An Expose on The 613 Commandments of Torah
©2002 Messianic Rabbi David Markel Hall
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The Torah is full of commandments given by G-d to the people of Israel for the following purposes:

1. To separate Israel from the other nations in order to:
A. Make Israel a kingdom of priests to the world
B. Foretell the coming of the Redeemer
2. To guide us into knowledge of:
A. God and His kingdom
B. Birthing of the children of HaShem into His kingdom
C. Instructing us how to operate in the Spirit Realm
D. Revelation of HaShem; past, present and future
3. Reveal the plan of the ages
4. Prepare the way for the reign of Messiah
5. Show the reasons for the discipline of mankind.

The 613 commandments are man's attempt to show the complete list of ordinances found in the Torah. However, the list is not what HaShem intended for us to follow. He wanted us to study the Torah and follow it "as is". The difficulties lie in how the list is worded "out of context" and placing an undue burden on those who study them in this manner. While it is true that they are from the Torah, their isolation shows our people that it is impossible to please God without the wisdom and guidance of rabbis. When looking at the list, one becomes overwhelmed with the feeling that we are unable to please God by following His commandments. If the Torah’s commandments are impossible to keep without the aid of rabbis, why did Moshe tell us, 11Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 13Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 14No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.” (Deuteronomy 30:11-14) We know that Yeshua our Messiah came from heaven to give us the ability to please HaShem. (John 1:1-13) We have His spirit in us so that we can comply with the commandments and please the Father. Through the new covenant of Yeshua, we have the Torah written on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

The most troublesome aspect of the "list" is that people study the list and then think they are satisfying the intention of HaShem's Torah. HaShem wants us to study His word. The list becomes only a bunch of dos and don'ts. However, there is much more to the Torah. It's kind of like taking the flower out of the cake and expecting people to eat it without the other ingredients. I think the list is nice to glance through but we should not use it as the measuring stick to see if we are able to please HaShem.

The spirit of anti-messiah, the same spirit that drives our Jewish people to reject Yeshua, has beguiled many who have done a detailed study of the 613 commandments. Some of them left our congregation saying, “I’ll never give up Yeshua my Messiah,” but they gave up following Messiah to follow rabbinic Judaism.

Rav Shaul tells us, 29But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” (Romans 2:29) And again, “6But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.” (Romans 7:6) And 6Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter kills, but the spirit gives life.” (2 Corinthians 3:6) We know that “the letter” (of the law) is a reserved phrase that indicates the rabbinic interpretations and instruction for keeping the Torah. Yanki Tauber wrote a book called, Beyond The Letter of The Law, based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson. In it he shows how the Talmud and oral traditions passed down through rabbi Judah the prince is what is called “the letter of the law”. He takes us “beyond the letter of the law” by exploring the hidden meanings of the words of the rabbis as found in the Mishnah’s Ethics of the Fathers.

When we become dependent on the teachings of the rabbis to please HaShem, we are denying the power of the Ruach HaKodesh to bring us into all truth (John 14:15-27). If we are not careful, we will be guilty of denying the blood, grace, and leading of Yeshua the Messiah, redeemer of mankind.

At the same time it is important to understand the role of rabbinic Judaism. Yeshua called our people to be a light to the world. The light illuminates the way so others can know how to walk. The Light does not manipulate our steps but it shows the safe path on which to walk. When rabbinic Judaism tries to manipulate our lives, it is being more than it was designed to be. Rather than being a model of proper observance, it tries to become a law within itself that goes beyond the original purpose of the creator. HaShem told us through Moshe, “Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you.” (Deuteronomy 4:2) Since the commandments are sometimes unclear, it is okay to look to rabbinic Judaism to gain ideas on how to apply the Torah to our lives. But, HaShem left the commandments vague on purpose. He wants to see if we will try to keep His commandments. Yeshua said, “… my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30) This is the reason the commandments are vague. It is to give us latitude in the application of the law. Rabbinic Judaism has tested God “… by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear?”  (Acts 15:10) Now some of us are trying to pick that burden up when it is unnecessary. This is not too bad in itself, but trying to get others to take up that yoke is wrong. The utmost care should be taken that we do not grieve the Holy Spirit in our attempts to more perfectly obey the Torah.

The reason the rabbis have made the legalized perversion of Torah is that they think that no-one can “enter the kingdom of heaven” without all of Israel walking perfectly in what they perceive to be the intentions of YHWH. They continue to extrapolate more refined details of obedience in hopes of achieving messianic salvation. Yeshua told the P’rushim, “You search the scriptures daily thinking that in them you will find life (restoration of eternal life that was lost in Gan Edan) but it is me (Yeshua) they are speaking of.” Later, in John 3:16, he told us that God sent his son so that everyone who believes in Yeshua can have everlasting life, the very thing the rabbis are searching through the Torah to find!

While it is important to obey the Torah through the guidance of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), the source of true life is the living Word of God (Yeshua). Even our ability to please YHWH hinges on obedience through receiving Yeshua, “… he who receives me receives the one who sent me.” (Matt 10:40b) also, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right (or power or ability) to become children of God…” (John 1:12) In other words, we have been given the ability to obey and please God through receiving Yeshua our Messiah. Outside of receiving Yeshua we do not have the ability to be pleasing to YHWH nor can we be obedient to the commandments of the Torah without Him.

The original intention of the oral traditions as recorded in the Mishnah and Talmud was not for wicked ends. The rabbis were trying to get corporate Israel to walk according to the intentions of HaShem’s expressed will as given through the written Torah, in order to produce the environment for Messiah to come. Doing this denies the messianic role of Yeshua. Therefore explorations of the oral traditions should be done with a critical eye. The attempts to cover the truth of Messiah are not subtle and anyone who looks for the truth can see it. At the same time there are references to the role of Messiah and support for Yeshua’s redemption found within the pages of the Talmud. Unless one is looking for them, they will be overlooked.

Messianic Rabbi David Markel Hall