This post is from my friend, Phil Ortega, member of the LDS church and a Sephardic (Spanish) Jew. This is from a new blog of his: http://understandingtorah.wordpress.com. Please go to the blog and study weekly with him.
“Those of you who are new to Torah study need to learn a few fundamental principles. The principles help in your study and interpretation of the written word. Proper Torah study will help you to understand the mitzvoth in the Torah and their proper application in our everyday lives. Let me help you get started in your studies by giving you a few pointers in learning Torah that will make a world of difference. Hopefully, this beginner lessons will prevent you from falling into the trap of misinterpreting word meanings, verses, and various texts.
In this study, I will use the original Hebrew text along with a literal English translation and a King James Version Translation. By doing so, you will better understand perceived structure and literal structure of the words. Whenever possible, I will attempt to include cross reference to the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and New Testament.
As we study, I will strive to show you how the Torah speaks to modern man. It is not an outdated book of fairy tales and historical accounts. It is eternal and is intended to speak Truth to us, as well as the generations that have gone before. The Torah is not a black book of “rules” that define good and evil. Rather, it is intended to serve as a blueprint for living as instructions for man to reach his highest potential.
I will assume that all of you reading these lessons agree upon the Divine Source of the Torah and understand that YHWH gave the Torah to Moshe and Yisrael at Mt. Sinai. Therefore, it being from heavenly Father, every jot and tittle must be taken seriously. The Sages teach us that every passage of the Torah has 70 facets, referring to the 70 members of the ancient Sanhedrin, whose purpose was to interpret the law. The Torah has many levels of intended meaning to the reader, if you let it.
I have heard many people state that the Old Covenant or Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) is so hard to read and understand but, YHWH has placed in the Torah everything that the student needs to read in order to understand the text! It is our job to dig deep within the text to find what the Abba Father is saying to you! While in life we tend to pick up a book and read expecting the writer to draw us into the story, Scripture requires us to PRAY and PONDER to HEAR the message heavenly Father has for us. I will say at this point, most of you will fall by the wayside with many excuses as to why it was too much. But let me challenge you to hold fast and I promise you will develop a better understanding and a greater love of the Scriptures as a whole.
The ancient rabbis set up four categories of interpretation of the Torah called PDRS or PaRDes which means – paradise. These four categories are 1. P’shat, the plain simple, literal meaning of the text; 2. Drash, the homiletic meaning (from the MiDrash); 3. Remez, the hidden or esoterically meaning; and 4. Sod, the hidden, mysterious meaning. This is a complete study on its own, so we will save it for another time however, I will refer to these categories from time to time so you need to know what I am talking about.
In this study, we will be looking for the practical application – we must look to see HOW they applied in ancient Israel, and how they understood the text. We will the look to see How the Jewish people apply this command today and how it applies to us! The Jewish people preserved the Torah for us for thousands of years! We read it in the Brit Chadasha,
“What then is the advantage of the Yehudite, or what is the value of circumcision? MUCH in every way! Because firstly indeed that THEY were entrusted with the WORDS of ELOHIM” – Romans 3:1-2
Remember the Torah Scroll was not written with any chapters and verses. Sentences are not marked off in the original. These are Medieval “Christian” additions to the Scriptures and sometimes tend to muddy the waters more than they help! Sometimes they break up whole thoughts by the chapter divisions. In the Hebrew Scroll there are not any forms of punctuation or vowel pointings either. These were all added later by the Oral Masoretic tradition. So, we cannot always trust the vowel pointing to know the correct Hebrew word or pronunciation of the word. Many texts were changed by the Masoretic to hide the verses and words pointing to Yeshua as the Mashiach. One vowel point can change the meaning of a whole verse!
One other point that must be made is the word Torah does not mean Law! It means instruction or teaching. The word LAW has negative connotations to the Western and Greek mind-set. Greek only has one word for the Torah-nomos or law. Hebraic thought understands that Torah is instruction given by a loving Elohiem to His children, Yisrael, as a life-style to protect them and bring His blessing into their lives. It is the accepted life-style of the redeemed people of Yisrael.
I welcome comment throughout this study and hope that you will do so. Comment either here on this blog or on the Facebook page B’Nai Shalom, Mormon and Jew.”