Through the years of my walk as a Netzari Jew, it has been one heck of a learning experience. I have noticed that many, just starting in their walk are experiencing the same frustrations, confusions and changes I was in my walk. I was not privileged to have a mentor, someone to show me the way and steps towards conversion thus I carried over some bad theologies and picked up some along the way. I found myself constantly floundering around like a fish on various interpretations in terms of doctrine. As I progressed I attributed it to, the old saying “2 Rabbis, 3 Opinions”. Yet I found myself still pulling many weeds. There were numerous times I would take time off of radio and ministry work to re-evaluate and re-read the Scripture. In the past 3 years I have read the entire Scripture + Enoch, Sefer haYashar (aka Jasher), and The Apocrypha twice during these times of re-evaluation. Each time with a different emphasis, the first time to basically know what I was talking about before I spoke, and the second time for translational reasons to try and connect some dots in terms of how to keep certain commandments and for context reasons. I would find myself studying points of interest and trying to get too deep too fast, basically I was playing spiritual Twister and not following any sort of order in which is needed for a smooth transition into the Netzari Faith. I have since out together a plan for new converts so they they do not make the same mistakes I did and become a liability to the body as I once was in terms of spreading bad theology and becoming a stumbling block for the body as a whole. I pray this edifies and helps you if you are new in your walk.
Step 1: The Noahide Laws
Because one has chosen to follow the Biblical path does that mean it is time for them to enter into the synagogue/study/assembly? Absolutely not we see in the books of Exodus and Leviticus that the stranger was not allowed to take part in the Passover. Why is this? Notice at the entrance of the tabernacle there was a basin of water, which was to signify the purification of the priest and of those attending. There are several covenants that are carried out and taught within YHWH’s house and just the entering in of YHWH’s house cannot be taken lightly because there are several covenants that one’s heart must understand so we can come to YHWH pure of heart.
Some may ask when a person is ready to enter into a congregation? As Paul mentions in Acts 15 they must first observe the Noahide laws, which are found in Sanhedrin 56a in the Bavli Talmud which states:
“Our Rabbi’s taught 7 precepts were the sons of Noah commanded social (mishpatim) laws, to refrain from blasphemy, idolatry, adultery, bloodshed, robbery and eating the flesh cut from a living animal (eating blood)”
“You should stay away from that which is sacrificed to idols, and the blood from a strangled thing, and from fornication (with women and other gods)……”
Given that Paul was indeed a Pharisee, he knew the concepts of which he was teaching that was engrained in Rabbinic Judaism. This dealt with purity and not defiling the temple which is what was done during the times of the Maccabees, Jeremiah, and Esther. This is why this wall was instituted so that bad theology and division does not make it’s way into the temple nor that of deviating spirits making their way into the temple that a person does not know they have. The Noahide laws are one of the first steps before, Shabbat, before the Feasts, before all the other mitzviot because it is a time of purification of one’s self so that they may come before YHWH pure.
Many invite people who want to learn more about Netzari Judaism to a study and this is a bad, bad, bad idea because of the things listed in the Scripture that says they must do this first. Our Gregorian minds always said, “well invite them to church” and this seems to have carried over into the Netzari faith as well. This is not only to safeguard the assembly but also the individual as well who is a probable attendee. They must show they are dedicated and trusted with the little things before they can be entrusted with safeguarding the Torah and the 613 mitziot. Otherwise it will be too overwhelming for them and a spirit of confusion will come over them. One must start on milk and grow until they start eating meat. It is a purification process and it is baby steps.
Many teachers will bypass this step and what ends up happening is they gravitate towards anyone or anything labeled “Hebrew Roots” and they will become frustrated and confused and not knowing what to believe because of the armchair experts out there. These armchair experts are the ones who have caused many to leave the Netzari faith and either go the way of orthodox Judaism or back to Christianity.
There is no minimum or maximum amount of time one must observe the 7 Noahide laws before they are then ready to learn the rest of the Torah. One litmus test I tend to use is observing how many times when asking to study they start their sentences with the word “I” and later how often they use the word “I” and the focus then shifts to “haShem” or “God” or “YHWH”. A person must want to do the Torah for the sake of their love for YHWH, and not for head knowledge and head faith. That is one of the toughest things for many cause often times we want to go into the synagogue to bring others in and witness to others and we do not want to focus on our own growth and learning to know the Father more and feel him move within us. If we want to come to the assembly to learn how to witness, then we are not going there for the right reasons. This is what the Noahide laws are to teach us, to show us, that we need more of YHWH that we desire more of Him and that we want to be changed. Not on changing someone else but because we want all of Him. And purging out the things that cause us not to be able to do that, is the correct start.
Step 2: Choose you This Day A Rabbi
Everyone needs a mentor, someone who is there for you at any time to ask a question or for guidance. Now does one just choose any person who bears the title? Of course not and there are a few things to look for in terms of a Rabbi. Now this is vitally important to understand, when you choose for yourself a Rabbi you are choosing a person with whom you are to represent, your actions are a reflection upon that of your Rabbi and visa versa..
- He must be a believer in Yeshua
- He must have been walking in Torah and Messiah for at least 20 years
- He must be a person whom people say takes correction often and graciously
- He must above all else love and care for the people and not treat the Torah like a textbook
- He must not place an overbearing focus on prophecy, and bring a sense of paranoia over his congregation.
- He must be well versed in not only the Scripture but the ancient Jewish texts
- He mustn’t have an emphasis on blood line theology
- He must often talk about YHWH’s love for people as a whole and not just his congregation or himself.
- He mustn’t be egotistical he must be humble before YHWH and humble before you
- Believers and unbelievers alike must speak highly of this individual and the reason unbelievers speak highly of him is because of how he exemplifies the love of YHWH
- He mustn’t be one who brags about accomplishments or titles he has earned or his extensive knowledge of the ancient languages, his focus is instead edification.
- Every word he speaks must be a word of encouragement and that of life as opposed to condemnation.
- He must have patience.
- And he mustn’t teach that a person born Jewish is different from those who are not.
The reason for these listed criteria is because in the internet age there are many who bear the title Rabbi, and are often individuals whom have given themselves that title without earning it and those who wish not to use the title or see anything negative within the title “Rabbi” should also be kept away from cause they do not understand the tenants of Judaism, chances are they will hold onto the label “Messianic” so that they may find favor in the Gregorian World Wide Church of God and take the verse, “Call no man Rabbi” out of context. That verse is often cited by individuals who dismiss the title because they, do not understand the tenants of what it means to be a Rabbi and the honor that comes with it. When the Pharisees came before Yeshua and called him Rabbi, and he said, “Call no man Rabbi” was he saying that it is wrong to have the title? No, what he was saying is that they did not honor him as a Rabbi (a teacher) and thus should not have used a title of exaltation if they did not intend to exalt and honor the one they were calling “teacher”. Thus bringing the title to naught. If you call someone Rabbi, you better make sure to honor them in your words, and your actions and do not bring dishonor to the one you call Rabbi. Aside from choosing a wife or husband this is the most important decision you will make after you chose to convert to Netzari Judaism. It is not to be taken lightly and do not expect the Rabbi you chose to take it lightly as well. And remember every Rabbi even has his own Rabbi who keeps him in check as well, so you are getting generations of wisdom when you chose your Rabbi which will help you along your walk as well cause the same wisdom will be passed on down to you as well, generations upon generations of the wisdom of many successes and many failures which builds when it reaches you so choose wisely.
Step 3: One Year/Three Year Torah Cycle
Now you are at the point to where you are ready to learn the 613 mitzviot, yet it can still be overwhelming to learn 613 commandments in the duration of one year and understand them adequately enough to be able to apply them. There is an average of 13.7 commandments taught every week in the 1 year Torah Portion cycle and it is still overwhelming going from a duration of time learning and applying 7 commandments over a long period of time an then learning 13-14 commandments every single week. It is a heck of a jump. And this is why I am an advocate of the 3 year Torah cycle that allows the Torah student to learn at a slower pace. The only issue with this is chances are your Rabbi goes by the 1 year Torah cycle, where a person would learn the entire Torah within 1 year as opposed to 3 years. There is a solution however.
I would suggest applying both Torah cycles in the first 3 years of learning but making your emphasis your personal study on the 3 year cycle and keeping a journal of what you have learned each week in the 3 year Torah cycle and writing in that journal every week. Do not only document what you have learned from the Torah reading that week, but also each week reflect on how you applied the commandments that you studied the previous week in the portion. Then when you go to the synagogue and hear your Rabbi teach you can as well get some extra information that you will dig deeper into a few week’s later on your 3 year cycle and it will give you time to contemplate on those commandments and give you a bit of a base before you write about them in your journal.
After completing the three year cycle, you can then fully jump into the 1 year cycle, cause you will have already completed the entire Torah at a slow, yet consecrated pace 4 times in 3 years. I would also suggest to start the cycle after Sukkot when the Torah cycle starts back over on the 1 year cycle, if you are unsure of when that is, do not be embarrassed and ask your Rabbi or someone who knows (but preferably your Rabbi). That would be the perfect time to move from just the Noahide laws into learning the entire Torah. And it is a perfect place to start cause the scene gets laid out and the mitzviot start coming slowly and not as quickly as they do when we go from Genesis to Exodus. Starting at the Portion Bereshit is the perfect place for someone to get their feet wet before they dive in. It also makes the transition easy as well cause you do not get a sense of starting right in the middle of the cycle and not being able to piece together what all is happening with Moses and the Children of Israel. It is always best to start at Bereshit (The Beginning).
I also suggest different points of emphasis within the first 3 years of study to help with the growth process within our walk (as shown below)
- Year 1: Learn what the mitzviot are in the 1 year and 3 year cycles and try to apply them to the best of your ability, allow yourself some wiggle room for things that are outside of your understanding. If you are still celebrating Christmas and Easter during this time do not stress out if you have children. But let them know next year chances are these things will not be celebrated. So allow yourself to ease in, cause things are tough in terms of children and help them make the transition.
- Year 2: Apply atleast ¾ of the mitzviot as best as you can you should have grown a great deal at this point, and start to ask, “Why do we keep this mitzviot, what does it mean spiritually? And how does it affect us physically as well?”
- Year 3: At this point you should know the mitzviot and have a greater understanding as to why certain commandments are in place in the 613 and you will see not all 613 apply to you personally, that some are based upon your sex, and occupation etc. This is where I would place the emphasis on marriage covenant with the Creator and being able to fully look at the commandments as such you will see you will have a better life at home with your spouse and you will also understand these things more fully and I would place the emphasis on the spirit of the Torah at this point cause it is no longer school anymore it is putting into place your own halakah and making the decisions on how you will keep the mitzviot.
Thought I do not advocate Rabbinical studies during these first 5 years, I do believe the Pirkei Avos offers amazing insight for the beginner. I would suggest picking up 2 commentaries on the Pirkei Avos in the first year to help with applying the mitzviot. I would suggest both Rabbi Yehudah ben Shomyer’s commentary on the Pirkei Avos as well as Rabbi Tuvia Basser’s commentary on it. Both commentaries are highly practical for the beginner student into understanding basic tenants of the mitzviot and how to fulfill them. The reason I suggest the two commentaries is because Tuvia Basser beautifully assembles the Chassidic view which is very similar to the Netzari view and I find Basser’s commentary to be scholarly yet easily understandable for a beginner in Torah to have the proper outlook on the Torah lifestyle. I also suggest Rabbi Yehudah ben Shomeyr’s commentary because it is important to see these things as well in the New Testament to help understand that yes, the New Testament is indeed a Jewish document as well as the Old Testament. With many teachers today they fail to properly show that and the reasons are contributed to the fact that even they do not see it. In order to take the next step this is an important concept to understand and be confident in. Many leaders say they are but I am sad to say they are not.
Step 4: Talmud and Zohar
Those whom condemn such texts have a lack of understanding and this is why it is important to have a Rabbi who is knowledgeable on these texts yet does not flaunt them around as required reading or study. It is ok and actually helpful in taking the next step if they say in their teachings at times, “The Mishna says………..” and use that as a reference point for deep emphasis on something. But Talmud and Zohar is NOT something that should be something someone jumps into immediately. The Sages say that a person must wait between 10-20 years before even glancing at the texts. I would not suggest saying to be liberal with these figures. It is important to have a deep understanding of the Scripture before referencing these texts or teaching on them. But a good Rabbi will prepare his congregation for when they are ready. When they are able to adequately understand Paul in every single verse, then I believe a person is on their way to be able to properly understand the writings of the Rabbis, cause Paul was one of these guys.
I will not say how long a person must study until they are ready to look at the rabbinical texts, I would trust the opinion of your Rabbi and consult with him. If he however says within the first few years, I would have to respectfully disagree but each person is different. Some might be ready in the 5th year and some may not be ready until the 20th year to jump into Talmud. However, the Zohar is a different animal entirely. I would not suggest Zohar study until at least 20 years in the faith. Some may find 20 years to be rather excessive, but it is important to realize the eccentricities of this text known as the Zohar. It is easily taken out of context by many of those whom are unlearned and has even been used in different variations in paganism and is used as a base text cause it is so easy to manipulate and get it wrong and be very dangerous. It is like putting a 5 year old behind the wheel of a race car. Watching race cars race can be very fun but if a 5 year old is behind the wheel then you know disaster is eminent. Thus is the Zohar, it is like having a high school student brain surgery, though he may really want to be a brain surgeon he has not been possibly trained yet. The Zohar deals a great deal with each Hebrew letter in each Torah Portion and treats it as a “Miltha” (Aramaic word for “word” or “manifestation”) and the fact is in Proverbs it shows us the two are one in the same that there are physical attributes to words and letters that make up those words. The Zohar is very intense, hard to follow even for the seasoned veteran in Torah and Messiah, thus again makes it easy to manipulate.
Just know I am not saying these texts are in anyway evil or bad, but it is irresponsible to give a 10 year old the keys to a Ferrari. The unlearned damn these texts however, because they are unlearned. Stay away from those who want you to jump into them right away, and stay away from those whom are unlearned who pretend to be teachers who say they are evil and quote them out of context. Such teachers are the same ones who would quote Galatians 2:19-21 and say that the Torah has been done away with. This is why it is important to be responsible in our walk and objective as well as open to correction and criticism.
I would also suggest that an unmarried woman NEVER pick up the Talmud or Zohar. A woman is more susceptible to contextual problems without her covering with her. Many of these mitzviots discussed amongst the Rabbis deal with setting a halakah that is to be practiced within a person’s life. If a woman is ever to be married at some point in her life, then issues will arise with differing halakah and it should be for the man and wife to determine their halakah amongst each other. It is the job of the man to establish the halakah and the job of the wife to fulfill it. It is a team effort.