Sitting in the Seat of Moses.
(Mattityahu/Matthew 23:1-3) “Then Yeshua addressed the crowds and His talmidim: “The Torah-teachers and the P’rushim,” He said, “sit on the seat of Moshe. So whatever they tell you, take care to do it. But don’t do what they do, because they talk but do not act!”
Within the Messianic Jewish movement, there is a debate over the observance of Rabbinic Law; over whether or not they should be observed or even acknowledged as educational resource in understanding Torah from a traditional Jewish perspective and even understanding the ancient teachings of our Rabbi Maran Yeshua.
The words of Yeshua in the portion of scripture above clearly show us His position on Rabbinic Law or Halacha. If He were in anyway against it then He would have clearly stated to rebel against them and reject their teachings, however, as an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi, He not only upheld and enforced the Torah from Sinai, He clearly commanded His talmidim to take care to do as the Torah teachers (Rabbi’s) say.
To gain a better understanding of this issue from an orthodox Jewish perspective, we can look into the lessons within the pages of RAMBAM’s 13 Principles of Faith.
RAMBAM’s 13 Principles of Faith – Ninth Principle – Lesson Six.
The Last Word: Observance of Rabbinic Law.
(Based on Sicha of second day of Shavuos 5715, note 157)
“According to Rambam, Rabbinic law is, in effect, no different from Biblical law. The Torah itself instructs us to follow every detail that the Sages have instructed us, so we must be careful in observing a Rabbinic command as a Biblical Law. The only practical difference between these two types of law concerns a person’s obligation to reprimand his fellow for failing to observe the law. When a person witnesses an infringement of Biblical mitzvah, he should always attempt to correct the matter; whereas in the case of a Rabbinic transgression, a person has to consider first whether his words will be effective or not (see Beitzah 30a; Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch 156:7, 608:4-5). But when it comes to our own personal observance we should perceive both Biblical and Rabbinic commands as nothing less than the will of G-d.”
In the excerpt above from the Rambam 13 Principles of Faith, gain a perspective of Rabbinic and Biblical observance from a traditional orthodox Jewish perspective. According to the traditional Orthodox Jewish perspective, if one brother were to see another brother transgress a Biblical command, then the brother has an obligation to correct the matter. However, in a matter of a transgression of a Rabbinic command then the brother should consider whether his words will be effective or not regarding the matter.
So based of the teachings of our Rabbi Maran Yeshua and the traditional Jewish Perspective of Rabbinic Halacha, we have a truth that we must face; Maran Yeshua did command us to take care to do as the Torah-Teachers (Rabbi’s) say, so they are in fact valid for us to live by as believers. However, because within the body of Messiah we all at different levels of faith and observances of Torah, we should not tie up the heavy burden upon our brothers shoulders (especially weaker new believers) if we are not willing to do the same ourselves as Maran Yeshua said:
(Mattityahu/Matthew 23:3) “But don’t do what they do, because they talk but do not act! They tie heavy loads onto people’s shoulders but won’t lift a finger to help carry them.”
Maran Yeshua also gave us other guidelines regarding Rabbinic Halacha, in regards to traditions and commandments as we will see in the following verses.
(Mark 7:8-9) “You depart from God’s command and hold onto human tradition. Indeed,” he said to them, “you have made a fine art of departing from God’s command in order to keep your tradition!”
(Mark 7:13) “Thus, with your tradition which you handed down to you, you nullify the Word of God! And do other things like this.”
Based on this teaching from our Rabbi Maran Yeshua, we gain a deeper insight on our relationship to Rabbinic Halacha. No matter what we choose to follow in regards to rabbinic halacha, whether in the Mishna, Talmud, or even the Zohar, we must never let anything said by a Rabbi which would cause us to depart from the Word of God have any authority over us. An example of this is seen within the kabbalistic traditional teachings, where some Rabbi’s believe in re-incarnation (Gilgul Neshamot), which is clearly unbiblical and as believers in the resurrection (mechaye hametim) we should reject, just as the majority of traditional Orthodox Judaism also would.
From the days of Moshe and the giving of the Torah, there have been leaders among the children of Israel who have authority from heaven to give a ruling or judgement regarding a matter as we see in the book of Devarim/Deuteronomy.
(Devarim/Deuteronomy 17:8-11) “If a matter of judgement is hidden from you, between blood and blood, between verdict and verdict, between plague and plague, matters of dispute in your cities – you shall rise up and ascend to the place that HASHEM, your God, shall choose. You shall come to the Kohanim, the Levites, and to the judge who will be in those days; you shall inquire and they will tell you the word of judgement. You shall do accordingly to the word that they will tell you, from that place that HASHEM will choose, and you shall be careful to do according to everything that they will teach you. According to the teaching that they will teach you and according to the judgement that they will say to you, shall you do; you shall not deviate from the word that they will tell you, right or left.”
These words in the Torah almost match exactly the command given to us by our Rabbi Maran Yeshua, where we are told to do everything according to the teachings and judgements of the Torah teachers who are composed of Kohanim, Levites, and the judges in the days which eventually were the Torah-teachers and the P’rushim in the days of Maran Yeshua. We see a time-line of this progression in Pirkei Avot and in the Good News.
(Pirkei Avot 1:1) “Moses received the Torah from Sinai and transmitted it to Joshua; Joshua to the Elders; the Elders to the Prophets; and the Prophets transmitted it to the Men of the Great Assembly. They [the Men of the Great Assembly] said three things: Be deliberate in judgement; develop many disciples; and make a fence for the Torah.”
(Acts 7:38) “This is the man who was in the assembly in the wilderness, accompanied by the angel that had spoken to him at Mount Sinai and by our fathers, the man who was given living words to pass on to us.”
Here we see the authorities in Israel who are in the “seat of Moses” as Yeshua taught to His followers.
Over the course of time, people and societies change and so must the judges whom God places in authority over His people, as we see here in a teaching from an Orthodox Rabbi:
(R’ Chaim Shmulevitz) “God does not cast His people into anarchy; He provides them with the leaders who are suited to the needs of the time and place.”
Within the Messianic Jewish movement as of today, there is a division over various matters, which at the end of the day are just opinion and we must stick to the basics of the faith which are; Maran Yeshua died and rose again to eternal life, we are to love God with all our hearts, minds and resources and we are to love our neighbours as ourselves, Everything else is commentary. So, with that said, there needs to be a shift in priorities in regards to our ministry works as a body. Doctrines, opinions, and everything related is at the end of the day just our own inventions and traditions being held on to, what matters is the commands of God which are in the Bible so there is no need for argument because our Rabbi clearly stated everything. The focus now needs to be on the matters important to God, the distressed, the widows, orphans, the poor and the lost sheep of Israel, they all need the real help and is where our energy needs to be instead of dividing over doctrines. Imagine how many suicides, abortions, divorces, affairs, abuses, could all have been avoided over the past 25 years if more the energy and recourses spent on enforcing doctrines was used for the distressed souls out there? We all, especially the leaders need to get our priorities straight because the King is coming very soon and we will have to face Him when He asks whether or not we cared for His sheep.
In conclusion, based on the teachings of Maran Yeshua, Rabbinic Halacha does have a part in our lives as believers, however it is up to each believer and the Ruach HaKodesh to determine what role it will play in their lives. To reject it, would be to reject Maran Yeshua’s words, and once we start rejecting one thing, we will be most likely to reject another. Maran Yeshua himself was an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi and His teachings were Rabbinic in nature, we would gain a much deeper relationship to Him and especially HaShem if we gained an appreciation for the great sages and rabbi’s of Israel who are in the seat of Moses.
Tags: crowds, educational resource, Halacha, infringement, jewish rabbi, last word, Maran, mattityahu, messianic jewish movement, mitzvah, moses, moshe, observance, rsquo, sages, scripture, sicha, Torah, traditional jewish perspective, types of law
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