Weekly Torah Portion

To·rahˈtōrə,ˈtô-,tôˈrä/noun(in Judaism) the law of God as revealed to Moses and recorded in the first five books of the Hebrew scriptures (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy).a scroll containing this.

This Week’s Torah Portion

Chayei Sarah | חיי שרה | “Sarah’s life “

Torah: Genesis 23:1-25:18

Prophets: 1 Kings 1:1-31

Gospel: Matthew 2:1-23

 Torah Portion Summary:

The fifth reading from the book of Genesis is named Chayei Sarah (חיי שרה). It means “Sarah lived,” because the narrative begins with the words “Now Sarah lived one hundred and twenty-seven years” (Genesis 23:1).

This portion of the Torah is filled with romance and sorrow. It tells the story of how Abraham mourned his wife after her passing, and how he procured a wife for his son Isaac. At the end of this portion, Abraham is laid to rest beside his beloved wife.

What is the Torah?

(article borrowed from FFOZ’s Torah Portions)

The “Law” is a biblical term for the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. They are also called the “Books of Moses” because Moses wrote them. In the Hebrew language (the language in which the Old Testament was written) the first five books are collectively called the Torah. Torah is a word that means “instruction.” God’s intention for giving the Torah is to instruct his people in holiness:

The LORD said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and wait there, that I may give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.” (Exodus 24:12, emphasis added)

The Torah contains the record of creation, the story of the fall of man, the plight of humanity, the call of Abraham, the exodus from Egypt, the stories of the wilderness wanderings, the covenants with Israel, and a lot of rules and instructions from God. These rules and instructions include well-known passages like the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). They also include ritual laws about sacrifices, holy days, dietary restrictions, and various ceremonies. For all of the 1,400 years from the days of Moses to the days of Jesus, the Torah was the rule of life and standard of godliness for God’s chosen people Israel.

When we see reference to the “Scriptures” in the New Testament the author is referring to what we call today the Old Testament. They never understood or considered it the Old Testament; they referred to is as the Torah. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul’s states that the Torah “trains in righteousness” and then summarizes it in the following manner.

  • The Torah is good for—Teaching (showing the believer about God and His ways)
  • The Torah is good for—Rebuking (showing how we have walked off the path)
  • The Torah is good for—Correcting (showing how to get back on the path)
  • The Torah is good for—Instructing in Righteousness (showing us how to be consistent)

Using the ancient Torah reading schedule is a great way to study the entire Word of God.

When God brought restoration and returned the Israelites from captivity, Ezra and Nehemiah and the men of their generation set to work creating a system to encourage Torah study. They wanted to ensure that the people would not slip into idolatry again. They created a system for the synagogue to ensure that the people heard the Torah read every week.

To this day, the Jewish world studies a portion of the Torah every Sabbath. Jews read the Torah aloud in synagogues on Sabbaths, Mondays and Thursdays. Monday and Thursday were the ancient market days when rural people came into town. At this time, they also had the opportunity to hear the Word of God. On Sabbath days, the people assembled according to the commandment.

Since the days of the Apostles, the Torah continues to be read every week in the same manner. An annual lectionary, the Torah reading cycle, allows all Israel to study the same passages of Scripture simultaneously as they work through the Torah from week to week. The lectionary divides the Torah into 2-6 chapter readings for each week. Corresponding readings from the Prophets are tacked onto the weekly Torah readings. The reading cycle begins in the fall, after the Feast of Tabernacles, with Genesis 1:1. Approximately twelve months later, it concludes with the last verses of the book of Deuteronomy.

Reading along with the weekly Torah readings is a great way to study through the Torah every year. When you do, you are studying in synchronization with all Israel. Synagogues, study halls, and Messianic congregations all over the world will be examining the same passages of Scripture along with you.

In each of the weekly readings, the portions (Hebrew: parashot) are named after the first word or distinctive phrase in the passage. In the days of the Apostles, the Bible was not divided into chapters and verses. People indicated different scripture passages by referring to the first Hebrew word or phrase of the passage. If a rabbi said, “In the place where it says, ‘After the death of Aaron’s two sons…'” he would be referring to parashat Acharei Mot, Leviticus 16:1-18:30. Acharei Mot means “after the death of.” In the same way, each portion (parasha) of Torah is named after its opening words, and each book of the Torah is named after its opening parasha.

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