The most important command in the text is:
Deuteronomy 6:5 (CJB)
5 and you are to love Adonai your God
with all your heart,
all your being
and all your resources.
We know this is the most important command because Yeshua (Jesus) tells us that it is.
Some Pharisees heard that Yeshua had “put the Sadducee to silence” – muzzled – he had silenced them. One of them was a Torah expert – a “lawyer.” He posed a tough question, a sh’eilah to trap him:
In Judaism “sh’eilah” can be a technical term meaning a question about halakhah (Jewish law) or some other aspect of the Bible or Jewish tradition. David Stern, trans., Complete Jewish Bible, (Clarksville, MD: Jewish New Testament Publications, 1998), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “S”.
Matthew 22:33-36 (CJB)
33 When the crowds heard how he taught,
they were astounded;
34 but when the P’rushim (Pharisees) learned
that he had silenced the Tz’dukim (Sadducees),
they got together,
35 and one of them who was a Torah expert
asked a sh’eilah to trap him:
36 “Rabbi (teacher), which of the mitzvot (commandments)
in the Torah is the most important?”
It would not seem that this is as much a hard question as it is a qualifying question. In other words, if you can’t or don’t get the most important question right, how will anything you have to say be able to be taken seriously now or in the future? How does Yeshua respond to this sh’eilah being used to trap him? He quotes D’varim (Deuteronomy which means“words”):
Matthew 22:37-38 (CJB)
37 He told him,
“‘You are to love Adonai your God
with all your heart
and with all your soul
and with all your strength.’
38 This is the greatest and most important mitzvah (commandment).
But Yeshua doesn’t stop here by stating a single command as he is asked. He adds a second command that is like it – similar to it – resembles it. Yeshua quotes the Torah in Vayikra (Leviticus – meaning He called):
Leviticus 19:18 (CJB)
18 Don’t take vengeance
on or bear a grudge against any of your people;
love your neighbor as yourself; I am Adonai.
There is a well know teaching in Judaism on this second command concerning the sages Shammai and Hillel. I will simplify it:
A potential convert to Judaism goes to Shammai and asks him to explain the Torah to him and he will convert. Shammai sees what the guy is doing and sends him away. After all, there has been so much debate and argument over the years, he knows this is fruitless and waste of time.
The potential convert then goes to Hillel and poses the question/challenge:
If you can teach me all of the Torah while I stand on one leg, I will convert.
Hillel is a smart old bird and he too sees what the potential convert is trying to do. The guy will fall over before even part of the Torah can be explained. But Hillel doesn’t let him off that easy – Hillel, in his wisdom, turns the tables on him when he says:
The whole Torah can be summed up in this one statement:
Love your neighbor as yourself . . .
The rest is just commentary, now go and learn it!
When Yeshua is asked the sh’eilah to trap him, He says to love God with all you heart, soul, and strength and then adds a second command even though He was not asked to do so:
Matthew 22:39 (CJB)
39 And a second is similar to it,
‘You are to love your neighbor as yourself.’
Why did Yeshua add this second command that was similer to the first even though He was not asked to do this? Because Yeshua is teaching context like he often does . . . and the context here is VERY important:
Matthew 22:40 (CJB)
40 All of the Torah and the Prophets are dependent on these two mitzvot.”
The bible at the time Yeshua says this is the Torah and the Prophets. There is no New Testament – it hasn’t been written yet. Yeshua is literally saying that:
The entire bible depends (hangs) on: loving God with all you got and loving your neighbor
Notice what the 1913 Webster Dictionary states concerning dependent:
Relying on, or subject to, something else for support;
not able to exist, or sustain itself, or to perform anything,
without the will, power, or aid of something else;
contingent or conditioned;
subordinate;—often with on or upon;
as, dependent on God; dependent upon friends.
Yeshua tells them (and us as well by default) that the ENTIRE BIBLE IS DEPENDENT on these two commandments from the Torah.
Can you understand the story of Creation without these commands as the basis of your understanding?
These two commands are the foundation – the building blocks of ALL of the commandments – ALL of the prophecies – ALL of punishments – ALL of the blessings – – – even Messiah – ESPECIALLY MESSIAH!
A text without loving God and your neighbor as its foundation is a text that is meaningless – it is useless because the text (all of it) is dependent on these two commands:
Our understanding of the text is dependent on . . .
Understanding the commandments is dependent on . . .
Our application of the text is dependent on . . .
Our understanding of works, mercy, judgment is dependent on . . .
Understanding repentance is dependent on . . .
Practicing forgiveness is dependent on . . .
The understanding of Messiah is dependent on . . .
The sacrifice He made is dependent on . . .
You can not understand God without these two things because God is love . . .
1 John 4:8 (CJB)
8 Those who do not love, do not know God; because God is love.
The building block – the foundation – all of the Torah – all of the prophets . . . dependent on
Romans 12:9-10 (CJB)
9 Don’t let love be a mere outward show.
Recoil from what is evil, and cling to what is good.
10 Love each other devotedly and with brotherly love;
and set examples for each other in showing respect.
You can not understand Salvation until you understand love –
because He loved us and laid down His life for us while we were still sinners . . .
Romans 5:6-8 (CJB)
6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time,
the Messiah died on behalf of ungodly people.
7 Now it is a rare event when someone gives up his life
even for the sake of somebody righteous,
although possibly for a truly good person one might have the courage to die.
8 But God demonstrates his own love for us
in that the Messiah died on our behalf
while we were still sinners.
This is what love is.
This is the love we are to have for God and the love we are to have for our neighbor.
Love is Torah – Love is Torah made full (complete – fulfilled – accomplished):
Romans 13:8-10 (CJB)
8 Don’t owe anyone anything — except to love one another;
for whoever loves his fellow human being
has fulfilled Torah.
9 For the commandments,
“Don’t commit adultery,”
and any others are summed up in this one rule:
“Love your neighbor as yourself.”
10 Love does not do harm (evil) to a neighbor;
love is the fullness of Torah.
If you truly love someone, would you want to have sex with their spouse?
If you truly love someone, would you want to murder them?
If you truly love someone, would you want to steal from them?
If you truly love someone, would you want their things?
As Hillel said, Love your neighbor as yourself – the rest is just commentary, now go and learn it.
Hillel was 100% correct in more ways than one. You may say, but he left out the most important command – to love God with all your heart, soul, and strength . . .
1 John 4:20-21 (CJB)
20 If anyone says,
“I love God,”
and hates his brother,
he is a liar.
For if a person does not love his brother,
whom he has seen,
then he cannot love God,
whom he has not seen.
21 Yes, this is the command we have from him:
whoever loves God must love his brother too.
You can’t accomplish the most important commandment (loving God)
you understand and practice the 2nd most important commandment (loving your neighbor):
- You have to love your brother before you can love God . . .