Chapter 1 - Jesus Was a Rabbi?

Uzbekistan, Bukhara, Buxoro, Historically

We know from reading the “New Testament” that “Jesus” was a teacher. And we have read that some called Him “Rabbi”. But, have you really ever thought what that means? In order to become a talmidim of The Rabbi Yeshua, you must understand the role of a Rabbi.

The term Rabbi comes from the Hebrew word “rav” – which means “great man” or “teacher”. Many times the disciples would interchange these words (at least in our English translations) Rabbi and teacher. Remember the story of Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. He says to Yeshua in John 3:2; “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from Elohim; for no one can do these signs that You do unless Elohim is with him.”

In studying about the Rabbis in the first century, we find that it was common for a student, or young person, after they had gone to a “Torah school” – to select a Rabbi to “attach” themselves to. They would leave home and travel with the Rabbi, learning from him by living with him. It was common for students or talmidim to be very devoted to their Rabbi and to develop a very close and intense relationship. It would become their goal to watch and imitate their teacher – and become just like him. Remember, when Yeshua called Peter and Andrew to be talmidim He said, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19.

Purpose of the Rabbi

The purpose of the Rabbi was to interpret and teach Torah to His disciples. They would come to him, with the Torah completely memorized. But, still there was more training to do. A good Rabbi would not only teach the Torah, but live the Torah. And the talmidim would live it with him. Isn’t that the most effective way to learn? Many times Yeshua would lead by example or teach by a parable.

For example in Matthew 8:15 Yeshua teaches, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.” He is actually teaching from the Torah, Deuteronomy 13:3 “…you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer of dreams, for Yahweh your Elohim is testing you to know whether you love Yahweh your Elohim with all your heart and with all your soul.” More than 3,500 parables from the first century Rabbis still exist and Yeshua’s are among the very best!

Another interesting aspect of the Rabbi’s teaching was his “yoke”. The yoke of a Rabbi was how he taught, interpreted and applied the Torah. A talmidim would follow the Rabbi and actually “take on” his yoke – meaning the sum of requirements for fulfilling the Law taught by him. A Rabbi’s yoke was a representation of the obligations required by his students! Now doesn’t that just make sense when Yeshua would say, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:29-30. The yoke Yeshua was talking about was how He taught the Torah. He did not teach it in a burdensome way, a way unable for them to follow. No, He taught it in an easy way. But, here’s what is important. He was teaching TORAH!

What does it mean to fulfill Scripture?

Now here is something that will absolutely stretch your mind! The goal of a first century Rabbi was to “fulfill the Torah”. To teach and interpret Scripture correctly was to “fulfill” Scripture. Let me repeat this. To interpret and teach Torah the right and correct way meant you were fulfilling Scripture. This is so important when we are looking at a very controversial segment of the Apostolic Writings, Matthew 5:17 “Do not think I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” Unfortunately the church teaches that this means He fulfilled or “ended” the Law when He died on the cross. When this absolutely means nothing of the sort. He came to fulfill or correctly teach the Torah!

Think of it, the leaders of the Temple in the time of Yeshua had begun to consume their lives with the “oral traditions” of the Torah (not to be confused with the Oral Law). They had built many “fences” or regulations around the Torah, because they were protecting obedience to the Law. In other words, building a fence (gezeirah) around a law would protect it, so you could preserve and not damage it. But, it had gone too far. You can build so many fences that you may forget what you are actually “fencing in”. This seemed to be the issue in Yeshua’s day. He came to take down some of the fences, and to return Israel back to the heart of the Truth – the Torah.

Coming back to the Torah was His message when He said “repent and be baptized.” It is called “teshuvah” – returning to HaShem because you have strayed. That was what the Rabbi was constantly teaching and preaching – come back. He was not in any sense replacing the Torah; He was teaching His disciples how to live the Torah. Without the fences which prohibited them from really worshipping from their hearts!

How do we imitate the Rabbi?

If we are to become talmidim of Yeshua we must learn how to follow Him and imitate Him. I never really grasped what this meant. Now I take it seriously. We are to follow the Jewish Rabbi. We are to learn and live the Torah, just like He did. And then some day, when we are ready, and He acknowledges that we have learned well – He will commission us to go and teach. We will in essence become “Rabbis” like Him and He will give us a group of talmidim to study and learn from us. This is summed up in Matthew 28:19-20 “Go therefore and make talmidim of all the nations (gentiles), immersing them in the Name of the Father, Son and the Ruach HaKodesh, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” He tells us two important tasks to do when making disciples:

1. Immerse them in water (more on this later)

2. Teach them the Torah (what He has commanded)

Remember our Rabbi is the very best in the entire universe. He wrote the Torah. He is the Torah. John 1: 1-2 “In the beginning was the Torah, and the Torah was with Elohim, and the Torah was Elohim. He was with Elohim in the beginning.” We are His talmidim; we are to imitate these things. It’s simple.

Follow the Jewish Rabbi.