Halachah – The Way We Walk

“Halachah” means “the way one walks.” It is the Jewish interpretation of how to apply Torah to our lives and is part of the “Oral Law/Torah” In a Jewish legal sense, it refers to the rulings and interpretations of the Sanhedrin – also known as the Men of the Great Assembly, or the Great Court – which derive their authority from the Written Law/Torah of Moshe, Deuteronomy 17:9–12. See also Deuteronomy 1:15-18, Numbers 11:24–25. Halachah historically was set by the Sanhedrin, which derives it’s authority from Torah in Devarim/Deuteronomy.

Devarim 16:18 says, “Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates, which the LORD thy God giveth thee, tribe by tribe; and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment.”

What did these judges and officers of the Sanhedrin / Great Court have authority over?
Devarim 17:8-13 says (with our notes in parenthesis),
8 If there arise a matter too hard for thee in judgment, between blood and blood, between plea and plea, and between stroke and stroke, even matters of controversy (anything that may be a point of disagreement) within thy gates; then shalt thou arise, and get thee up unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose.

9And thou shall come unto the priests the Levites, and unto the judge that shall be in those days; and thou shalt inquire; and they shall declare unto thee the sentence of judgment (meaning they shall make the final decision).
10And thou shalt do according to the oral word which they shall show unto thee from that place which the LORD shall choose (the temple in Jerusalem); and thou shalt observe to do according to all that they shall teach thee.
11 According to the oral law/teaching (‘pi hatorah,’ this is where the term “Oral Law” comes from) which they shall teach thee, and according to the judgment which they shall tell thee, thou shalt do; thou shalt not turn aside from the sentence which they shall declare unto thee, to the right hand, nor to the left. (This gives the Sanhedrin the power to enact new laws for Israel, in accordance with the Written Law / Torah.)
12And the man that doeth presumptuously, in not hearkening unto the priest that standeth to minister there before the LORD thy God, or unto the judge, even that man shall die; and thou shalt exterminate the evil from Israel. (This shows why Orthodox Jews put so much weight in obeying the Oral Law.)
13And all the people shall hear, and fear, and do no more presumptuously.

What about Yeshua? How did he view halachah? Yeshua blessed bread BEFORE meals – this is a Halachic ruling, not found anywhere in Torah – Torah actually commands us to bless God after meals. This is because Yeshua was a good Jew. Yeshua often rebuked the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, yet he still upheld their authority, saying in Matthew 23:2-3, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe.” Some say that “they” is really “he,” referring to Moses, however this is not how the majority of source texts translates it. The majority use the word “they.” Furthermore, the phrase itself would not make sense using the word “he.” Yeshua would simply say, “Obey Moses, NOT what the scribes and Pharisees say, even if they sit in Moses’ seat.” Without this unifying authority, we are left with the situation warned against in Deuteronomy 12:8, “You shall not do at all what we are doing here today, every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes.” See also Judges 17:6, Judges 18:1, and 21:25.” Instead, may we all walk in the footsteps of our Rabbi Yeshua, as a unified people, one nation, Israel.

Rabbi Skobac, a well-known anti-missionary, admits,

“It is important for us to realize that Jesus didn’t only accept what is called the Written Torah…he also followed the Oral Torah (halachah), and accepted Rabbinic authority ..In the book of Mark, chapter 2. And in Matthew chapter 12, there’s an interesting story where the rabbis ask Jesus, ‘Why do your followers pick grain on the Sabbath?’…Now if Jesus only believed in the written Torah, if Jesus only thought that the Five Books of Moses came from God, he would have said to the rabbis, “Where does it say in the Bible that you can’t pick grain on the Sabbath? It’s not said anywhere in the Bible” – if he didn’t believe in the Oral Torah.

“The Oral Torah amplifies the written Torah and teaches us that harvesting grain is something we are not allowed to do. So the fact is that Jesus never questions the rabbis’ concern. And he gives the rabbis a very Rabbinic answer. He says, “Do you know why my students are picking grain on the Sabbath? He says, ‘Don’t you know the story what happened to David, when King David’s men, were very very hungry, they were starving, and there was no other food to eat. So they went into the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, and they ate from the showbread, which you’re not normally supposed to eat. So Jesus’s point is a point made in Talmudic literature, in the case of pikuach nefesh, to save your life, you can violate the laws of the Torah. So he doesn’t question whether or not his students are doing something wrong. He accepts the question that there is something wrong with picking grain on the Sabbath, which we would only know from the Talmud, from the Oral Law (halachah), and he gives them a Rabbinic answer to their question. [1]”

The first halachic authority was Moshe. The last legal body of judges that could enact binding laws for all Israel were the Rabbis of the Mishnah in the Talmud. The transmission of this authority from Moshe onwards is recorded in the Talmud, Pirkei Avot 1:1, “Moshe received the Torah from Sinai and transmitted it to Yehoshua, and Yehoshua to the Elders, and the Elders to the Prophets, and the Prophets transmitted it to the Men of the Great Assembly. They said three things: Be deliberate in judgment, raise up many disciples and make a fence for the Torah.”

The Sanhedrin was disbanded during the destruction of the 2nd Temple, shortly after Yeshua’s time, so legal rulings ceased for all Israel. After that, original smicha (ordination as passed down from Moshe) ceased, and Rabbis today only enact laws for their own communities and those who choose to adopt them, not all Jewry. This is partly why there are various expressions of Judaism today.

We have to remember that Israel isn’t just a spiritual entity, but a nation, and just like any nation in history, it had every right to institute laws and rulings. The Torah to Israel is like the Constitution is to the United States. It is the heart of our nation. The Oral Law, or the halachic rulings, are like Federal Law to the United States, and are supposed to make Torah principles actual and applicable to real life. Rabbinic laws are differentiated from Torah laws in the Talmud. There are much greater consequences for Torah violations as opposed to Rabbinic violations. A righteous nation is one that bases it’s laws according to God’s Torah. Even America to some degree has been greatly blessed for patterning many of it’s laws after Torah.

Join our email list to stay connected and learn more about Torah, Biblical Hebrew, the Jewish Yeshua, & Conversion to Judaism

Benei Avraham, Dallas Messianic Jewish Congregation | All Rights.Reserved.