So if you are still Jewish, do you still carry out the law of Moses?

Some of us carry out different parts of it more than others do, because some of us are more observant than others, just as is the case in the larger Jewish community. Those of us who do observe the precepts of Torah do so recognizing that the Law of Moses is no longer binding as such upon Israel. The prophet Jeremiah prophesied that a day would come when: ‘I (God) will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them’ declares the Lord’ (Jeremiah 31:31-2)

What many people do not realise, though, is that even the Law of Moses was not an unchanging monolith. Some of the regulations given in the Book of Leviticus, for instance, which applied in the wilderness wanderings, were modified in the Book of Deuteronomy so they could find application in the settled life of Canaan.

The situation today is quite different than it was in ancient Israel. The Jewish people are no longer a theocracy nor do we have a king; our Temple and priesthood are gone. But unlike Reform or Conservative Judaism, which also speak of modifying and adapting the ancient laws for today, any changes or modifications must come from God himself, not from the decisions of rabbis.

Such a change was in fact indicated by God in the portion of Jeremiah quoted before. The content of the new covenant is spelled out in the Book of the New Covenant, otherwise known as the New Testament. There, as well as in the prophecies of the prophets, we learn of God’s provision for this day and age when the Temple no longer stands, the priesthood is gone and there are no provisions for sacrifices for sin: namely the Messiah himself has come as our sacrifice. With his death, the new covenant has been inaugurated.

Traditionally, Judaism has insisted that the Torah will never come to an end, despite the passage in Jeremiah. But the Encyclopedia Judaica states that ‘in the Bible there is no text unanimously understood to affirm explicitly the eternity or non-abrogability of the Torah’. In Maimonides’ Thirteen Articles of Faith, the Ninth Article stresses the non-abrogability of the Torah. It is Maimonides, not the Bible, who has laid the basis for contemporary Orthodox Jewish views on the subject.

Although some of us do keep Kosher, it is not possible to keep laws pertaining to the tabernacle or Temple. The moral imperatives of the Torah are reflective of God’s unchanging character and are therefore forever binding. It is especially in the area of the moral commandments that relate to our inward attitudes that we run into a problem.

This is the problem: it never was, and is not now, possible to keep the Law completely or perfectly. That’s why God instituted a system of sacrifices in the first place – so we could find forgiveness when we failed to keep the rest of the Law. The question every Jew must ask is: do I fail to do what God requires? And when that happens, what do I do to obtain God’s forgiveness? Our answer is the answer of the Scriptures: you must put your trust in Jesus as your atonement for sin.

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So if you are still Jewish, do you still carry out the law of Moses?