Yeshua, Torah and the Tree of Life
Torah is also called the “Tree of Life,” as it points us to God as He reveals Himself in the Sephirot, and thus His salvation. Going back to the time of Moses, God Himself states that His Torah is the way of “life.”
As all men physically die, the context is one of the Torah being “the words of eternal life:”
Leviticus 18:4-5 – Ye shall do my judgments, and keep mine ordinances, to walk therein: I am the LORD your God. Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD.
Deuteronomy 30:6 – And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.
Deuteronomy 30:19 – I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:
The third chapter of the book of Proverbs (a highly kabbalistic text), speaks of the Torah in terms of “Wisdom and Understanding” (the Sephirot of Hokhmah and Binah), calling it a “Tree of Life.” The Torah is this “Tree of Life” that founded the earth and established the heavens:
Proverbs 3:13-19 – Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her. Length of days is in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honour. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her. The LORD by wisdom hath founded the earth; by understanding hath he established the heavens.
A prayer recited when the Torah scrolls are placed back into the ark in a Synagogue service, is Etz Chayim He, “It is a Tree of Life:”
It is a tree of life to those who take hold of it, and those who support it are praiseworthy. Its ways are ways of pleasantness and all its paths are peace. Bring us back Lord to You, and we shall come, renew our days as of old.
The request, “Bring us back Lord to You,” in the above prayer is a petition for teshuvah, commonly called “repentance,” but more accurately defined as “return.” As mentioned in our background studies, the path up the kabbalistic Tree of Life, is the path of return to God.
To “follow Yeshua,” as John did, is to follow Torah. The New Testament equates Yeshua with the Torah and the Tree of Life, mentioned in Proverbs (above), stating that He was behind the creation of the heavens and earth:
Colossians 1:16 – For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
John further states that Yeshua is the Torah, present with God and therefore “part of” God:
John 1:1 – In the beginning was the Torah, and the Torah was with God, and the Torah was God.
This concept is shown in the Midrash on Genesis (Bereshit), which explains how God “consulted” the Divine Torah during the process of creation. “God” was behind “His architect” who had the direct involvement in the “project” of creation:
Bereshit Rabbah I.1 – R. Oshaya began (his exposition in this way): “Then I was by Him, as an amon; and I was daily all delight” (Prov. 8:30). Amon means tutor; amon means covered; amon means hidden; and some say, amon means great. Amon is a tutor, as you read, “As an omen (= nursing father) carried the sucking child” (Num 11:12). Amon means covered, as in the verse, “ha’emunim (= those who were covered) in scarlet” (Lam 4:5). Amon means hidden, as in the verse, “And he omen (= concealed) Hadassah” (Est 2:7). Amon means great, as in the verse, “Are you better than No-amon?” (Nah 3:8) — which is rendered, “Are thou better than Alexandria the Great, that is situate among the rivers?” Another interpretation: Amon is a workman (uman). The Torah (= Wisdom) declares: “I was the working tool of the Holy One, blessed be He.” In human practice, when a mortal king builds a palace, he builds it not with his own skill but with the skill of an architect. The architect moreover does not build it out of his head, but employs plans and diagrams to know how to arrange the chambers and the wicket doors. Thus God consulted the Torah and created the world, while the Torah declares, “In/by/with the Beginning (be-reshit) God created” (Gen 1:1), “Beginning” (reshit) referring to the Torah, as in the verse, “The Lord made me as the beginning (reshit) of His way” (Prov. 8:22).
In Hebraic thinking, when one accepts the teachings of Torah, it is said to “become a person’s flesh and blood.” Therefore, to fully accept the teachings of Yeshua, is to partake of His “flesh and blood” – which is the Torah.
As Yeshua Himself said:
John 6:51-59 – I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.
Many of those following Yeshua, could not deal with this deep (kabbalistic) level of teaching and left Him. His closest disciples however understood that He meant His “flesh and blood” as being, “the words of eternal life” — the Torah:
John 6:60-69 – These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum. Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Messiah, the Son of the living God.
When Yeshua speaks of “eating His flesh and His blood,” this is refering to the Torah, as He was/is the “Torah in the flesh.” The manna eaten by the Children of Israel was a physical representation of the Torah, which was what truly sustained them. (The same can be said of the water from the mysterious rock/well that followed them, which Paul associated with Messiah in 1 Corinthians 10:4.)
Yeshua, His disciples, and the prophets of old, always pointed to Torah as the path of salvation.
Matthew 19:16-17 – And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. [Torah]
John 1: – In the beginning was the Word [Torah], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
John 5:46 – For had ye believed Moses [Torah], ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me.
Paul directly ties Yeshua to the Torah, describing Him in the same language God did of Torah through Moses. The point Paul is making in this commonly mistranslated and misunderstood passage, is that the Torah points to the Messiah and His teaching on Torah. God did not change when Yeshua came. (Matthew 5:17-21, Romans 3:31). “Confessing Yeshua,” and “believing in your heart” that He resurrected, does not simply mean that acknowledging certain historical realities brings salvation (even if done “sincerely, with all of one’s heart,” etc.) Even the demons know Yeshua is Lord and was resurrected. Rather, it means to accept and follow His teachings — i.e., being “hearers and doers” of the Torah, as both Paul and “James” taught:
Romans 10:4-11 – For Messiah is the goal of the Torah to everyone who believes. For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the Torah, “The man who does those things shall live by them.” And the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, “Do not say in your heart, “Who will ascend into heaven?”‘ (that is, to bring Messiah down from above) or, “”Who will descend into the abyss?”‘ (that is, to bring Messiah up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Yeshua and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”
Deuteronomy 30:11-16a – For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it. “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live …
John, in his epistle, makes an explicit connection between “knowing Yeshua” and keeping Torah:
1 John 2:3-5 – And in this we know that we have known him, if his commands [Torah] we may keep; he who is saying, `I have known him,’ and his command [Torah] is not keeping, a liar he is, and in him the truth is not; and whoever may keep his word [Torah], truly in him the love of God hath been perfected; in this [Torah] we know that in him we are.
John’s comments (above) and all “New Testament” texts concerning “following Yeshua” must be interpreted in light of what God had already said (in what was the only “Bible” of that time as well). A good place to look at what it means to “follow Yeshua” is Psalm 119, were David makes clear how important Torah is toward salvation:
Psalm 119:1-9 – Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD. Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart. They also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways. Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently. O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes! Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments. I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments. I will keep thy statutes: O forsake me not utterly. Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.
Psalm 119:41-42 – Let thy mercies come also unto me, O LORD, even thy salvation, according to thy word. So shall I have wherewith to answer him that reproacheth me: for I trust in thy word.
Psalm 119:81 – My soul fainteth for thy salvation: but I hope in thy word.
Psalm 119:88 – Quicken me after thy lovingkindness; so shall I keep the testimony of thy mouth.
Psalm 119:92-94 – Unless thy law had been my delights, I should then have perished in mine affliction. I will never forget thy precepts: for with them thou hast quickened me. I am thine, save me: for I have sought thy precepts.
Psalm 119:174-176 – I have longed for thy salvation, O LORD; and thy law is my delight. Let my soul live, and it shall praise thee; and let thy judgments help me. I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments.