I meet a lot of non-Jews these days who go on and on how they love the Torah, and feel like they are now a part of Israel, because they follow the Torah. When I ask them about what form their observance takes, I get one of two responses. One response is for people to fully accept an Orthodox Jewish approach to life. While I am not against Orthodox Judaism, I don’t believe it is without error and doesn’t really work well in the modern world. It especially doesn’t work well if you aren’t fully committed to a Jewish way of life.
In another response, they freeze up and let me know in no uncertain terms that they follow Biblical observance, and not the Judaism of the Rabbis. I always feel like I have been slapped in the face when I get that response because they do everything but spit when they mention the Rabbis or traditional Judaism. It makes me wonder if a person can truly reject Judaism and be Torah observant. They feel they can, but I’m not so sure.
They claim that Rabbinic Judaism is the wrong interpretation of people who rejected Yeshua and invented the Rabbinic form of Judaism to preserve their own authority. The problem I have with their accusation is that while rejecting the Rabbinic interpretations in favor of “the pure teaching of Torah,” as they call it, they are really not following Torah, but THEIR interpretation of Torah. So I have a choice; I can believe the learned Rabbi’s interpretations, even though they were imperfect humans, but still loved God and sought to serve Him, or I can believe the interpretations of these self-proclaimed purists, with their explanations of Torah. The problem is, the purists are also imperfect, and also like to make or preserve their own authority. It’s not like this is something new.
The Karaites, in the ninth century rejected Rabbinic writings, authority and customs, and replaced them with their own. While most Jews rejected them as apostates, Maimonides reached out to them. Even the Karaites were not original in this area.
Before the Karaites, there were the Samaritans. The Samaritans were mostly non-Jewish Peoples displaced by the Assyrians and resettled in Israel after the northern kingdom was taken into captivity. Some of them intermarried with the few Israelites remaining in the land, but most were not physically connected to the Jewish people. The Scriptures teach in 2 Kings 17:25-26, “And it was so, at the beginning of their dwelling there, that they did not fear the LORD; therefore the LORD sent lions among them, which killed some of them. So they spoke to the king of Assyria, saying, “The nations whom you have removed and placed in the cities of Samaria do not know the rituals of the God of the land; therefore He has sent lions among them, and indeed, they are killing them because they do not know the rituals of the God of the land. Then the king of Assyria commanded, saying, “Send there one of the priests whom you brought from there; let him go and dwell there, and let him teach them the rituals of the God of the land. Then one of the priests whom they had carried away from Samaria came and dwelt in Bethel, and taught them how they should fear the LORD.”
The Samaritans followed the Torah after their own fashion. They could say they were Torah observant, but their shortcoming, was that they had nothing to do with the Jewish people. By the time of Yeshua, the Jews and Samaritans had no dealings with one another. Even Yeshua said to them in John 4:22, “You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.”
The Torah can’t just be applied any way you want it. We are told that the religion of the Northern Kingdom of Israel prior to the captivity, was an abomination. They had the Torah. They built two temples and made sacrifices in the Name of the God of Israel. But they built golden calves, calling them by the Name of the God of Israel, and the Torah forbids it. The Torah also forbid them from having temples any other place than the one in Jerusalem. They felt anyone could be a priest, and not just the Levites. It was Egalitarian. They did what the Torah said, but they didn’t do it the way God prescribed it. Application of Torah is very important.
The Samaritans tried to be Torah observant without any connection to the Jewish people. The reason their approach was in error, is because the Torah is an eternal covenant between God and the Jewish people. Just as portions of the Torah make no sense outside of the Land of Israel, because it says, “when you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you,” It also says, “I am the Lord your God,” and “To you and your children and your children’s children.” It was made for a certain people, in a certain land. Of course there are parts of the Torah that can be universally applied, and I am not arguing for an exclusivity of the Torah for Jewish people alone. I am saying that any Torah observance a person takes on, will be warped if it does not include the People of Israel and the Land of Israel.
When people take on Torah, but separate themselves from the Jewish people, they seem more like Samaritans than Jews. i don’t say this as a slur.. there were good Samaritans, at least one anyway. I don’t think that non-Jews who are Torah observant are bad. I’m not against them being Torah Observant. I do think that when they decide to take on the Torah, they should consider the Jewish interpretations on how Torah is to be practiced. I think that this rich tradition of interpretation is far more uplifting than a make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach. That’s just my opinion. But however it is applied, I do believe there should be a concern for the Jewish people, and a desire to aid in the welfare of the Jews. Paul said in Romans 15:27, “For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things.”
The bottom line, is that I think its a good thing for non-Jews to want to embrace the Torah as their lifestyle, but I also believe it’s important that they pray for the wellbeing of the Jewish people and support the State of Israel, and contribute to alleviate the suffering of the poor among the Jewish people.