An Introduction to Torah: Preview

HomeAn Introduction to Torah

A Brief Introduction to GOD’s Life Instructions for HIS Children

 Michael G. Wodlinger

 Illustrated by Glenn Sikorski


An Introduction to Torah

Table of Contents

     Heading                             Content                                  Page

       Preface                                                                                                              4

       Introduction                                    Overview of Volume 1                     9

       How is Genesis Structured                                                                       11

       Parashah 1: B’resheit                                                                                 16

               Creation                                                                                                                       17

               The Fall of Humankind                                                                                           18

                Cain & Abel                                                                                                                20

                The Flood – Punishment                                                                                        22

       Parashah 2: Noach                                                                                     24

                The Flood – Redemption                                                                                       25

                The Tower of Babel                                                                                                28

      Parashah 3: Lech L’kha                                                                             31

               The Story of Avram                                                                                                 32

               The Abrahamic Covenant                                                                                     36

               The Rescue of Lot                                                                                                    38

               The Birth of Ishmael                                                                                              39

      Parashah 4: Vyera                                                                                      41

               The Birth of Isaac                                                                                                    42

               The Binding of Isaac                                                                                               43

     Parashah 5: Hayyei Sarah                                                                        46 

             The Wells of Philistia                                                                                              48

               Avraham’s Ethics                                                                                                   49

               A Wife for Isaac                                                                                                     50

     Parashah 6: Tol’dot                                                                                   53

               The Birth of Esau and Ya’akov                                                                          54

               Ya’akov’s Lesson of Betrayal                                                                             57

                Ya’akov Confronts Esau                                                                                    64

                Dinah’s Shame – Ya’akov’s Shame                                                                 66

                Yosef and Egypt                                                                                                   71

                Yosef Meets His Brothers’ Wrath                                                                  72

               Tamar – The Great-Grandmother of Adonai Yeshua                               74

               Yosef in Prison                                                                                                    76

              Yosef Interprets Pharaoh’s Dream                                                                79

              Ya’akov’s Family comes to Egypt                                                                  84

              Yosef Reveals Himself to His Brothers                                                       88

              Ya’akov Blesses His Sons                                                                                92

              Yosef and His Brothers are Reconciled                                                     98

Maps of Genesis                                                                                       100

             Nations in the Middle East in Genesis                                                     101

             The Garden of Eden                                                                                      102

             Possible Site of Noah’s Ark                                                                         103

             Location of the Tower of Babel                                                                 104

             Abram’s Journey from Ur                                                                           105

            Sodom and Gomorrah                                                                                  106

            Abram Rescues Lot                                                                                       107

           Abraham Sacrifices Isaac                                                                           108

           Eliezer’s Journey                                                                                           109

           Ya’akov’s Journeys                                                                                       110

           Yosef’s Journey to Egypt                                                                            111

           Ya’akov’s Journey to Goshen                                                                   112

                   

 

                                   

 

 


Preface

 

Welcome to Torah for Beginners.  If you have opened the pages of this manuscript to receive an in-depth description of Torah[1], akin to the Talmud[2], with its myriad of discussions, arguments and contradictions, then you have opened the wrong book.  This book is exactly as the title implies – Torah for Beginners.  It has been designed for someone who has never before read the first five books of Moses, known as The Torah.  Rather, if they have read the Bible at all, they often perceive these five books as belonging to the Old Testament and, therefore, irrelevant, out-moded and of little current use.  The following comments are fairly typical of most Christians and their views of Torah and its contents: “We are to keep the 10 Commandments. However, keeping the Sabbath (as God established it from Friday evening to Saturday evening) is also in the 10 Commandments yet isn’t kept”. “Christianity claims that this was “changed” by God”; “Bible believers’ often view perceive “the age of the church has rendered the law inoperative”;  “New Covenant Theology claims that all Old Covenant laws have been fulfilled by Christ, nailed to the Cross and are thus cancelled or abrogated”, and so on.

Then why this book?  Well, I might ask you why you are reading it now?  Are you curious?  Have you been challenged by a family member or friend to find something out about Torah?  Is this a religious class assignment?  Whatever the reason for your opening the pages of this book, I guarantee you will not find long, drawn-out discussions of theology, which might fry your brain cells.  On the contrary, this book attempts to explain the Torah, the five books of Moses, in a simple yet clearly accurate way, so that when you do read Torah, it will have deeper meaning for you.  Or, at least, that is its intent.

Like every good book, assuming Torah is a very good book, which, being authored by God is a certainty, Torah has a preface and an introduction. Unlike other books, good or not, the preface and the introduction are actually part of the body of Torah and are essential to its understanding.  So, let’s begin there.

When books first began to be published, authors needed to attract their readers by providing a reason for their reading what was written.  Many saw the preface as an explanation of the book’s contents, a defence, if you will, for the book having been written, while others viewed the preface as an apology.  No, not the ‘I’m sorry’ form of apology but the literary form, in which the author provides a personal explanation for her/his having taken paper to pen to your eye and, hopefully, heart.  Since God is God, the preface of Torah is to be found in the first three chapters of Genesis, the first ‘Book’ of Torah.  It is here the Creator of the universe describes how He created, well, the universe and, especially, the earth.  As is the style in Torah, God’s preface is the story of creation of the world and the love and care He took in its creation.  This also tells us a good deal about God, His power, His vastness and His desires.  Reading the preface of Torah is a little like reading a short love story about the Potter and His Creation.  But, then, the introduction to Torah, provides us with a reason for reading further into the five Books.  As you read further into this brief exploration of Torah, written just for you, you may see how we human beings have a habit of often spoiling the blessings given to us.  Now the tension begins to build, as we learn why Torah was written.  So, I urge you to sit back in a comfortable chair or sofa, have a cup of tea, coffee or water close by your side and open the first book of God’s Story of His desire for a relationship with you and with me.  Before we proceed, let me introduce you to Rebbe.  Rebbe will point the way to a particularly interesting fact or a significant learning which comes through the pages of God’s Torah. Enjoy your reading of God’s Life Instructions, God’s Torah.

 Rebbe 4 hands fanning
Hi, folks.  I am Rebbe.  I will point you to interesting, points to ponder and significant learnings.

 

           


B’resheitThe Book of Genesis

Introduction

Every good story must have a good opening.  Have you ever thought of the door that bars or invites you into a room?  You can tell a good deal about a room or a house by its door.  Some doors are dull and drab, sometimes giving a false impression of the vibrant space just beyond its threshold.  Other doors are flamboyant and bright, shouting out life and energy; these doors prepare you for how you will receive the space just beyond it.  And so it is with the Book of Genesis – this is the door to the Scriptures, the door to the stories that tell of the history of the Jewish people and as those who are not Jewish, also known as Gentile or goyim, nations, and who are coming to an understanding of their relationship to our most holy Abba, the Ruler of the universe and the Lover of our souls.

I know you love to learn or you wouldn’t be reading this page right now and I know you, like many other people, young and old, love to learn through stories.  This has been the way of learning ever since man was created.  Countless generations of children have learned through the stories told them by their parents and by their leaders, teachers and others who helped them develop an understanding of their heritage and of the culture into which they are born.

Our loving God shares His story with us in Torah and begins that story with B’resheit, in the beginning, in Hebrew and, in English, the name of the door to Torah is Genesis, which means many things: history of, origin, birth, generation and genealogy.  Genesis, the first book of the Bible and the first book of Torah, is the door that leads us into the fascinating story of our Almighty God’s relationship with His people.  Before you go any further in your reading, though, you might want to read the first few chapters of the Book of Genesis.

How is Genesis Structured?

That’s a good starting point for our look at Torah – how is the first book of Torah structured?  If you have read through the entire Book of Genesis, in a traditional English Bible, you may notice it has very clear divisions, into chapters.  However, in the Hebrew Bible, the original language of Torah, the divisions are called Parashot, Readings.  There are 54 weekly readings, each divided into 8 sections.  Each section, called Aliyah or the honour of being called-up to read Torah, as well as immigrating to Israel, is to be read daily, with the full Parashah read on Shabbat, which is Yahweh[3], the Lord’s Day of Rest.  In this overview of Genesis, we will use both the weekly Parashah and chapters as our guides.  The version of Scripture used in Volume 1 of Torah for Beginners, B’resheit, Genesis, is The Complete Jewish Bible, translated by Dr. David Stern.  Throughout this Volume, and indeed through the other four, you will not find the original Hebrew being used; rather, you will only find the English transliteration.  Whenever an English transliterated Hebrew word is used, it will be in a different font, usually Times New Roman.  This has been a deliberate choice, given many, if not most, of those reading this volume will not be Jewish, although that would be delightful if you are, and probably will not have a background in the Hebrew language.  So, let’s continue with an outline of the major divisions of Genesis.

The first part of the Book begins with the preface, as I explained earlier.  This is Chapter One, verse one, to the end of Chapter Two, verse 24.  Here we find two versions of the same story, the Creation Story.  The debates and arguments over the reasons for two versions of this glorious story have been endless and continue unabated, as if someone actually knows the truth about this, which, of course, they don’t.  As you read both accounts of Creation, do you get a sense of why God, the Supreme Being, wanted the world and its inhabitants?  Let’s just read a little from these two stories: Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth. (Genesis 1:26)  “Let Us make man in Our image”, how cool is that!  Have you figured out why He had that desire?  Yes, of course, He wanted a relationship with someone with whom He could communicate; He wanted to discuss, to play with, perhaps to debate and argue with in a loving way.  I know, you may be thinking, how does he know that?  Well, as you read in the preface to Torah, just a bit further, you come across these words, God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth.”  (Genesis 1:28)  Do you think God merely wanted to sit back and watch His creations, as they did their thing?  Well, the answer to that question is hidden within Torah and you will discover that for yourself, as you read on further.

The second major part of Genesis (Parashah 2 to Parashah 6) introduces the major conflict of Torah and, indeed, all of the Bible, the conflict between God and Sin, the mortal enemy of all humans.  This battle of Good versus Evil has been with us ever since evil was spawned.  We can see this scriptural battle played out even in our radio programs of days past (The Lone Ranger, the Shadow) and our television series today (Batman, Spiderman, Superman).

In Chapter Three of Torah we are introduced to evil who, in the form of a walking serpent, interferes with God’s plans for, Adom, Adam and Chava, Eve. How God reacts to this interference tells us just how angry and upset He really is, judging by the consequences of the introduction of evil into Torah.  I urge you to read this part carefully, Chapters Three and Four.  Believe it or not, the rest of Torah and, indeed, the entire Bible deals with this conflict between good and evil, in one form or another.

The other parts of the Book of Genesis are not as short as these two.  The third part of Genesis begins with Chapter Five, with a genealogy of Adom and Chava’s descendants.  Although this may seem irrelevant to the story, it really helps place us into a sense of time and space, as we realize just how vast this story of beginnings really is.  Just imagine living to be 600 or 900 years!  Let’s just take a moment and discuss why genealogies do appear in Genesis.

You may have caught the fact that Adom and Chava had a third son, whose name was Seth.  Why is this important to mention?  Reading Adom’s genealogy reveals all of Adom and Chava’s descendants, with the exception of those coming through the line of Seth, die during the flood.  They were the ones who turned to the ways of evil.  However, from the line of Seth we find Noach (Noah).  We’ll discuss Noah’s role in God’s plans shortly.  Another of Adom and Chava’s descendants, Enoch, is important to our story of Torah.  Genesis 5 tells us, Enoch walked with God for three hundred years after begetting Methuselah. . . . All the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years.  And Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, for God had taken him. (Genesis 5:21-24)  First, why would Torah mention twice that Enoch walked with God?  Traditionally, when something needs emphasizing, because of its importance, it is repeated.  What is so important about mentioning Enoch walked with God?  Simply stated, this long-lived descendant of Adom and Chava was a righteous man, what in Hebrew is called tzadik, a rightoeus one.  The sages suggest he was vulnerable, because he was righteous, and, therefore, liable to go astray and be drawn into evil practices.  To prevent that from happening, Enoch was taken to heaven, through the Word of God.

There is a book of Enoch, which although it never made it into the canon of Scripture, is worthy of reading.  After you have read Torah, the Prophets and the Writings, why not take a look at the Book of Enoch; regard it as filling-in some of the historical gaps.

As we read further through Genesis, we are told of the very natural consequences of Adom and Chava’s sin.  The story of Noah brings a reality check, as God sees how evil human beings have become and decides to begin over again, with the only righteous person He can find – Noah: But Noach found grace in the sight of Adonai. (Genesis 6:8)  The Flood story, beginning in Genesis 6 and extending to the end of Genesis 8, is a compelling one, don’t you think?  Hear how God felt about how His creation had taken advantage of their freedom of choice: Adonai saw that the people on earth were very wicked, that all the imaginings of their hearts were always of evil only.  Adonai regretted that he had made humankind on the earth; it grieved his heart.  Adonai said, “I will wipe out humankind, whom I have created, from the whole earth; and not only human beings, but animals, creeping things and birds in the air; for I regret that I ever made them.” (Genesis 6:5-7)  And the interesting part of this is that every culture around the world has a flood legend, helping confirm the vast reach of God’s works.  Archeologists have even found evidence of a period of flood, covering many continents (evidence).

Throughout the time it took Noah and his sons to build the ark, using stone tools only, those around watching heckled, cajoled and mocked them.  Even the building of this strange structure, in the middle one of the driest portion of the earth, did not create a curiosity to hear what God was warning Noah and his family, just derision.

After the flood story, we are introduced to how God dealt with the arrogance people developed through their coming together as one people.  The episode with the Tower of Babel is a compelling story, involving human beings’ desires to draw closer to Elohim, God, by building a tower to Heaven and, thereby, becoming more like Him.  We’ll discuss this arrogance shortly.

Now we get into the meat of Genesis, the story of the birth of the Jewish People.  Here, in Chapter Eleven, we are introduced to Avram, the first Patriarch of God’s People.  Throughout the rest of Genesis, we read about his family and their adventures with God.  These are fascinating stories and, in this brief explanation of the Book of Genesis, we’ll only touch on the highlights.  So let’s get into the story of Genesis, the Beginning.

[1] Torah (usually translated from the Hebrew as teaching), in this context, refers to the five Books of Moses – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy

[2] The Talmud (usually translated from the Hebrew as instruction) is a collection of writings from ancient times.  It is composed of the Mishna, rulings of the rabbis, and the Gemara, rabbinic discussions.

[3] There are many Names for God.  Yahweh is built upon the understanding “I AM.”  Other names used for God in this series are ‘God’, ‘Lord’, ‘HaShem’ and ‘Elohim’