TORAH – the BREAD OF LIFE
In his unique teaching, my late husband, Dwight A. Pryor (obm), always empasized the value and beauty of the Torah, as well as the relevance of the Torah for all believers in the God of Israel. As he said: ”The more Torah, the more Life!” and he wrote these words once…
“Give me Liberty or give me death”
“Give me Law (Torah) or give me death.”
I would like to add a perspective from my personal experience. Living in Israel for many years, and with my experience of things Jewish, it was a natural reaction for me, once I came to know Yeshua as Messiah, to study the Torah with the understanding that through its timeless words of truth I would come to a deeper knowledge of Yeshua himself.
Before we continue, in regard to Yeshua and Torah, please consider which 2 answers to the question you think most closely represent your own perception.
How would you describe Yeshua’s relationship to Torah?
- No connection
- He taught truth from it but changed it
- He fulfilled its prophecies and promises
- He is the Living Torah – the Word made flesh
The first one I consider 100% false, and the second is suspect, but the ideas are worth keeping in mind for further consideration as we continue.
From a Jewish perspective, one of the passages of the Brit Chadasha, the NT, that impacted me and caused my eyes to open to the possibility of Yeshua’s identity as Messiah and Lord was the well-known beginning of the gospel of John (1:1-4),
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
The Torah, or the first revelation of the Word of God in a communal form, was given by God at Sinai. John’s verses, supported by Genesis, tell us that a form of the Word was in existence at the very beginning of Creation. This Word was with God so intimately that, in fact, it was part of God; just as the words you speak emanate from you and give a representation of who you are and what you are thinking. As God is perfect, the same yesterday, today and tomorrow – all truth, justice and love – so will His Word be.
Verses 2 – 3 of John 1 read: “He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.”
Ahh, now we are told that the Word is a He! He has a personality – and is one who was an agent with God in the act of Creation. In Genesis we are told that God spoke all things into being. The Sages of Israel interpret this to mean that the very letters of the Hebrew Aleph-bet that God used to form the words of Creation carry God’s creative power. Regarding God’s Word that was an agent of Creation, verse 4 of John concludes:
“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” This ‘someone’, this Word, carried life – a life that would be light to mankind. To my mind, these are all awesome concepts.
In accord with the Hebraic mindset, I already knew indisputably that:
1. The Torah is the foundation of the Word of God – given to us His people, as a revelation of Himself and His Kingdom, by God through Moses, at Mount Sinai.
2. The truth it contains is absolute, unchanging, unshakeable and eternal and it is Life to those who choose to take hold of it!
3. It is the record of God’s Wisdom and instruction to His people – and a guide as to the way we should live.
In a startling moment of revelation from the Father, which is another story, I understood that Yeshua was the Incarnation of that Word and had come to ‘tabernacle’ amongst us for the purpose of the Redemption of all the earth. Through further study of the Word, I came to understand more fully that Yeshua was indeed, as He claimed, the embodiment of “…the way, and the truth, and the life.” He came to demonstrate, illustrate and fill full of meaning the truth of God, for He was, as John describes, with God before the beginning and mysteriously and, in essence, beyond mortal uderstanding, He was one [of one mind and spirit] with God.
Consider for a moment, in connection with that which sustains life, that the Torah also is referred to as bread.
We all are familiar with the occasion of Yeshua’s temptation in the wilderness by Satan, when, after a forty day fast, Satan tempts him to show his supernatural power as Messiah and turn the stones into bread. Yeshua quotes Deuteronomy 8:3, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Luke 4:4).
As already mentioned: at Creation God spoke all things into being. This reality actually is illustrated in the first Hebrew word of Torah, B’reishit – meaning ‘In the beginning’… In fact, we can focus in on the very first letter of this first word – Bet.
Hebrew letter ‘Bet’
First, notice the shape of the letter: closed on three sides and open on one side. Jewish commentary records, among other interpretations, that this teaches us that we should not be overly concerned with what is above us, in the heavens, or below us, in the netherworld – nor look back unduly at what is in the past behind us, but our focus should always be forward – pressing on in hope and faith according to the direction of the Word of God.
Secondly… the sages of Israel, as well as placing great value on the Hebrew letters of the Torah, say that there are important things to be learnt from even the gaps between words and the spaces around letters. So, let us consider the space around the letter bet… and… what do we find? A large invisible letter Peh!
Hebrew letter ‘Peh’
The name of the letter, peh, is also the Hebrew word for mouth. So what we find is a large invisible mouth – which we can undertand to be the very mouth of God from which the Torah proceeds as His spoken word, and goes forth in all its creative power, carrying the breath of life and all wisdom and knowledge, from before the beginning of Creation until the present day… and will continue to go forward through all eternity. Baruch HaShem! Blessed be His Name.
Let us again consider that Word as the Bread of Life. We find a description of the bread of God in John chapter 6, v.33: Yeshua is saying, “For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven…” This is a reference to the manna that was miraculously provided to His people, the Israelites and which sustained them and gave them life during their long wilderness journey. Once they entered the Promised Land, to settle and live there, it stopped. However, the verse continues: “…and gives life to the world.” It appears it’s not only the Israelites but the whole world that God intends to receive life. In the next verse Yeshua makes the startling declaration: “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.” He came, annointed of God, to bring spiritual sustenance to “whosoever” in the nations would come to him.
In its Jewish context this verse immediately brings to mind the bread and wine that are central elements of Shabbat and the Festivals. The main celebratory forms of bread are the beautiful challot of Shabbat and the unleavened, pierced matzah of Pesach, Passover; which also is called Lechem Ani – the bread of our affliction – as it is a reminder of the slavery and bondage of Egypt.
How wonderfully Yeshua fills this bread with added meaning: without yeast – sinless, and yet pierced, striped and bruised, and broken for us that we might be set free from the bondage of sin and the fear of death.
And the challah…**
The fragrant, specially braided and delicious loaves that adorn our Shabbat tables – the Bread of our Fullness and Rest! Since the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, one’s table in the home is now the altar, as it were, of the Mikdash Me’at – the small Sanctuary of one’s home, and the challah bread on Shabbat is a reminder of the perfect Showbread in the Holy Place.
I recently learned an interesting detail in connection with the Showbread [ Lechem Panim – Bread of the Face or Presence – because it stood for a week in the Presence of God ].
We need to bear in mind that whenever Yeshua was in Jerusalem he would daily teach and meet with his disciples and worship God in the Temple. The inspiring structure of the Father’s Holy House was very present and real to them. And, undoubtedly, they were intimately familiar with all the rituals and their meanings.
Personally, I love the beautiful golden menorah in the Holy Place with its rich symbolism of the Word of God , likewise the adjacent Altar of Incense with its permeating fragrance. However, of the furniture of the Holy Place, the Table of Showbread is the first piece listed in both Exodus 35:3 and 40:22, which indicates its importance.
Two miracles are recorded regarding this special bread… firstly, it stayed fresh all week and each Shabbat, after they replaced the bread with new loaves, it was shared among the priests. The second miracle is that each priest only received a piece the size of a bean and yet it completely satisfied him. This struck me as a perfect illustration of how when we break bread together, as ‘priests in the kingdom of God,’ and share the Shabbat challah and the Passover matzah, we partake, symbolically, of Yeshua’s body as the Bread of Life that is saturated with the Presence of God – and how it fills and spiritually satisfies us.
To refer again to John 6:33: “For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world”, and verse 34, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.” Yeshua was identifying Himself with the ‘bread that came down from Heaven/from God’ …the bread of His Word, the bread of life. We may consider that if we truly desire to “know” – to grow in intimate knowledge of – the Beloved of our soul we need to study and become deeply intimate with the Word to which he gave substance and added meaning. When one does, one discovers that the longer one studies, it remains just as fresh and ever-expanding and inspiring as when one first started – and, I would say, becomes even more so.
Proverbs. 3:17-18 Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called happy.
How I love your Torah!
In Israel, and synagogues worldwide, once a year – on Simchat Torah – all the Torah scrolls are removed from the Ark and are lovingly passed from person to person as the congregation sing joyfully and dance seven times around the central bima. The scrolls are dressed in beautifully embroidered robes, and crowned with ornately designed gold or silver crowns – they truly represent the living Word who became flesh and for whom we all longingly wait…who will return as the King of kings and establish the Kingdom of God from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth.
To conclude, an open-ended question: If one understands that Yeshua is the Living Torah, the Word of God in the flesh, how does this affect one’s attitude and approach to the Torah?
~Keren Hannah Pryor
- *Cf. Mashiach ben Yosef
- ** Cf. Mashiach ben David.