A Global Association of Orthodox Jewish Believers in 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):
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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.