Permission to Dance for the Joy of Torah!

By Joseph H. Benami
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Posted in Zealous Magazine on September 23, 2018

There is something godly about Jewish dance. It is pure and unadulterated joy! I once had a rabbi who loved Jewish dance so much that he made everyone in the congregation dance… even us men! I am thankful he did this though, because I discovered dancing for the Lord can be a powerful spiritual warfare tool. The ultimate Jewish dance, however, takes place on Simchat Torah, when everyone gets a chance to dance with the Torah. Oy! Pure and unadulterated joy!

Simchat Torah, or in English the “Joy of Torah,” is a nonbiblical Jewish feast added by tradition to the end of the Fall Festivals season. It celebrates the end and the beginning of the yearly Torah reading cycle, when we roll the scroll back from the end of Devarim (Deuteronomy) to the beginning of Bereshit (Genesis). Congregants take turns carrying the Torah scroll, parading it seven times around the congregation. Traditional songs are sung, and a supernatural joy is in the air.

But when the dust settles, an ugly contradiction rears its head. How can the words “joy” and “Torah” even be spoken in the same sentence? The Torah is often thought of as legalistic, bondage-producing, and replaced. How then can it be joyful? Dancing ecstatically for love of Torah becomes a gross incongruence. It is a joy-killing tension that paralyzes even the most robust minds. Oy! We went from “I ‘heart’ Torah” and “LOL! Dancing with the Scrolls,” to “Sad Face” and “Confused Face.” Don’t despair, though, social media is coming to the rescue… sort of.

Truth be told, the negative view of Torah is the result of “fake news.” That’s right—a systematic campaign of misinformation. You see, just as partial hardening has happened to the Jewish people, making it difficult for them to see the loving nature of Yeshua the Messiah (Rom. 11:25), so, too, an ancient misinformation campaign regarding the Torah has prevented the Church from seeing its loving nature. I have found a wonderful “product” that helps with that called “clarity.” The active ingredient of clarity is “proper differentiation,” and it works by “preserving the distinctions between closely associated things.” Allow me to explain.

The Torah is associated with legalism, bondage, and replacement theology, but are those associations fair or justified? Take, for instance, legalism. From church pulpits, the Torah is reported—partially with disdain—as having 613 commands. Although numerically correct, this is associated with the many “traditions of men” Yeshua cornered the Pharisees as having. The fact that some Pharisees used the Torah in legalistic ways does not mean the Torah is legalistic. If you have ever been to a Passover Seder, you have partaken of Pharisaic tradition, as many of the elements and the arrangement itself is of ancient, Jewish tradition. But that surely did not make you a legalist. The reports that the Torah is legalistic is “fake news” and not true. By nature, the Torah is “holy, righteous, and good” (Rom. 7:12).

The Torah is also associated with bondage. Paul fought the heresy of “false brethren” who “disturbed” Gentile believers with “another gospel” (Gal. 1-2), by saying that Gentiles who believed also needed to keep Torah in order to be saved. The problem was never the Torah, but rather the false brethren’s motivation to please men and not God (Gal. 1:10). But somehow, the fake news spread that the problem was the Torah (and you and I know how frustrating fighting fake news can be)!

Anti-Semitism is no doubt the deadliest of all fake news. Its central lie is, “Jews killed Christ!” But did you know that anti-Semitism began as anti-Judaism in the ancient world? And did you know that anti-Judaism took root in the early Church because of anti-Torah rhetoric? The teaching that Israel has been replaced goes hand in hand with the teaching that the Torah has been replaced. As the Church discovers the falsehoods of replacement theology concerning Israel, discovering the falsehoods about the replacement of the Torah closely follows. That is a great reason for rejoicing — rejoicing in the Torah.

This article has been something of a rollercoaster. We started dancing for joy, loving the Torah, and then all of that came crashing down as we “remembered” what we’ve been told about the Torah. Confused, we were resilient and sought some clarity. We looked at how the Torah has been associated with some dark things, but an up-close look revealed these associations to be fake. What a relief! Now we feel like “permission” has again been granted for us to pick up the Torah, start the music, and resume our dance!

Really, you owe it to yourself this Fall, as Jews celebrate the Joy of Torah, to find a Messianic synagogue (or a traditional one if a Messianic one is not near where you live) and support the Jewish people by fighting off fake news about the Torah. Take your turn in holding the scroll and dancing. Dance for Simchat Torah, the Joy of the Torah!

 

JOEY BENAMI discovered his family’s Spanish Jewish roots 20 years ago and began the process of returning to the Jewish people through the Jewishness of Yeshua. He is married to Michelle, has six children, and leads Sukkat Shalom, a growing Messianic congregation in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Learn more at www.sukkatshalom.us.


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    Fall 2018