In the relationship with YHWH, Scripture frequently speaks of various acts that will lead a follower away from this walk with YHWH. Whether it be idols or their worship, various forms of what many term witchcraft, or unrighteous behavior to one another, these practices all cause a breach in the relationship with YHWH. The warning of these deceptive practices, are referred to by number of phrases such as thorns and barbs, snares, and stumbling blocks. Since this covenant with YHWH is an extraordinary association, it should be protected and these hindrances that are warned of should be made aware, to prevent one from being ensnared. Wayiqqra [Leviticus] 19:14 speaks of  not putting a stumbling block in front of the blind, but to fear YHWH. While I do not wish to insult anyone by calling them blind, I do wish to point out that any of us, not knowing some aspect of the Scripture or involving this covenant with YHWH, etc, is spiritually blind at some point until we have our eyes opened by YHWH and learn.  I have many times, learned something and could not believe that I had not seen that sooner, it seemed so obvious at that point. So when I speak of blindness, I include myself as well.


There is an old saying that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This is very evident in what is termed “religion”. I do not believe that religion and faith or belief, are the same thing. I personal can have a friendship with YHWH, to believe in Him, to walk with Him, to learn from Him and that is his faith or belief. Religion, I view, is more defined by all the trappings, the system that becomes a god in itself. When one is told who to worship, how to worship, where to worship and everything is governed by various rules, with leaders telling you if you are saved or not, part of the clique or not, all their words contradicting each other, telling you to give them your money, your property, your time, your loyalty or you are not saved, that is religion.  


This study is part of a series on Stumbling Blocks. I am sure that this section of my website, more than any other, will seriously anger many who view themselves believers, because I am discussing their sacred cows. Instead of researching these matters to see for themselves, some will be loyal to their religious system and declare me unsaved, a heretic, etc. It is my hope that some of you, not having seen this stumbling block in your path, might see it for what it really is and have a clearer path in your walk with YHWH. The particular stumbling block of this study is that of the traditions of men.


In the early history of Yisrael [Israel], you see a people go from nomadic to establishing communities. There was a judicial system of elders and judges, including prophets to get them back on the path when they erred. Next came the prohibited monarchy and an increased powerbase of the priesthood. As time goes on, you see the words of the prophets increasingly, correcting not only the monarchy, but the priests, the elders, and the prophets, for unrighteousness, falsely handling the word of YHWH, and leading the people astray. Both the northern kingdom of Yisrael and the southern kingdom of Yahudah [Judah] were taken into captivity, in various stages, to Ashshur and Babel. The temple [heykal] that had been built during the Davidic and Solomonic reigns was destroyed. After the captivity, when some of the Yahudiym [Jews] return to Yerushalayim [Jerusalem], they rebuild the temple. This time period is then referred to as the Second Temple Period. During this time, you see the priesthood in decline and another group rise up, the Farushiym [Pharisees], the lay scholars of a sort. These Farushiym become the system of Rabbis, what came to be called Rabbinic Judaism. The Second Temple is then destroyed in 70 C.E [Common Era, formerly known as A.D.].


It is during this time of the rise of the Rabbis, that we see Yahusha [Jesus] enter the scene. Yahusha is a wee bit different than the average bear. According to his words, he only did what he saw his Father doing, say what he heard his Father saying, and leading the people back to the covenant with YHWH. He also appears to not like religion and frequently overrides the teachings of various sects. What most Christians view as the sermon on the mount and such are corrections in false teachings. He is also frequently being approached by members of these groups and being quizzed or tried, according to their codes. One such example is the following passage in Mark 7, taken from the Peshitta, rather than the Greek translation.



Mark 7

1 And there gathered about him Farushiym [Pharisees] and Soferiym [Scribes], who had come from Yerushalayim.  2 And they saw some of his students eating bread, with their hands unwashed; and they censured it.  3 For all the Yahudiym [Jews] and the Farushiym, unless they carefully wash their hands do not eat; for they are reinforcers in masoreth [traditions] of the Zeqeniym [Elders].  4 And  from the market place, except they immerse, they do not eat. And there are many other things which they have received [qabal] to observe, the immersion of cups, and pots, and brazen vessels, and couches.  5 And the Soferiym and Farushiym asked him, Why are not your students conductors according to the masorah [tradition] of the Zeqeniym [Elders], but eat bread with their hands unwashed ?  6 And he said to them, Well did YeshaYahu [Isaiah] the nabiy [prophet] foretell concerning you, you hypocrites; as it is written, This people honors me with its lips, but their heart is very far from me.  7 And in vain they fear me, in teaching of teachings the mitswoth [commands] of sons of man.  8 For you have forsaken the mitswoth [commandment] of Elohiym, and reinforce the masoreth [traditions] of sons of man, the immersions of cups, and pots, and many things like these.  9 He said to them, Well do you reject the mitswoth of Elohiym, that you may establish your masoreth [traditions]. 10 For Mosheh said, Honor your father and your mother; and whoever will revile his father or his mother, will surely die.  11 But you say, If a man say to his father or to his mother, Be it my offering, whatever you may gain from me,   12 then you do not allow him not to do any thing for his father or his mother.  13 And you reject the word of Elohiym, on account of the tradition which you hand down. And many things like these, you do.


To better understand this passage, first let’s look at the passage that Yahusha quoted by YeshaYahu [Isaiah].


YeshaYahu 29:13, “and YHWH says, ‘because this people draws near with its mouth, and they honor me with its lip; but its heart is far from me, and their fear of me is taught by the commandments [mitswoth] of men;


Yahusha is quoting a passage of the Prophets where the people are being corrected because they are no longer involved in a personal relationship with YHWH, but they are now following a religion. A religion in fact, taught by the commands of men, instead of following the commands of YHWH. He then goes on to say that they reinforce, pass on, the Masorah of the sons of men, making a clear distinction as to the inspiration of those traditions. On one hand, you have the upright teachings of YHWH, that bring life and light of shalom to you. As the Thehillah 19 says so perfectly: “7 the thorath [teachings] of YHWH is perfect, converting the nafesh. the testimony [eduth] of YHWH is sure, making the simple wise.  8 the precepts [fiqqudiy] of YHWH are right, rejoicing the heart. the commands [mitswoth] of YHWH are pure, giving light to the eyes.  9 the fear of YHWH is clean, enduring forever. the judgments [mishfatiy] of YHWH are true, they are righteous altogether.  10 they are more precious than gold, even much fine gold, and sweeter than honey and drops from the honeycomb.” On the other hand, you have the sons of men, who were created by YHWH, creating their own commands [mitswoth]. This is a clear case of, “who are you going to serve?” The words of the Creator or the created?


According to Judaism, the Talmud states in, Mishnah, Seder Nezikin, Mas. Avoth 1:1, “Moses received the Torah at Sinai and transmitted it to Joshua, Joshua to the Elders, and the Elders to the Prophets, and the Prophets to the Men of the Great Synagogues.” This, however, does not just apply to the written word, the Torah, but to what they also call the Oral Torah, which is compiled in the Talmud.



Now we need to better define some of the players and the language of the time. Because of the captivity and the repeated wars on the Hebrews, many sought to codify their writings, make law, in a sense, what had been passed down orally, so that it would not be lost. Two words in the passage of Mark 7 are masorah and masoreth. They are the same, it is just that masorah is singular and masoreth is plural. A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the Hebrew Language by Ernst Klein defines Masorah as: Medieval Hebrew – the system of notes on the external form of the scriptural text of the Bible. Later, however, the word Masorah was explained as the summary of traditions concerning the correct writing and reading of the Bible and accordingly, was regarded as a derivative of the verb xqn (+to hand down, hand over). MasorethKleins: Post Biblical Hebrew – plural, traditions. Medieval Hebrew is one of the various stages of Hebrew, such as saying Old English, Middle English and Modern English. There was Biblical Hebrew, Post-Biblical Hebrew, Medieval Hebrew and Modern Hebrew.


The time we are dealing with here, involving Yahusha, is the Post-Biblical period. At this time, the word Masorah is simply referring to traditions that have been handed down and are being referred to as Masorah. Later, after the destruction of the Second Temple, in 70 CE, Masorah became a very specialized tradition dealing with the specifics of Biblical text transmission and pronunciation.  Another example of these traditions in what is termed the New Testament, is the testimony of Paul/Shaul. Galatians 1:13, 14, “for you have heard of my former way of life in judaism, that i intensely persecuted the assembly of the elohiym, and made it desolate. and i excelled in judaism more than many of the sons of my years who were of my people, and was exceedingly zealous for the thoroth [teachings] of my fathers.” Paul was of the Rabbinical school.


Another testimony to this time period and the traditions, is that of Josephus. Titus Flavius Josephus was born Yosef ben MaththiYahu in 37CE. He fought the Romans in 66-73 CE, as a Jewish military leader in Galilee, during the time that the Second Temple is destroyed. Josephus surrendered to the Romans, ended up becoming and advisor to Titus, who was leading the assault against the Jews, and eventually became a Roman citizen, taking the name of his patron family Flavius. Josephus writes, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 13, Chapter 10, second half of section 6 (297, 298) – “What I would now explain is this, that the Pharisees have delivered to the people a great many observances by succession from their fathers, which are not written in the laws of Moses; and for that reason it is that the Sadducees reject them, and say that we are to esteem those observances to be obligatory which are in the written word, but are not to observe what are derived from the tradition of our forefathers. And concerning these things it is that great disputes and differences have arisen among them, while the Sadducees are able to persuade none but the rich, and have not the populace obsequious to them, but the Pharisees have the multitude on their side. But about these two sects, and that of the Essens (Whiston’s spelling), I have treated accurately in the second book of Jewish affairs.”


The destruction of the temple in 70 CE, the mass suicide at Masada in 72 CE and the Bar Kochba  Rebellion ending in 135 CE, all emphasized the need for consolidated writing to preserve the traditions of Judaism. What was considered Oral Tradition and originally forbidden to write down, now became written, first the Mishnah. Encyclopedia Judaica: “The term Mishnah is derived from the Hebrew verb shanah, meaning ‘to repeat.’ Under the influence of the Aramaic word tanna, however, it received the meaning of ‘to learn,’ and was applied specifically to studying Oral Law, essentially a matter of memorizing and recapitulation (Avot 3:8: “When one, walking on the road, recapitulates (what he has learnt), and interrupts his Mishnah, “ i.e., ‘study’; Avot 3:9:’Whoever forgets one word of his Mishnah’; and see Hag. 9b; Er. 54b).” Mishnah was a general designation of the Oral Law. Next, the writings were of the Gemara. Encyc. Jud. : “Gemara, a word popularly applied to the Talmud as a whole, or more particularly to the discussions and elaborations by the amoraim on the Mishnah. The word appears (abbreviated) in the printed editions of the Babylonian Talmud to indicate the beginning of that discussion and it has been adopted by the Vilna (Romm) edition of the Jerusalem Talmud. There is a Gemara to both the Babylonian and the Jerusalem Talmuds, though not to all or the same tractates.


The Tannaim were the sages that lived from the time of Hillel the Elder, to the compilation of the Mishnah, around the first and second centuries CE. Some of these men were alive at the time of Yahusha. Hillel the Elder died shortly after Yahusha was born. The Amoraim are the rabbis who lived and wrote from the time of the completion of the Mishnah until the completion of the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds, which was around the end of the fourth century for the Jerusalem and the fifth for the Babylonian. The combination of the Mishnah, the Oral Law, and the Gemara, the commentary on the Oral Law, is generally called the Talmud, which is referred to as Oral Torah, versus the Bible/Tanak as the Written Torah.


As Josephus was quoted earlier, the Sadducees disputed this body of traditions. Later, another sect of Hebrews would also dispute the Talmud, the Qaraiym [Karaites], called the Readers. They believed in the written Torah only and had major disputes and debates over Talmud. Although the Qaraiym do not come into play here, I mention it because it is the same principle that Yahusha brought up, that the traditions of men were holding greater importance and at times even nullifying the commands of YHWH.


Now, some of you reading might say that the traditions of men that are being referred to in the passage of Mark, Masorah, are not the same as those compiled in the Mishnah and the Gemara – Talmud. But they are. Remember the confrontation between the Farushiym [Pharisees] and the Soferiym [Scribes, the transmitters of the writings] and Yahusha? What were they confronting him about? They were confronting him because his students were eating bread and they had not washed their hands first, according to the masorah of the elders. This matter of washing of the hands before eating does not occur in the “Written Torah” – Tanak/Bible. Neither is it a matter of what later came to be called Masorah, all the laws concerning the written Bible and the pronunciation. But it is in the Talmud.


Talmud, Mishnah, Berachot 53b, “Our Rabbis taught: The absence of oil is a bar to the saying of grace. So said R. Zilai. R. Ziwai said: It is no bar. R. Aha said: Good oil is indispensable. R. Zuhamai said: Just as a dirty person is unfit for the Temple service, so dirty hands unfit one for saying grace. R. Nahman b. Isaac said: I know nothing either of Zilai or Ziwai or Zuhamai, but I do know the following teaching, viz.: Rab Judah said in the name of Rab: some say it was taught in a Baraitha, Sanctify yourselves: this refers to washing of the hands before the meal; And be ye holy: this refers to washing of the hands after the meal; ‘For holy’: this refers to the oil; ‘Am I the Lord your God’: this refers to the grace.”


Talmud, Mishnah, Seder Nashim, Mas. Sotah 4b, “R. ‘Awira expounded sometimes in the name of R. Ammi and at other times in the name of R. Assi: Whoever eats bread without previously washing the hands is as though he had intercourse with a harlot ; as it is said , For on account of a harlot, to a loaf of bread. Raba said: [On that interpretation] the verse, For on account of a harlot, to a loaf of bread’ should have read: ‘On account of a loaf of bread, to a harlot’! But, said Raba, [the meaning is:] Whoever has intercourse with a harlot will in the end go seeking a loaf of bread. R. Zerika said in the name of R. Eleazar: Whoever makes light of washing the hands [before and after a meal] will be uprooted from the world. R. Hiyya b. Ashi said in the name of Rab: With the first washing [before the meal] it is necessary to lift the hands up; with the latter washing [after the meal] it is necessary to lower the hands . There is a similar teaching: Who washes his hands [before the meal] must lift them up lest the water pass beyond the joint, flow back and render them unclean. R. Abbahu says: Whoever eats bread without first wiping his hands is as though he eats unclean food; as it is stated: And the Lord said: Even thus shall the children of Israel eat their bread unclean.”


In the Talmud, there are other rulings for washing of various items, as well as other reasons for people washing or fully immersing. When Yahusha was questioned, he called the Farushiym and the Soferiym hypocrites. He said that they had forsaken and rejected the commands of YHWH and reinforced, passed on the traditions of the sons of man instead. He then brings up an example where their tradition of qarbaniy – an offering to the temple, which was supposed to be used for widows, orphans and the elderly, was causing children to say to their parents that instead of helping them directly, which would have honored them and kept a command of YHWH, what they would have received was instead qarbaniy, a gift devoted to the temple. Yahusha confronts these leaders that not only do they encourage this practice, but that they are rejecting the word of YHWH on account of a tradition that was handed down to them. And he throws in the fact that this is not the only case, that there are many other situations like this.


In chapter 23 of the book of MaththiYahu [Matthew], Yahusha is speaking what has been termed the, ‘Woe’s’. His woes are directed to the Soferiym [Scribes that were in charge of teaching] and to the Farushiym [Pharisees]. Much of what is pointed out in detail involves teachings in the Talmud. I am not going to cover all the various teachings from the Talmud and what Yahusha has to say about them in this study, but I do want to show a few quotes of the view of Yahusha concerning all these traditions. “but after their practices do not act; for they say, and do not. and they bind heavy burdens, and lay them on the shoulders of men, but they with their fingers are not willing to touch them. and all their works they do that they may be seen of men;” “woe to you, soferiym and farushiym, hypocrites. because you hold the kingdom of the heavens closed before the children of men; for you will not enter in yourselves, and them who are entering you will not permit to enter.” “woe to you, soferiym and farushiym, hypocrites. because you go over sea and land to make one convert; and when you have done it, you make him doubly more a son of gehenna than yourselves.


Sometimes men make decisions that seem best to them. Their hearts may seem to be in the right place, or have right motivations. But, over time, those rules can become, if not even from the beginning, a snare, a hindrance, a stumbling block in the relationship with YHWH. We need to be very careful of these ways. Granted many do not have actual idols in their homes or worship them. They probably do not have Asherah poles and do not pass their children through the fire to honor Molech, but how many of you follow traditions of your churches, your synagogues, your mosques and do not know the origins of these practices, nor realize how they may make you forsake and reject the way of YHWH? Studying history most of my life, and having been a very studious and practicing Christian for over a decade before I came to follow YHWH and His ways, I know of hundreds, if not thousands of mans traditions that reject YHWH. As I write this study, it is the first of December. Later this month, Christians will be celebrating Christmas as the birth of Jesus Christ, which is actually a Persian belief of the birth of Mithras, adopted by the Romans worshipping Sol Invinctus, the Invincible Sun, with evergreen trees of the Teutonic religion, holly from the Druids, etc., which of course is another study. Suffice to say that religion, regardless which one, is full of a “great many observances by succession from their fathers.” 


Our priority should be the commands of our Father YHWH, the Thorah of YHWH, to walk in His ways, which is pleasing in His sight, even if it angers our earthly fathers. This is supposed to be a relationship, not a religion. YHWH does not want lip service but fellowship with us. We need to take a good hard look at our path and make sure that it is the path of the teachings of YHWH  and not the path of the teachings of the sons of men.


Kathryn QannaYahu