Torah for the Nations

Torah for the Nations

Articles, comments, MP3's and videos on topics of importance to non-Jewish people of all nations, backgrounds and beliefs who feel drawn to the Torah and its practices and seek authoritative practical guidance on how to follow the Torah path as it applies to them

The Weekly Portions

Commentary on the weekly Torah readings from the Five Books of Moses drawing forth lessons relevant to people of all nations, backgrounds and beliefs.

Prayers

Meditations, prayers and blessings for weekdays, Sabbaths, Festivals and other occasions

Songs

Songs of praise and thanksgiving, joy and devotion for people of all nations and backgrounds

POSTS

In time with Israel

In today's sophisticated urban societies, many people expect constant plentiful supplies of fruits, vegetables, meat, fish and other products in the stores -- as if a steady supply of foods should be a basic human right.

Those who are more "down to earth" understand that everything we consume is God's loving gift, since He ultimately controls the weather and all the many other factors influencing the growth of all the plants, animals and other creatures, and the success of harvests and production across the world. Accordingly we are obligated give thanks to God for His great kindness in providing us with everything we have.

Sabbaths, Seasons and Festivals

The Torah teaches that God created the sun, the moon and the stars to be "for signs and seasons, for days and years" (Genesis 1:14). God instructed the Children of Israel to observe the Sabbath rest each seventh day, to mark the new moons every month, and to celebrate festivals according to the seasons. Each festival provides unique ways to express our gratitude to God for all His kindnesses and to draw further blessings into the world.

Thus the springtime festival of Passover (Pesach) comes at the start of the grain harvesting season in the Land of Israel. The festival of Tabernacles (Succot) comes at the end of the summer, the time of gathering in the fruits. The annual cycle of the festivals is also bound up with the spiritual phases of the year. Spring, the season of regeneration, is the time to return to God in love, while autumn is the time to return to God in awe.

Only for Jews?

Are the biblically-ordained Sabbaths and Festivals intended to be celebrated only by Jews and the Children of Israel? Or should non-Jews also be aware of these occasions and mark or observe them in some way?

On the one hand, the Torah states that the weekly Shabbat is a unique "sign" between God and the Children of Israel" (Exodus 31:17). Only Israel are charged with announcing and observing each festival in its proper time (Leviticus 23:2).

On the other hand, the closing words of the prophecy of Isaiah foretell that at the end of days, "from one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all flesh shall come to worship before Me, says God". Likewise, the prophet Zechariah foretells that after the War of Gog and Magog, "every one that is left of the nations that came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of Hosts, and to keep the festival of Tabernacles (Succot)," while those who refuse will receive no rain in their land and will be afflicted with plague! (Zechariah 14:16-17).

Here are clear proofs that God wants people of all the different nations to share in marking His festivals, even if they are not obligated to observe the specific laws and customs of each one in the way that is required of Israel.

Thus Passover, celebrating the Israel's redemption from servitude in Egypt, is important for all who cherish freedom from oppression and tyranny. The Festival of Weeks (Shavuot), commemorating the giving of the Torah, is significant for all who respect the rule of God's law. Rosh HaShanah, the "New Year" -- God's Day of Judgment for the entire world -- is a call to people of all the nations to repent and return to God and His service.

A challenge for today's rabbis

During the long period of Jewish exile among often hostile host nations, it was usually impossible for Jews to celebrate the Torah festivals with much publicly, let alone to promote some form of recognition and observance of these festivals among non-Jews. This may be a reason why few teachings have been received from the rabbis of earlier generations about suitable ways in which non-Jews might mark these occasions.

But as ever-increasing numbers of people across the world today awaken to the eternal truth and relevance of the Torah, many are asking what share non-Jews may take in marking the Torah festivals, and how they should observe them.

The challenge for today's rabbis is to develop guidelines for appropriate, meaningful observance of the weekly Sabbaths and each of the festivals in turn by every non-Jew who feels called to mark them in some way.

Keeping in time with the beat

In a musical performance, each of the different instrumentalists and singers must play his or her unique part, but in order to create one harmonious symphony, all must play in time with one another.

Likewise all the different people in the world must march forward day by day keeping in time with the Torah calendar. This is how all the nations may sing a harmonious song of love and gratitude to God.

"All the nations clap your hands; call out to God with the voice of joy! For the supreme God is awesome, He is the great King over all the earth" (Psalms 47:2-3).

"Sing to God a new song; sing to God all the earth! Sing to God, bless His name; declare His salvation from day to day! Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples..." (Psalms 96:1-3).

To keep in time with the Torah calendar, follow AZAMRA's Weekly Torah Calendar providing details about coming days of significance this week and their associated practices and observances.