Back to Basics: What is the Torah?
For anyone who has been in this walk of T’shuva – returning to YHVH’s Word, it seems like a pretty simple question. However, while discussing our beliefs with family members and/or friends this is a common question that sometimes leaves me stunned. Then we must not forget everyone starts this walk by crawling. Baby steps. So, we’re introducing a “Back to Basics” series that will do just that; take us back to the basics for those who are new to Torah observance or are simply looking for answers – simple answers.
Often times we get so excited when a friend or family member starts asking questions that we end up giving them “RAM/Memory Overload”. We want them to know everything we know right then and there so they can be on the same page as us. We must remember that we first start with the milk before we move on to the meat.
and be like newborn babies, thirsty for the pure milk of the Word; so that by it, you may grow up into deliverance. (1 Peter 2:2)
Anyone who has to drink milk is still a baby, without experience in applying the Word about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties have been trained by continuous exercise to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrew 5:13-14)
What if we told you that you’ve already read the Torah. In fact, you’ve most likely read the Tanakh too. Don’t let those terms scare you. If you’ve read Genesis through Deuteronomy, you’ve read the Torah. And, if you’ve read the “Old Testament”, you’ve read the Tanakh.
The word tôrâh (Strong’s #8451) means more than just ‘law’, its usual simplistic translation (always ‘law’ in the KJV 219x). It derives from yârâh (Strong’s #3384) meaning ‘to shoot out the hand as pointing, to show, indicate’, ‘to teach, instruct’, ‘to lay foundations’, ‘to sprinkle, to water’, ‘to shoot, as an arrow’.
Yârâh begins with the letter ‘y’ yôdh which is the picture letter of a hand whilst another word sometimes used for teaching and instruction lâmadh (Strong’s #3925) begins with picture letter ‘l’ of an ox-goad, used for disciplining and training an animal or soldiers. How much better to be taught by pointing than by poking, by the demonstration of the hand rather than the discipline of the rod.
Tôrâh then derives from a root verb which has more to do with ‘hand’ led instruction than ‘rod’ following legalism. It means:
- ‘instruction’ as from a parent to a child (Proverbs 1:8; 3:1; 4:2; 7:2).
- ‘doctrine/instruction’ via the prophets (Isaiah 1:10; 8:16,20; 42:4,21)
- ‘legal instruction’ as in the ‘law of sacrifice’ (Leviticus 6:7; 7:7)
- ‘the Pentateuch/Mosaic revelation’ (Joshua 1:8)
Its basic idea, then, is ‘instruction’ or ‘teaching’ to a valued individual rather than to a beast of burden (a pet or animal of the field). Even when it is legitimately translated as ‘law’ the emphasis is still on instruction. The Torah/Law of Moshe might better be translated as ‘the instruction of YHVH by revelation through Moshe’.
In the modern Christian church ‘law’ has become a negative word and ‘revelation’ a positive one. But they are both the same. The famous verse in Proverbs 29:18 is usually quoted as half a verse only. Its second half, written in parallel terminology, says the same thing so that revelation and torah instruction are virtually identical:
“Where there is no revelation, the people perish.
But blessed is he who keeps the torah/law” (Proverbs 29:18)
Torah, in addition to being instructions/Law, is the Truth of YHVH’s Word.
Your righteousness is eternal righteousness, and your Torah is truth. (Psalm 119:142)
We hope that this teaching will bless you and your family.