The Jerusalem Council

A Global Association of Orthodox Jewish Disciples of Messiah Yeshua

The Yoke and Burden of Messiah, and Moses

Why are you trying to bring others under a yoke that neither you nor your fathers could not even bear?
Contrary to popular opinion, the “yoke” that neither we nor our “fathers” could bear refers not to the halacha itself (that is, the way of walking out the Torah), but rather is the responsibility for deciding and learning and knowing halacha for oneself, and learning and teaching the Torah for oneself…alone, as an outsider, with no one to help you.

As Jesus said:

Luke 11:16 (and Matt 23:4)
Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.

Notice if he had a problem with the burden, he would have stopped there, but instead he goes on to say that they don’t help them with the burden. It is the not helping with the burden that Jesus (Yeshua) has a problem with. What is the burden? Well, the “burden” he refers to does not refer to the experts in the law’s rules upon rules, fences upon fences, but to the Torah’s teaching of what the burden actually is (of those who sit in the seat of Moses):

Exodus 18:21
21 “And let them judge the people at all seasons; and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge themselves; so shall they make it easier for thee and bear the burden with thee.”

What was the burden that was too difficult for even Moses to carry alone, too difficult that even he needed to be yoked to others who would help him with it? That “burden” was in determining/teaching/knowing halacha for the people in accordance to the Torah, as Moses explains:

Exodus 18:14-16
14 “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?”

15 Moses answered him, “Because the people come to me to seek G-d’s will.

16 Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of G-d’s decrees and laws.

The burden was to decide halacha and teach Torah to his people in the desert. To decide halacha and teach Torah, is the burden. The Torah, nor the rules of the Pharisees or experts in the law, was never the burden referred to by Jesus or the apostles (after all Paul considered himself a Pharisee even after writing Galatians!). The burden was the deciding and teaching. The deciding of halacha, and the act of teaching of the Torah.

After making a disciple, if one refuses to teach people how to keep the Torah, one effectively places a burden on the disciple to learn Torah for himself and to determine the burden of halacha on his own. This is wrong!!! In fact, according to the Torah, and to Jesus, and to Peter in Acts 15, one truly is not able to bear this responsibility alone. One truly is not able to decide halacha, and teach himself Torah alone. That is the point of knowing what the burden is, and why we need a yoke and why we need to be yoked to someone who will help!

As it is written even of Moses:

Exodus 18:18
18 You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.”

Thus a yoke is required to share the burden of determining (coming to know) halacha (way of walking out Torah – of being a disciple) and teaching it. Yeshua didn’t say that the burden was wrong! The burden is just that which we were not to bear alone. The burden is not wrong! The burden of deciding halacha, and teaching Torah is not wrong! What Yeshua said, is that one’s refusal to help a disciple with the burden of knowing halacha and learning Torah, is wrong.

Which is why Jesus says:

Matthew 11:28-30
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Yeshua offers himself (at the time then, and even with us now), to come alongside us and teach us halacha, and to teach us Torah (and in that order too!). Yet even then we are not called to be alone, as Moses himself shared the burden of deciding halacha and the teaching of Torah, with others.

So what is Yeshua’s (Jesus’s) burden? The same as Moses! To decide halacha (way of walking out Torah), and to teach the Torah to the people! This burden that he shares with us through his yoke, is the same burden as expected for everyone else to share! We are to know halacha and know the Torah with others (who meet the Torah’s qualifications for who we should be yoked with)! The burden is to know how to walk out the Torah, and teach others how to do the same! If this is Yeshua’s burden, then what is his yoke? The act of helping you walk with him, helping you stay obedient to the Torah, helping you to know halacha so that you may do it.

It is also written:

Deuteronomy 22:10
Do not plow with an ox and a donkey yoked together.

Meaning that one is not to put a Jew (ox) with a Gentile (donkey) in deciding halacha, and teaching Torah. This is also repeated concerning marriage in not being yoked with an unbeliever.

So then, when the Jerusalem Council comes together to consider the legal status of Gentile converts to HaDerech (The Way, a sect of Judaism), the charge is made by some believers who are Pharisees, that the new Gentile converts still have to get circumcised (converted to Judaism through a halachic ritual), meaning that they believed the new Gentile converts weren’t quite yet Jews able to fulfill the obligations upon Jews to learn/decide halacha and learn/teach the Torah with other Jews.

Peter, in addressing this rightly says:

Acts 15:9-10
9 He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. (meaning they don’t have to be converted in order to be recognized as one of us, since they are obviously one of us already by what the Spirit did).

10 Now then, why do you try to test G-d by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear?

The Gentiles converts are not donkeys that still need to be converted into oxen! They are already oxen (according to G-d), like the Jews, and thus are able to share in the burden, that is they are able to share with other Jews the learning and deciding of halacha, and the learning and teaching of the Torah, equally now with all other Jews! By forcing the Gentile converts to go through the conversion ritual after the fact, in order to even have the right of fellowship among the Jewish believers, would be to assign them a forelorn place in learning and teaching halacha and Torah by themselves, a burden that no one one was able to bear, including Moses!

These second-class converts would be responsible for determining halacha (getting circumcised/converted first) and learning Torah on their own, outside of a synagogue, without the yoke of a fellow Jew to help (since Jews are not to associate with Gentiles), when G-d just did an amazing confirmation in which he proved that he sees them differently (and not as second-class converts) by putting his Spirit upon them- in that he sees them as equal with all other Jews – and thus can share in the burden (deciding halacha and teaching Torah) that the Jews carry among themselves!

Truly one is not able to bear the burden of deciding halacha, and teaching themselves Torah alone. Contrary even to what is done in most Messianic circles, who believe they can determine halacha, and teach themselves Torah by themselves; the Torah is clear that this is a burden that can not be carried alone. You must be yoked with other Jews in order to rightly carry the responsibility to learn, decide, and teach halacha and Torah, or else you will wind up like Moses who did a disservice to himself and to his disciples when he alone decided halacha and taught Torah – leaving himself worn out, and the people still standing, and not satisfied (with the bread of Messiah).

And if other Jews (in Messianic Judaism) do not recognize you as equal to this responsibility with them, then how will you ever learn the truth about Messiah and truly come to be satisfied with your walk of uncertain obedience? When you come to Messiah, you are made equal with a Jew. When you learn from a Jew (one who is a fellow believer since this too is part of the definition of being equally yoked) how to keep halacha, and learn the Torah, (and how both relate to the Messiah) you will find satisfaction as Moses and the people did when they shared the burden of learning and deciding and teaching halacha and Torah together:

Exodus 18:22-23
22 Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you (speaking of Messiah if Messiah is like Moses); the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you.

23 If you do this and G-d so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.”

Rabbi Yoseph explains the following:

22 “Let them judge the people at all times; (lit trans.: “They are to judge the people” Israel. The Targum put this in the imperative. They are to do it. Note that there is no court of appeals. Note also that they are to be the only court for the people to go to. They are not to go to a civil or pagan court.) and let it be that every major dispute they will bring to you, but every minor dispute they themselves will judge. (If they cannot judge it, it is up to the judge to pass it on to the judge over him. If he makes a judgment, it is binding both on those it is passed upon but it also rests on his hand/head. He is held accountable before HaShem for his rulings.) So it will be easier for you, and they will bear (5375 nāśā˒: A verb meaning to lift, to carry, to take away.1) the burden with you.

Num 11:16-17 16 The Lord therefore said to Moses, “Gather for Me seventy men from the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and their officers and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you. 17 “Then I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take of the Spirit who is upon you, and will put Him upon them; and they shall bear (5375) the burden (4853 maśśā˒: A masculine noun meaning a burden or load; by extension, a burden in the form of a prophetic utterance or oracle. It is derived from the verb nāśā˒ (5375) meaning to lift, to bear, to carry.2) of the people with you, so that you will not bear it (5375) all alone.

(Righteous rulers make it easier on all leaders as well as on the people of Israel. Unjust rulers are in and of themselves a burden both on other rulers, but also on Israel.)

Matt 23:1-4 1 Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, 2 saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; 3 therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. (We see that they were teaching the Torah.) 4 “They tie up heavy burdens (From the context of Matt 23 and comparing it to Ex 18:21ff and Num 11:16-17 we see that the “heavy burdens” they are laying on the children of Israel is that they were not teaching them “The Way” in whom they were to walk. We see that they were teaching them to act righteous, but that they were putting the burden of their salvation on their shoulders which is a burden they could not bear. This word for burden is only used 6 times in the Later Writings and in 5 of those uses it has this meaning. The other is in regard to the cargo of a ship and does not aid us in understanding this passage.) and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. (We are commanded to abide in their halakhah, their walk, but we are responsible for our salvation before HaShem. If they make unjust rulings we are to abide also and allow HaShem to be their judge. (Note as stated in other teachings, our submission to those in authority over us is to be complete. We do not however enter into sin. Daniel and his three friends are a great example. They were submitted to authority and were willing to suffer the consequences fully before those over them for walking in Torah when they were commanded not to. They did not enter into protests or rage, but rather remained submitted first to HaShem and then to those over them. We are to do the same.) When we suffer for His sake it is to His glory and honor and we are rewarded. When we rebel against their rulings and protest against them, then we suffer the consequences for our disobedience.)

Matt 11:28-30 28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 “For My yoke is easy (A yoke is that which joins one thing to another.) and My burden (A burden is that which is carried) is light.” (When we are of the Messiah, we are no longer yoked to sin, but to the Torah. The burden of our sin, the price that we would have to pay for each and every one of our sins is beyond our comprehension to even measure it when we are apart from the Messiah. However, in the Messiah, He pays the price for our sins and the only burden we are left with is the temporal consequences for our sins and the blessing of Eternal life.

Ps 3:8 8 Salvation belongs to the Lord; Your blessing be upon Your people! Selah. (He will burden us with his blessings as they will be upon His people.)

23 “If you do this thing and G-d so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people also will go to their place in peace.” (When we are submitted to our rulers and have just rulers, the people will be attracted to the Messiah, (peace) and will go to their homes (eternal life) in the Messiah.)

In summary, the burden is deciding halacha and teaching Torah. It becomes a heavy burden when we do not know “The Way” in which to walk. We, and our students, should not be alone when it comes learning and doing halacha. We should not be deciding halacha for ourselves, but each one of us should be submitted to a godly authority whereby we can learn to imiate the Messiah as we learn from those who imitate him. We should not just tell people to be obedient to Messiah, but also show them how, and support them. Do this, and you will model the light burden of our Master, and fulfill love to your neighbor. Don’t do this, and you will place a heavy burden upon others that they (nor we) could ever bear.

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5 Responses to “The Yoke and Burden of Messiah, and Moses”

  • wbmoore says:

    Where you wrote, “Gen 18:18”, I believe you meant Ex 18:18.

    The burden was the amount of work – trying to judge for so many people, not the actual teaching and judging, but the amount of it. Thus your whole premise is flawed.

    You wrote, “These second-class converts would be responsible for determining halacha (getting circumcised/converted first) and learning Torah on their own, outside of a synagogue, ”

    But Acts 15:5 says the Pharisees wanted the Gentile believers to follow the Law. verse 10 complains about a yoke the Jews could not bear. It can not simply be ” determining (coming to know) halacha (way of walking out Torah – of being a disciple) and teaching it.” If that was the case, then certainly being circumcised and following the Law would meet that, since as verse 21 tells us, Moses was taught in the synagogues weekly. But in fact, rather than being told to follow the Law, as the sect of the Pharisees wanted, they were told only a few things to avoid.

  • […] Jesus Christ, Moses, religion, torah, yoke by Polycarp A commentator referred us to this link The Yoke and Burden of Messiah, and Moses | The Jerusalem Council, and I think it reasonable to see what they have to […]

  • wbmoore, the reference is now corrected, thank you.

    Saying “not the actual…judging, but the amount of judging” is the burden, is saying the same thing ultimately since from the Torah’s perspective, what is the burden in Moses’s case? He was doing it alone. We are not to judge Torah alone for ourselves, and for others (and as the Torah says he both decided cases AND taught them the way in which they should walk). The burden is both judging halacha and teaching Torah – alone. You say it’s the “amount” but that ignores the fact that the Torah emphasizes that Moses was alone. We are to be submitted to one another, and carry each others burdens, and not burden another with an expectation of Torah by refusing to help them walk in it. The Pharisees were telling people what to do, as they should have, but not helping them with it – why? Because the ones Yeshua confronted were hypocrites – they didn’t keep what they told others to do anyways, so how could they help another keep Torah if they themselves don’t?

  • wbmoore says:

    Hi Israel. Thanks for the reply. You’re welcome for the correction (its a bad habit into which my wife has gotten me).

    Could you provide reference for where it is written that we should not judge halacha or teach Torah alone?

    You originally wrote, “to decide halacha and teach Torah, is the burden.” But it was the amount of effort (because of the multitudes he was serving), not the actual deciding and teaching.

    In your response you wrote, “The burden is both judging halacha and teaching Torah – alone.” The problem with that idea is that Moses DID teach and judge others by himself, even after he appointed lower judges. No one helped him for the more difficult cases and he was accountable to no one other than G-d. This was no different than it was before he appointed lower judges. The only difference was that he did not need to work so hard in doing so, because the amount of work was lessened. This was the case because the easier cases (which were more likely the more numerous ones) were handled by others.

    I agree we are to submit one to another and help each other with their burdens. We do not want to cause others to sin (or stumble). We should love G-d and love our neighbors (the summary of the law). The Pharisees were certainly hypocrites – they were not loving. They actually caused people to stumble, rather than helped them walk with G-d (Mt 23:13-15). That was part of the burden they laid upon men – they made it difficult for others to enter heaven (Mt 23:13). Christ spoke out against them because of the human traditions they taught (Mt 23:16-22) and because they were hypocrites (Mt 23:22-32). They were more concerned with appearance than with the inner man (Mt 23:25-28). They should have helped men be righteous, but their actions made this difficult. THAT was the burden Christ spoke out against (Lk 11:37-12:2).

    I do not see the connection between Moses’ burden and the burden Christ spoke out against. As I said, Moses was still judging and teaching. The Pharisees also taught and judged and they did so with others. The people had no lack of teachers and judges. What they lacked was people teaching them to love G-d above all and love their neighbors. They had no idea how to be righteous because the Pharisees and teachers of the Law (as a rule) were not righteous, but hypocritical. That hypocrisy made it much more difficult for people who watched (and probably emulated) them to be righteous.

    • You ask for a reference where it is written that one should not judge the people and teach Torah alone. This is found in the statement by Jethro as he says in Exodus 18:17, “What you are doing is not good…you cannot handle it alone.” What was Moses doing? “Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of G-d’s decrees and laws.” This is what Moses was doing alone, and is what the Torah calls through Jethro, “Not good.” This is founded on the previous Torah statement when it is written “it is not good for man to be alone.”

      You are correct, that judging halacha, and teaching Torah is not the “heavy” burden, as doing so is a good thing. So to also the opposite: doing halacha, and learning Torah is not a “heavy” burden, and doing so is a good thing. What the Torah is teaching here in this passage, though, is that judging halacha (and thus also doing halacha) alone, and teaching (and thus also learning) Torah alone, is what is called a “heavy” burden and “not good.” We should not be judging halacha and teaching Torah alone; and neither by implication should we do halacha and learn Torah alone. This is the implication of this passage with Jethro, and is from where the Master is drawing his warning to “no do as they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. This concept of a heavy burden being one in which judging/doing halacha and teaching/learning Torah alone – without Messiah – as the way in which one walks and teaches others to do the same, is repeated throughout scripture.

      The particular Pharisees that Yeshua was warning against, were those that were making it difficult for people to enter the Kingdom of Heaven (which means to make true repentance unto Messiah) because they didn’t practice what they preached, and therefore had no compulsion to help their students in finding or walking in the Way in which they should walk.

      Yeshua only spoke out against three traditions, at most four, of the Pharisees. We make a mountain out of a molehill, for this was common in the day (as it is today) to vigerously condemn one group or another based on whether or not one is keeping Torah. For the things Yeshua was against, he was not against them – not against traditions, customs, and oral law – for the sake of them being traditions, customs, and oral law; but for the mere fact that these particular ones caused the adherent to nullify the Torah. How much more so we should be fearful of engaging in traditions and doctrines and teachings of men that nullify the Torah as well. But of these few Yeshua was against, it was only because the results of carrying them out clearly contradicted Torah, and not because they were traditions.

      The Pharisees were judging halacha and teaching Torah, but without walking in Messiah and teaching others to do the same, they were placing a burden on their disciples to do halacha, and learn Torah completely on their own – apart from Messiah (for when G-d said “it is not good for man to be alone” he was also referring to himself). Their hypocrisy only served to confirm the fact that they themselves had not yet made true teshuvah (repentance to Torah).