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If You Break One, You Break All!

by Julia Glattfelt

Do you recognize the verse that everyone throws in your face since you became Torah-observant?  The one that follows: “nobody can keep the Torah!”  You know the one!  “If anyone breaks the law in one point they’ve broken the whole thing!”

That’s a paraphrase of James 2:10.  Let’s examine how this statement in James comes directly from the Hebraic understanding of Torah!  And how rejection of one (or more) points of Torah is a rejection of all of it!  Indeed, it is a rejection of YHVH himself!

For the purposes of this article, let’s stipulate that the whole of Torah is encapsulated or summarized in the Ten Commandments.

This article will explore the following questions:

1:  Is rejection of any One of the Ten Commandments a rejection of All Ten?

2:  Can a person be law-abiding (legal) in all points of the law if they do not believe in YHVH?

3.  Is rejection of Torah a rejection of YHVH?

LET’S LOOK AT QUESTION #1

Since I am learning how to study my Bible from a Hebraic perspective, it seems reasonable to look at the historical writings about the Torah.  Is James 2:10 a natural comment based on a traditional Hebraic idea?

I am reading “Everyman’s Talmud” by Abraham Cohen.  So far, what I have read has been a tremendous boost to my understanding and perception of the Torah in a Hebraic sense.

On page 4 there is a philosophical discussion that is interesting!

A Rabbi was questioned by a philosopher.  The philosopher asks, “Who is the most hateful person in the world?”

The Rabbi answered, “The person who denies the Creator.”

The Philosopher, “How is that?”

The Rabbi, “Honor thy father and thy mother; thou shalt not murder; thou shalt not commit adultery; thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor; thou shalt not covet – behold, a person does not repudiate any of these laws until he repudiates the root of them (viz. God Who ordained them); and nobody proceeds to commit a transgression without first having denied Him Who prohibited it.”

As you can see, the response from the Rabbi is a re-cap of the last six commandments given at Mt. Sinai.   The kicker is that he says anyone who transgresses any of these is denying YHVH!

How can that be?

What is the first commandment?  It says, “I am YHVH your Elohim, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the abode of slavery.”  So, if anyone denies YHVH (or the Exodus, for that matter), they have already broken the first commandment!

It is very clear that the entire Ten Commandments are meant to be taken as a whole, and not piece-meal.

Let that sink in a bit.

According to the Rabbi, It is a reciprocal arrangement.  Breaking the law denies the Creator!  Upholding the Law is the natural response to belief in His existence!

Why do I say that?

The book goes on to say, “According to Talmudic teaching, therefore, the existence of God was more than an intellectual affirmation; it included moral obligation.” (pg 4)

In other words, Belief in YHVH Requires Obedience!

UPSIDE DOWN PERCEPTIONS

These quotations turn at least two perceptions on their heads!    We can think:

I only have to believe to be favored by YHVH;

OR:

I only have to obey the Torah to be favored by YHVH.

Both of these perceptions are missing the point!  Both place what we Do (believe or obey) as the deciding factor.  They take YHVH out of the equation as if we can save ourselves!

I always thought the injunction to walk in spirit and in truth was a New Testament concept!  But, upon examination of the above quotes from “Everyman’s Talmud,” it is clear that the Rabbis who wrote the Talmud understood that spirit and truth were always hand in hand!

The Rabbi above says that a denial of the existence of YHVH is motivation for breaking the Torah.  And then says that if you accept the existence of YHVH there are obligations attached to that belief!  It’s not one or the other!  It is BOTH.

Simply put, the Rabbi was saying that ALL of the Law given at Mt. Sinai is valid.  He is stating that you must include the first four commandments (that acknowledge the existence of YHVH) along with the remaining six!

If, for example, you deny the existence of YHVH (i.e. the 1st Commandment) but agree with the laws enumerated above, you have broken the whole law.  The same as if you claim belief in YHVH and disregard His commandments!  That also breaks the whole law.

ISN’T THAT LEGALISTIC?

If the book I am reading is any indication, I am not surprised that there are so many Jewish lawyers!  Each section is taking a hard look at the minute points of the Torah.  It might even be called legalistic!  But, is that necessarily a bad thing?  What is a true definition of Legalism?

WHAT ABOUT BEING LEGAL WITHOUT BELIEF (Question #2)?

Is it possible to follow the ‘Torah’ without accepting the Creator?  If you grew up in a Torah-observant family and community, would you necessarily understand who gave the Torah to us?

Most societies base their laws on the basics of commandments six through ten.  They can be practical and beneficial, but they don’t necessarily hinge on an understanding or acceptance of the One who designed them.

There are practical reasons for following these laws.  We follow in order to avoid: fines, punishment, imprisonment, or even death.  We follow out of self-interest, so we can get along in society.  We can follow the Law without recognizing the Creator who originated them.

However, if we divorce the Law from the One who gave it to us, that is the characteristic of a man who is a law unto himself, isn’t it?  This would certainly be the true definition of ‘legalism!’

Legalism from a temporal point of view is following the law absent the spirit that gave it to us!  We can be ‘legal’ in a purely human capacity: “It only affects Me or My Fellow Man.”  Without YHVH as a factor in our obedience, we are only serving ourselves or our fellow men.

TORAH IS FOR HIS KINGDOM

Have we lost sight of the bigger picture?  If we are completely ego-centric about the Torah why follow it at all?

He gave us the Torah so that we could develop a relationship with Him.  When we leave Him out of the equation, there is no spirit that animates our behavior other than our own.  That makes it easy to add to or subtract from the Torah.  We are only accountable to ourselves.

Only when we consider that our actions are an affirmation of who He is and what we believe in and hope for, do we really get in touch with the Spirit of the Law.

WHAT IS THE SPIRIT OF THE LAW?

He asked us to follow him in Spirit and in Truth.  We accept that the Torah is truth!

Psa 119:160 The sum of your word is truth, and each righteous ordinance of yours is everlasting.

How did we receive the Torah?

At Mt. Sinai the assembly below the mountain heard the words delivered like a mighty wind!  It was so loud they were frightened!  It was delivered by the same Spirit that hovered over the waters at creation!

Gen_1:2  When the earth was as yet unformed and desolate, with the surface of the ocean depths shrouded in darkness, and while the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters,

So, in a real sense, the Torah was animated by His Spirit!  He created the Earth and He created the Torah!

That’s the real spirit of the Law!  It identifies Who Authored it!

So, when I follow the Law in Spirit and in Truth, I am proclaiming that He is the One who authorized it!

It naturally follows then that if I believe in Him, He is so real and present in my heart, mind and soul that I know WHAT I DO or WHAT I FAIL TO DO affects Him!  Otherwise I am just going through the motions and following a religion or tradition.

Maybe that’s what it means to put Him first!  “In all your ways acknowledge Him…”

YHVH animates, authorizes and notices how I behave.  If I behave in a manner that exemplifies Him, then I am proclaiming Him in my thoughts, word and deed!  That includes accepting that He is the Creator!

NOW WOULD BE A GOOD TIME TO READ JAMES CHAPTER 2.

That is the heart of it all!  Following the Letter of the Law, with no hope of the promises made to us by YHVH, would certainly be ‘legalism.’  It would be works without faith.  It would be dead.

James spoke about Abraham, the first Hebrew.

Jas_2:22 You see that his faith worked together with what he did, and by his actions his faith was made complete.

I would make this paraphrase:

Don’t you see?  He believed YHVH and trusted Him.  Because of that, he obeyed, and he was whole in the eyes of YHVH.  He walked in Spirit and in Truth!  He acknowledged YHVH as the author (Spirit), and obeyed His Torah (Truth).

LEGALISM: FOLLOWING THE LETTER WITHOUT THE SPIRIT THAT GAVE IT

Are you beginning to see the duality of the Torah?

If the commandments are given to us in order of importance (and I think they are) then we should pay special attention to One through Five!

Almost all civilized people agree that Six through Ten are good laws to have and follow, but the identity of the author is unnecessary!

Haven’t we forgotten to include the most important ones?

The Law cannot save us, but the one who gave us the Law certainly can.  He wanted us to write His Words on our Heart!  More than the Letter, the spirit and Author of the Law has to be embraced!  That has never changed!

CAN’T A PERSON BE LAW-ABIDING WITHOUT YHVH?

A person can be moral without acknowledging a Creator.  Belief in the Creator is not a pre-requisite for adopting civil laws.  Some of them even line up with those given to us by YHVH.

So what is the reward for following a law?  What animates our desire to be obedient to a law?

In a secular sense, obeying the law keeps us out of jail, and promotes good order within our community.  Obeying the law is its own reward, I suppose.

If we believe in YHVH, and that His Instructions are the key to our acceptance by Him, then we are animated by that belief – a spirit of faith!  The expectation of that which we cannot see!

When we attach the law to the One who gave it to us, we keep it because we have an expectation of reward from Him.   Our desire to follow the Torah is animated by love and desire to please our Father!

We are tying our obedience to the promises He gave of eternal life in His Kingdom. He’s our Father, and He gave us the Torah for our benefit!  Our failures hurt Him when we disappoint Him.

Put another way, we desire a ‘heart’ attitude instead of a ‘secular’ one.

Following the law for the sake of following the law is like offering a sacrifice out of duty or tradition.  Following the law because it is the ‘right’ thing to do may have tangible results, but it takes YHVH out of the activity.  Again, it falls short of the ‘spirit and truth’ instruction.

He always wants our hearts first, then our obedience.  Repent first – then sacrifice.  Obedience is the result of faith in Him.  Believing that what He promised (both blessings and cursings) are guaranteed.  That’s Faith!

WHAT ABOUT QUESTION #3?

If we reject the Torah is that the same as rejecting YHVH?

So far, this article has answered the first two questions posed.  Let’s go over them.

1:   Is rejection of any One of the Ten Commandments a rejection of All Ten?

Yes.  The Rabbis and James 2:10 agree that failure in one point is failure of the whole law.

2:  Can a person be law-abiding (legal) in all points of the law if they do not believe in YHVH?

Yes.  That is Works without Faith

The answers to these questions lead us to understand how to answer #3.  It is a logical progression.

IF Failure in any one commandment breaks the Torah, and if rejecting the author of the Law breaks the Torah, then the converse is also true.  Rejecting the Torah is a rejection of YHVH.

Perhaps that will help to explain what Chris described in her article on Hebrew Idioms.  When Yeshua said he came not to destroy but to fulfill, and that not one jot or tittle of the Law would be lost, it was just another way to say, ‘if you break one, you break all.’

 

 

 

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