not for Yisra’el, but as God’s festivals (see end of verse 2), for mankind to honour and celebrate. These festivals also point to Yeshua as the only Salvation. Combining all these festivals with the weekly Shabbat, it will never be necessary for any person to “go on holiday”, since God exonerates him/her from duty for a specific period of time. If everybody on earth were to honour these festivals, there would never be dead periods where some worked and some didn’t, temporarily stopping production for some and causing bottlenecks elsewhere. The same applies to the food laws given to mankind, not only one nation. Some animals were made for food, while others were made to be scavengers, living “vacuum cleaners”, that clean the earth and the oceans. Then man thought he was more clever than God and took over…

B’midbar: The Hebrew name of the fourth book in Torah means “in [the] wilderness”, but sometimes the word “desert” is also used. It is interesting that the sons of Yisra’el have just come out of a semi-wilderness country where they were slaves for many years, only to be sent back into a different wilderness. However, this time not as slaves but as free people, accountable only to the One true, set-apart Creator-God. Some more rules and regulations are given, but mostly the travels to the 42 destinations are mentioned.

D’varim: The last book of Torah is the “second law”, Deuteronomy, but the Hebrew actually translates to “words”. Here Mosheh is on the final straight towards the goal posts. He recalls and repeats instructions, but towards the end of the book we see blessings and curses for the nation of Yisra’el (both physical and spiritual) for complying with or disregarding God’s commandments respectively. The book ends with the death of Mosheh and allows his successor to start leading the nation into the promised land.


[1] 1. (properly) to flow as water; 2. (hence) to rain; 3. (transitively) to lay or throw (especially an arrow); 4. (hence) to shoot; 5. (figuratively) to point out (as if by aiming the finger); 6. (hence) to teach. (as per Strong’s dictionary H3384)

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