Skip to main content

Yeshua the Fence Builder

The Mishnah, which is called the Oral Law, records the sayings and teachings of generations of Jewish teachers. Its earliest teachers preceded or were contemporaries of Yeshua (the real name of “Jesus”). Their teachings provide many valuable clues about the techniques they used to teach their disciples the words of the Torah. The tractate in the Mishnah that is called Avot, Sayings of the Fathers, is a tremendous source of information related to the teachings of Yeshua. It opens with these words:

Moses received the Torah from Sinai and gave it over to Joshua. Joshua gave it over to the Elders, the Elders to the Prophets, and the Prophets gave it over to the Men of the Great Assembly. They [the Men of the Great Assembly] would always say these three things: Be cautious in judgment. Establish many pupils. And build a fence around the Torah. (Avot 1:1)

This history of the Oral Law begins in the Jewish sect called the Pharisees. The quote above played a very important role in the formation of Rabbinic Judaism, which began in the 3rd century CE. It established an unbroken chain of textual transmission and authority from Moses to the rabbis. It specifically instructed the rabbis to do three things:

(1) Be cautious in judgment (interpretations).

(2) Create and teach many pupils (disciples).

(3) Build a fence around the Torah.

Contrary to beliefs that developed in non-Jewish Christian sects long after Yeshua taught, the Pharisees were not the “bad guys” from Yeshua’s perspective. He was very close to them in many ways and they heavily influenced his life and teachings. When it came to their teaching about the Torah, this was how much confidence Yeshua had in Pharisees:

The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do.” (Matthew 23:2-3a)

Of course, he also warned his disciples to not to do what they did in practice. He also warned the Pharisees that unless they did acts of righteousness (acts of TOV), they would not be included in the Kingdom of Heaven.

The importance of creating many disciples and accurately teaching them was clearly very important to Yeshua by the words recorded in the Synoptic Gospels. His well-developed skills of “fence building” are evident. In order to understand the principles behind “building fences” we turn to the Mishnah again (Avot 4:2):  

One good deed leads to another good deed; one sin leads to another sin.
The reward for a good deed is another good deed; the reward for a sin is another sin.

It is the teacher’s responsibility to teach disciples things that enhance their chances of fulfilling the commandments and decrease the likelihood of their committing sins. They “built fences” to achieve those goals. Fences were built by linking light commandments with heavy commandments of the Torah. The premise was that if their disciples kept (observed) the light commandments they would be much more unlikely to break the heavy commandments.

It is important to be aware that chapter and verse markers were add to the biblical text over a thousand years after Yeshua taught. They often disrupt the flow of the words and sometimes completely destroy the original context in which they were heard. It is a very good idea to ignore chapter and word breaks and let the words determine where Yeshua’s teachings begin and end. Below is one of Yeshua’s most famous teachings (Matthew 5:21-26). It includes three fences, however in this blog I am just going to help you identify the first fence (Matthew 5:21-22a):

You have heard that it was said to the elders, ‘You shall not murder and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ However, I say to you, ‘Whoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment.’”

The first step is to identify the light and heavy commandments of the Torah:

(1) “You shall not murder” is the heavy commandment.

(2) “You shall not be angry with your brother” is the light commandment.

(3) The first principle is this: If a disciple does not become angry it is much more likely that he will not commit the sin of murder.

The heavy commandment is found in Exodus 20:13 – “You shall not murder.” The origin of the light commandment is not as well-know. Yeshua took it from one of the most famous stories in the Torah – Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:1-15).

(1) Cain became angry with his brother Abel.

(2) God saw Cain’s anger and told him that if he would do acts of TOV, acts that protect and preserve his brother’s life, things would turn out well.

(3) God also told Cain that if he didn’t do acts of TOV for his brother, his anger would lead to sin -- which would be like a wild animal and it spring upon him.

We all know the end of the story – Cain ignored what God said and murdered Abel instead of being his brother’s keeper (guardian). Yeshua created his first fence from this story – “You shall not be angry.”

Did Yeshua really expect his disciples to never become angry? Of course not! The teachers of his period often used their light commandments as shock statements to grab the attention of their disciples. He knew that they would all become angry. His goal was to get them to remember what happened to Cain -- anger led to murder. If this fence helped them keep their anger in check, they will be much less likely to murder someone. By the way, Yeshua build two additional fences in this lesson, just in case they crashed through the first fence!  

Did you find this information about Yeshua helpful?

Are you interested in reading more blogs like this one?

If your answers are “Yes,” please let us know by doing one or both of the following:

(1) “Like” our Real Yeshua Facebook Page by clicking here.

(2) Make a tax-deductible donation to the Biblical Heritage Center, Inc. by clicking here.

Our goal is to provide information that helps people more accurately understand the life and teachings of Yeshua (the real Jesus).

(1) The only way we know if this information is of interest is for people to let us know.

(2) The only way we know if it is of value is for readers to make donations.

A good way to no longer have access to information like this is to do nothing.

Jim Myers

PS   Please forward links to this blog to others that want to accurately understand the teachings of Jesus.  Thanks!


Popular posts from this blog

Do Not Say RAQA! - Yeshua on Anger (Part 2)

In the last blog, we covered the first part of Yeshua’s lesson on Anger -- An Angry Person Should be Tried in Court like a Murderer – keep in mind that “anger” is the focus of Yeshua’s lesson.
“Whoever says to a brother, ‘RAKA,’ shall be answerable to the Sanhedrin.” [i]
Yeshua reveals that the seriousness of the offense has become greater by elevating the crime to the next highest court – the Sanhedrin. It is the highest court in the nation and would be the equivalent of our Supreme Court. What makes this offense more serious than murder, to keep things in the context established by Yeshua? It is because of what the angry person said out of anger – “RAKA!”
RAKA is the English transliteration of the Greek word found in the ancient manuscripts of Matthew. Interestingly, the Greek word is also a transliteration of a Hebrew word into Greek. Keep in mind that when a translator working on a translation of a Greek manuscript transliterates a Greek word, he only finds the closest equivalent En…

The Prayer Yeshua Prayed Twice Every Day

One of Jesus’s earliest memories was no doubt watching and listening to his family when they gathered to pray the Shema at sunrise before the day’s work began and after the working work day was over at sunset. He also heard and participated in praying the Shema at their synagogue. He was surrounded by neighbors who also prayed the same prayer in their homes every day.
The Hebrew word for prayer is tefilah. It is derived from the root Pe-Lamed-Lamed and the word l'hitpalel, meaning “to judge oneself.” This surprising word origin provides insight into the purpose of Jewish prayer. The most important part of any Jewish prayer, whether it be a prayer of petition, of thanksgiving, of praise of God, or of confession, is the introspection it provides, the moment that we spend looking inside ourselves, seeing our role in the universe and our relationship to God.[1]
Most of Jewish prayers are expressed in the first person plural, "us" instead of "me," and are recited on b…

What does “Verily” mean & why did Yeshua use it so much?

We have unlocked the original meanings of two of Yeshua’s words in the verse below. We used them to replace “jot” and “tittle” in the following translation:
For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one yod (the smallest Hebrew letter) or one qotz (the smallest part of the smallest letter) shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. (Matthew 5:18)
Now let’s turn our attention to the word “verily.” If we look it up in a dictionary we find the following definitions: in truth; really; indeed. Did Yeshua mean:
● “For in truth I say unto you . . .” ● “For really I say unto you . . .” ● “For indeed I say unto you . . .”
As pointed out before, Yeshua didn’t teach in English, so our first step to discovering what he did say is to examine the Greek word that is translated “verily” – amhn. Before we find out what it means, let’s review the options that translators have when they are working with ancient Greek and Hebrew manuscripts. Translators have four options: translat…