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Struggling with the Days & Wrestling with the Torah.

By Grant Marshall

Torah people have for centuries argued over when the feast days should be observed. YHVH in His wisdom created a biblical calendar for us and these dates are clearly marked within the text. The siting of the new moon astronomically denotes the beginning of the month. Even here people argue about how much of the moon should be seen. We can also count the number of days from the siting to make up the month, so really even if we miss a moon siting we should, according to the day count, always know when the month begins. However, this seems not to be the case with the ancient observers.

Jewish communities, during the medieval period, did create alternate dates for the main festivals. This sadly, has affected the way most modern Torah communities observe the feast days and monthly cycles today.  Early communities who conflicted with temple practices began to observe their own traditions and apportion their interpretation of the observations.

We can see that disputes of this kind have been passed down through the generations.  My approach in this brief article is to make clear that there is ultimately a way to eliminate disputes when we understand how ‘Torah' and the Torah differ.

We can see in this passage in Habakkuk 2:15,  how many were enticed and manipulated by the wicked to observe their alternative ways. The passage speaks of drunkenness that simply provokes people to despicable acts by revealing themselves. It highlights how easy it is to manipulate people when we feel like a good time is had by all. It therefore can be said that we become like those we hang around with. Human beings are very good at making peculiar cults.

Had 2:15 “Woe (judgment is coming) to you who make your neighbours drink,

Who mix in your venom to make them drunk

So that you may look at their nakedness!

16 “You will be filled with disgrace instead of honour.

Now drink and expose your own nakedness!

The cup [of wrath] in the Lord’s right hand will come around to you [O destroyer],

And utter disgrace will be on your own glory. AMP

It is said that Hillel II introduced the fixed calendar in 359 AD.  1st-century observations using the lunar phases were left up to the Sanhedrin or council of elders.  A little more study, reveals that disputes continued well into the 10th century.  Aaron Ben Tier, a 10th-century descendent of Hillel, brought sweeping changes to the calendar when he calculated that Passover should be observed two days earlier than what the normal calendar stated. However, we see that the community of  Qumran chose to observe the solar calendar system written in the book of Jubilees and Enoch which made the year 364 days long.  The 8th century Karaite community observed the different lunar calendar.

Today we see that the months are fixed simply because we know when the phases will be even if we don’t see them. However,  the Mishnar was clear on how the moon should be observed.

1st century Rabbi Gamaliel is considered one of Israel’s greatest teachers of the oral law. He was also considered an authority in astronomy.

He developed illustrations of the moon phases. These were written on a tablet. Professed non-expert witnesses would have to come to him and compare their own drawings of their sitings to these defined patterns. The problem of non-identical sitings from two individuals in two different places could easily be solved and rejected if need be. However, this conundrum would mean that further witnesses would have to present themselves until the drawings and times matched.

Somewhere along the line, there has to be a point of agreement, and this was the case among the peers of the rabbinic community. It would seem, that if arguments did not come to a satisfactory outcome, a compromise had to be made.

But what was the underlying problem? 1st-century communities within and outside the land, basically could not agree on the dates of the festivals, and thus it would seem it is the problem today.

Within the land of Israel, the dates began to be set in advance — outside the land, they began to be set nearer a concluded date.

Looking a little into the history of the development of the calendar and the disputes along its evolution, I think this explains the grounds for many of our disagreements.  But does Yeshua provide for us the solution?

As we can see disputes concerning the counting of days and lunar observation have been problematic throughout the Jewish community both in the land and among the diaspora. However, I would suggest perhaps,  that if we could establish a universal day of the origin of the Sabbath it would do us well to use this system of a seven-day count rather than a monthly count.

What is the Torah and what is Torah?

Should we focus on the Torah or should we pursue what is within it.?

If we can define the differences then we might be able to outline the degrees of difference between the various groups who do one or the other.

The Torah is defined as a set of five books written by Moses who was a pre-salvific figure of Christ. It chronicles the genesis of creation and the world of two human beings, to Deuteronomy which establishes the dwelling of a nation in the promised land spoken of to Abraham by YHVH. The latter is, if it is perfect, the allegory of the one man being restored to his place of origin or His re-genesis.

The Torah, in written form, was given by God to Moses at Sinai. This written form would be ratified when the people, who, having once left their exile in Egypt, were to enter the land some 40 years later after

Just as the Torah foretold of this event it also outlined through set dates the means of redemption for the people. If the people observe the laws within it, all will go well. That was the caveat.

The laws and teachings within the Torah pointed to the coming Messiah of Israel, — God incarnate.

That’s what it pointed to. It revealed the intentions of God and gave us an insight, in part, of the mind of God. This is the mystery.

It shows us that the rules and teachings of God were for a purpose. He saw that they were important enough to have them written down, which He did Himself, and that the people should learn and live by them. It would be wise for the people to do this and for the people to be taught this by their leaders. It would also be incumbent upon every parent to teach their children these laws throughout every generation.

He also wanted the people to understand that the feasts would serve as a prophetic timeline which would point to the end of the earth, the cessation of all wars in the heavenlies, the replacement of the heavens and the earth and the eternal kingdom and the sovereign rule of I AM.

That in a nutshell is the Torah. But what is Torah, and are we more concerned with what is the Torah instead?

Colossians 1:16-17 NKJV

For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.

This is what Torah defines.

Torah observance should not be complicated or difficult, because YHVH wants everyone to come to the knowledge of the truth, which is Christ. Men have ritualised observance and thus have made the journey to Christ difficult, making Christ inaccessible.

Deut 30:11 For this commandment I give you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12 It is not in heaven, that you should need to ask, ‘Who will ascend into heaven to get it for us and proclaim it, that we may obey it?’ 13 And it is not beyond the sea, that you should need to ask, ‘Who will cross the sea to get it for us and proclaim it, that we may obey it?’ 14 But the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you may obey it.

15 See, I have set before you today life and goodness, as well as death and disaster. 16 For I am commanding you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, statutes, and ordinances, so that you may live and increase, and the LORD your God may bless you in the land that you are entering to possess.

17 But if your heart turns away and you do not listen but are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, 18 I declare to you today that you will surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess.

19 I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. Therefore choose life, so that you and your descendants may live,

20 and that you may love the LORD your God, obey Him, and hold fast to Him. For He is your life, and He will prolong your life in the land that the LORD swore to give to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

1 John 5:3 Amplified Bible (AMP)

For the [true] love of God is this: that we habitually keep His commandments and remain focused on His precepts. And His commandments and His precepts are not difficult [to obey].

To live Torah, we need to reveal the mystery of it. It is more than a list of laws and observances that help govern a covenant people. It is an avenue into the mind of God that has designed a pathway that guides a fragmented people into a unified whole.

Every disciple of Christ has access to this mystery. But let me stipulate the term ‘disciple’. It was to Yeshua’s disciples that he granted the ability to understand the mystery of the Kingdom.

Mark 4:11 10 As soon as Jesus was alone with the Twelve and those around Him, they asked Him about the parable. 11 He replied, “The mystery of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to those on the outside everything is expressed in parables, 12 so that, ‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven.’ ”…

The Torah as we are shown, does not bring salvation, it is a route map to receiving it and it is in Christ that we can walk in it. Christ is the mystery of the Torah, which the ancients did not grasp and neither do the Jews today.

John 12: 39 For this reason they were unable to believe. For again, Isaiah says:

40“He has blinded their eyes

and hardened their hearts,

so that they cannot see with their eyes,

and understand with their hearts,

and turn,

and I would heal them.”

41 Isaiah said these things because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about Him. 42 Nevertheless, many of the leaders believed in Him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue. 43 For they loved praise from men more than praise from God.

44 Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in Me does not believe in Me alone, but in the One who sent Me. 45 And whoever sees Me sees the One who sent Me. 46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in Me should remain in darkness.

47As for anyone who hears My words and does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I have not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 There is a judge for the one who rejects Me and does not receive My words: The word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.

When we have received Christ, He who is the light, was revealed to us. Having received Him we then become absorbed into Torah, which is the word. We fulfil Torah by receiving the gift of the fear of the Lord. It is this fear that draws us closer to the father. It is this fear that allows the work of salvation through His hand to be completed in us. The mystery is that we are given the ability to be changed into the image of Christ by obtaining the mind of Christ. In this, we fulfil Torah and allow the work of God to be accomplished.

Philippians 2: 12Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now even more in my absence, continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. 13 For it is God who works in you to will and to act on behalf of His good purpose.

Torah was never meant to save us, but to point the way to salvation. Observation of law and the ritual will not save us. Understanding the purpose will not save us. It is only by accepting the one it is pointing to, that this an this be done.

Matthew 23:1 Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples: 2“The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3So practice and observe everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy, burdensome loads and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

5 All their deeds are done for men to see. They broaden their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. 6 They love the places of honour at banquets, the chief seats in the synagogues, 7 the greetings in the marketplaces, and the title of ‘Rabbi’ by which they are addressed.b

8 But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And do not call anyone on earth your father, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Christ. 11 The greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

By observing the Way of the Master, we become united in purpose and mind. Thus the bond of love and service, through humility proves the grace that is the thread of Torah. This is the cord that binds us to the freedom that Christ brings.

Galatians 5 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

2 Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. 3 Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4 You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

We must understand that Christ came to set the captive free. Therefore we must be diligent not to fall back into rules and laws that do not lead us to complete salvation.

Philippians 3: 2Watch out for those dogs, those workers of evil, those mutilators of the flesh! 3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself could have such confidence.

If anyone else thinks he has grounds for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin; a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, persecuting the church; as to righteousness in the law, faultless.

7 But whatever was gain to me I count as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things as loss compared to the surpassing excellence of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God on the basis of faith.

10 I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to Him in His death, 11and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

The cloth that wrapped Lazarus, can be symbolic of such ritual binding. He was laid in the tomb according to Torah ritual law. To the Jews, Lazarus was well past hope. Lying dead for three days signified the departure of the spirit. That’s why Yeshua left it till the fourth day to call him forth, thus overruling their law.

He proved to them that He was above their understanding of the law, by declaring Himself the victor over death.

Therefore, let us allow YHVH to complete His work in us and refrain from doing it for Him. We have been given freedom through being in Torah which is Christ. In this, we fulfil all the commandments that tell us: to fear the Lord our God, to love Him with all our hearts and minds, and to love our neighbour as ourselves.

Observations of the feasts and the moon cycles will not bring us to completion. They are merely pointers for the great and coming day of the Lord. So why are so many caught up in underlining times and observances, which have only brought about the separation of the body?

Just think about it. I know people who never meet up at the feasts because they observe different days and traditions. This is not what the Lord wants. We are supposed to be, with all effort, ministers of reconciliation.

Let us pursue the mind of Christ and with every effort seek only to remain in Him.

Galatians 5: 13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever[c] you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

So finally, here are some starter questions which I believe require some soul-searching and honest answers. Remember, the ‘Bride of Messiah’ is maturing and being perfected so she must not be swayed by uncertainty and by every wind of doctrine.

What is your purpose in observing the feast dates, the moon cycles and the sabbaths?

1. Is it out of fear of getting something wrong?

2. Missing the great day?

3 Breaking Torah by getting the dates wrong?

4 Not fitting in?

5 Believing that you are being obedient?

6 Is it out of haughtiness, wanting to be right all the time and believing that you have a greater understanding than others?

7. Does it provide safety?

I pray that this article has given us food for thought. The prayer of Messiah Yeshua in John 17 is a command for us to pursue. That was and is on His mind. If we are forgetting about this it would do us well to be reminded.

So let’s make every effort to pursue His mind and be ministers of reconciliation instead of being taken up by petty arguments.


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