The History of the Torah and Haftarah Bible Portions

If you have been exposed to Judaism, Messianic Judaism, Hebrew Roots, or some variant of those branches, then you will most likely be familiar with the weekly Bible readings known as the Torah portion, also referred to as the parashah, which simply means a passage or section of the first five books of the Bible, as well as the Haftarah portion. The Torah and Haftarah portions are typically read publicly and studied each Sabbath. Often times, in Messianic Judaism as well as Hebrew Roots congregations, aligning portions from the New Testament, also known as ‘Brit Chadashah’, are publicly read or studied as well to compliment the Torah and Haftarah portions. If you are relatively new to hearing such unfamiliar terminology, this brief article has been scribed to give you an overview.

Brief Torah Portion History

The tradition of reading a passage from the Torah, which is also known as the law or teachings or instructions of God and can be found in the first five books of the Bible being Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, is believed to have began in 6th century BC immediately after the Jews were released from Babylonian captivity. Upon being allowed to return to Jerusalem to re-group and re-claim their God-ordained promised land (Ezra 1-2), which they were evicted from by God for failing to obey God’s voice documented throughout the Torah, Ezra, the Levitical priest, “had prepared his heart to the seek the Law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel” (Ezra 7:10) so as to not repeat history and be cursed by God for failure to heed His written Voice. Once the temple was rebuilt and dedicated unto the LORD, in the seventh month (Tishri, on the Hebrew calendar), “all the people gathered together as one man” so Ezra could read to them the “Book of the Law”. Each day during the Feast of Tabernacles, known as ‘Sukkot’ in Hebrew, also during the seventh-month, portions of the Torah were read to the people (Ezra 8). And so it is believed the custom began in order to prevent the calamity of the curses brought on God’s people for their rebellion in not obeying God’s written voice. At some point, the Torah portions were divided up into 54 weekly parashahs or specific passages. Still today, the entire globe (of those branches) are studying the same Bible passages in unity as “one man”.

Brief Haftarah Portion History

No one knows for certain how the Haftarah, also pronounced Haftorah in Ashkenazi communities, portions began, but many believe the tradition started circa 175 BC when Antiochus Epiphanes conquered the temple. At that tragic time, Antiochus Epiphanes outlawed the public reading of the Torah, replaced the holy artifacts with pagan gods within the temple, slaughtered pig, an unclean and abomination according to Leviticus 11, Deuteronomy 14, and Isaiah 65-66, as a means to mock God’s ordained sacrificial system, and even tormented and killed Jews for holding to their belief in the one true God and their determination to adhere to His laws. All of this was an “abomination of desolation”, which will happen again according to prophecies found in the Books of Daniel, Matthew, and Revelation. Consequently, the rabbis of those days researched and prescribed related passages of the Torah found in the Prophets to be read each week instead of the Torah during that tumultuous time. This became known as “Haftarah”, which means “conclude”.

After that horrific time, the practice of reading from the Prophets stuck so today, passages called portions from the Torah and the Haftarah, which are related are read. 

Did you know when Jesus / Yeshua read Isaiah 61 in the synagogue on Shabbat (Sabbath/Saturday), which we can read about in Luke 4:16-30, He was reading from that specific week’s “Haftarah” portion? Did you know Jesus said that whoever does and teaches God’s laws will be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:18-19)?

To learn more about the weekly Torah portions, subscribe to my blog and YouTube channel. Each week, I strive to write a blog post or publish a video teaching regarding that week’s Torah portion.

Shalom and Blessings!

Carrie Turner

Seabbatical | Va'era

In this week’s Torah portion we see the first few words are “va’era” in Hebrew, which means “and I appeared”. When God appears to Moses commissioning him to be the vessel God wants to use to rescue the children of Israel from relentless cruel bondage, Moses eventually summons all courage to do the task at hand. Just as Moses gets over his fears and musters the strength to actually confront Pharaoh, the Israelites help realize Moses’ concerns and biggest fears by failing to believe in Moses being used by God to deliver them from Pharaoh (Exodus 6:9). Poor Moses can’t catch a break! Consequently, the Israelites’ lack of faith messes with Moses’ head and he goes back to God saying if these oppressed children of Israel don’t even believe You sent me, surely Pharaoh will not listen either (Exodus 6:12). Regardless of the Israelites or Moses’ floundering faith, God speaks – once again repeating His instructions. Not too much later, Moses yet again lacks the faith to courageously confront Pharaoh as God expected of him so he returns to God perhaps hoping He would have chosen someone else to do the job (Exodus 6:30). This time, however, God provides more details to Moses and a partner to help him accomplish this daunting responsibility (Exodus 7:1-5). As history goes, Moses and Aaron confront Pharaoh numerous times and each time, Pharaoh refuses to heed the voice of the LORD coming through His brave servants, Moses and Aaron. Now that God specifically outlined what would manifest as well as instructed Moses and Aaron to work together to convey God’s message to Pharaoh, or put another way, to work together to accomplish God’s will, Moses’ perspective changed. No longer was Moses fearful and insecure in who he was, in who God made him to be, and who God was, but now, armed with more information and an accountability partner, Moses and Aaron chose to respond in obedient faith instead of reluctant submission (Exodus 7:6). As history goes, Pharaoh indeed did not heed the LORD’s voice numerous times causing God to bring judgment on the people of Egypt while the Israelites were repeatedly uneffected. Instead of being fearful or reluctant to participate in God’s plan though, Moses and Aaron developed a pattern of immediately responding in obedience to God’s Voice. As you probably know, God’s will was eventually fulfilled and the children of Israel were delivered from their captors.

I know when I started to hear God’s Voice giving me instructions on what to do or say in various church services to His people or in various settings whether it be on the beach, at a gas station, or even a bar, I was in the beginning reluctant and doubtful, but the more I responded in obedience, the more I could see fruit or what He whispered deep within me actually manifest and bless His people.

Perhaps the scariest and most uncomfortable experience I encountered was while sitting in an evening church service, us congregants were corporately worshipping, and the atmosphere transitioned to just one man, who stood up near the back of the sanctuary solely speaking in tongues. A hush came over the congregation while the man spoke in this supernatural language. To my surprise and utter horror, I could somehow understand internally what this man was saying. At the time, I had never spoken in tongues and yet was sitting there mystified that somehow I could understand what was being said. Nevertheless, due to my fear, I did not stand up to interpret as Scripture teaches (1 Corinthians 14). Honestly, speaking in tongues and being able to interpret, as well as many other gifts provided by God were all so new to me. In fact, in my conservative Baptist background, I was essentially taught such manifestations ceased to exist and no longer happen today. Imagine my surprise when I discovered not only was that a fallacy, but I personally experienced such gifts!

The next evening, I attended a Bible Study I had been participating in weekly. In that intimate group setting I confessed what I heard and my failure to speak the interpretation as no one else interpreted and so the church was not blessed by the word given through the man. My fellow friends in the Bible Study encouraged me to not fear in the event something like that occurs again. The following Sunday, the same man who spoke in tongues the previous Sunday, was preaching at the evening service, to my surprise. I was utterly shocked by the message he presented as it was the same message he spoke in tongues a week prior unbeknownst to him and others. After he was finished preaching, I felt the Holy Spirit instruct me to now stand up and confirm the message the LORD was speaking through this man, not once, but twice. So like Moses, I mustered up all the courage I possibly could and stood up in front of the church to confess my fearful failure last week while confirming this important message from God – so important God spoke it not once, but twice. Consequently, it impacted the man, our Pastor, and the entire congregation. In addition to learning to have faith, I also learned God can use it all – even our fearful failures to fulfill His will.

Too many peculiar promptings have manifested over the years in my life to ignore or coware down in doubt or fear. Each time I acknowledge what the LORD is saying or instructing me to do or say, I choose to respond in obedience. In doing so, I marvel at how God blesses and delivers His people still today through willing vessels like you and me.

I encourage you, dear reader, that upon God “appearing” to you (and you know it does not contradict His written voice/instructions for life), that you get over your doubts, fears, and insecurities, but rather bravely participate in God’s will for you and those around you. Like Moses, you might just be setting captives free.

Shabbat Shalom,

Carrie Renee Turner 1/23/2020

Seabbatical: Vayechi

This week’s Torah and Haftarah portions, Vayechi, reminds me of the proverb, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Proverbs 18:21 (NKJV).

The title of this week’s Torah portion is “Vayechi”, which in Hebrew means “and he lived”. If you have followed along my YouTube ‘Seabbatical’ Bible Studies or are familiar with weekly Torah portions in general, then you know the title of that week’s passage comes from the first few words of the first verse in the listed passage. For example, Genesis 47:28 is the first verse of this week’s Torah portion and the first few words read “then Jacob (he) lived”.

The last few weeks we have followed the life of Joseph, the favored son/hated brother, who was a victim of human trafficking, ended up in prison due to the betrayal of his brothers, and yet eventually thanks to his spiritual gifts of dream interpretation became a high official of Egypt, who saved not just Egypt, but his brothers, father, and extended family from starvation all the while trusting God and forgiving his treacherous brothers. Ironically, despite being titled, “and he lived”, this week’s portion highlights the death of both Jacob, also known as Israel, Joseph’s father as well as Joseph starting in Genesis 47:28.

However, before Jacob, father of the twelve tribes of Israel, dies he blesses not only his own twelve sons, but Jacob also blesses and adopts Joseph’s two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim (Genesis 48). Much could be said about this prophetic significance, but for now, I believe the Holy Spirit is having me focus this particular Seabbatical on being mindful of our words as we address others, particularly our families/spouses…

As Jacob continues to give his final words just prior to his death, he “blesses” some of his sons, but much of his blessings seem more like curses or perhaps accurate prophecies. For example, when addressing his eldest son, Reuben, Jacob says, “unstable as water, you shall not excel, because you went up to your father’s bed; then you defiled it…”(Genesis 49:3-4). Jacob is referring to the incident when Reuben foolishly slept with one of Jacob’s wives, Reuben’s half-brother’s mother or like a step-mom figure (Genesis 35:22). Gross! Similarly, Jacob speaks more like a curse or rebuke over Simeon and Levi (Genesis 49:5-7) whereas he prophecizes the Lawgiver/Messiah will come from Judah’s lineage. Jacob hints the Messiah will first manifest like a young cub and then later as a mighty lion (Genesis 49:8-12). Interestingly enough, Jacob also prophecizes Dan will be like a judge and venomous snake that bites and causes harm. Jacob says immediately following as a part of Dan’s prophecy, “I have waited for your salvation, O LORD!”. It would seem Jacob could be hinting the Anti-Messiah/Anti-Christ may come from Dan’s lineage, which could also be why in Revelation 7, the tribe of Dan is not mentioned as part of the Israelite tribes sealed with God’s name on their forehead towards the very end. Moreover, Judah and Joseph have the most lengthy blessings and positive prophetic words of all the sons.

Likewise, in the Haftarah portion found in 1 Kings 2:1-12, we see King David blessing his son, Solomon, and providing him instructions namely to be careful to keep God’s instructions, His laws, commandments, etc. so that he will not only prosper, but that prophetic promises may be fulfilled through their lineage.

On a personal note, this passage of 1 Kings 2:3-4 is yet another “2-3-4” confirming the meaning of the numbers 234 I have been seeing frequently especially upon moving to Texas. In last week’s Seabbatical (posted on Flip Flop Fellowship’s YouTube channel), the Lord revealed to me the meaning of all the 234’s I have been seeing. Again this week, it’s as if Abba Father is reinforcing to me how important it is to make disciples, to be fruitful, to produce and instruct future generations in the results, the blessings of being obedient, being holy, to live it out, etc. Moreover, He seems to be encouraging me to continue to do and teach others to obey God’s instructions for life, His laws, His commands, etc. just as Jesus/Yeshua said in Matthew 5:18-19,after all, heaven and earth are still here as are God’s instructions for life.

With all that said, I am reminded in this week’s Torah portion our words (and actions) matter to God and how critical it is we take the time to bless and instruct our children, our spouses, our families, as well as others in the ways of God- primarily, by living it ourselves first. Perhaps in doing so, by doing and teaching the ways of God, we will have experienced the “abundant life” Jesus spoke of in John 10:10. After all, is not much of John 10 about hearing and following His voice? Is not the written word, specifically God’s commands, His documented voice (Deut 28:1;30:2)? Perhaps we aren’t really living life to the fullest until we surrender to the instructions, all of them, found in Scriptures. Upon doing so, perhaps angels will record what we are teaching and doing summarizing our obedience to His Voice similar to the beginning words of this Torah portion “then (s)he lived”. May we think before speak pondering carefully God’s instructions as we respond to and instruct others to also ponder and obey Abba’s instructions for life.

Torah Portion: B’reisheet

Here was today’s Torah and Haftarah (prophets) Portions. What would be a good passage from the New Testament to compliment the concept of ‘In The Beginning’. Comment below! Also, don’t forget to read ‘Someone To Blame’, an article I wrote earlier this week based off of Genesis 1 not even realizing we are at the start of a new Torah cycle starting in Genesis 1. He’s a good, good Abba! 🙂

Torah Portion: Va’etchanan

Did you know when Jesus / Yeshua read Isaiah 61 in the synagogue on Shabbat (Sabbath/Saturday), which we can read about in Luke 4:16-30, He was reading from that specific week’s “Haftarah” portion? For thousands of years, those of the Judaism faith have read from the Torah and Haftarah. A major part of the Jewish worship service since the days of escaping Babylonian captivity (see books of Ezra & Nehemiah), is the public reading of the Torah.For the Jewish people learned the hard way while under Babylonian captivity to forsake God’s instructions will inevitably lead to physical and spiritual bondage. The Torah is the first five books of the Bible, also known as the Law, or God’s instructions for life on HOW to love, HOW to live, and HOW to worship. 

Each week, in today’s congregations of Judaism, Messianic Judaism, and many Hebrew Roots’ congregations read a certain portion of the Torah in their services. So the whole world (of those groups) is studying the same portions in unity.

However, many years ago, circa 175 BC, when Antiochus Epiphanes conquered the temple, he outlawed the public reading of the Torah, replaced the holy artifacts with pagan gods within the temple, slaughtered pig, an unclean and abomination according to Leviticus 11, Deut 14, and Isaiah 65-66, as a means to mock God’s ordained sacrificial system, and even tormented and killed Jews for holding to their belief in the one true God and their desire to adhere to His laws. All of this was an “abomination of desolation”, which will happen again according to prophecies found in the Books of Daniel, Matthew, and Revelation. Consequently, the rabbis of those days researched and prescribed related passages of the Torah found in the Prophets to be read each week instead of the Torah during that tumultuous time. This became known as “Haftarah”, which means “conclude”.

After that horrific time, the practice of reading from the Prophets stuck so today, passages called portions from the Torah and the Haftarah, which are related are read. In Messianic Judaism (and possibly Hebrew Roots too), related portions from the Gospels are read as well. This photo captures this week’s. The Torah portion’s title is selected from the first few words of the passage. Shabbat Shalom!

Torah Portion: Devarim

Did you know when Jesus / Yeshua read Isaiah 61 in the synagogue on Shabbat (Sabbath/Saturday), which we can read about in Luke 4:16-30), He was reading from that specific week’s “Haftarah” portion? For thousands of years, those of the Judaism faith have read from the Torah and Haftarah. A major part of the Jewish worship service since the days of escaping Babylonian captivity (see books of Ezra & Nehemiah), is the public reading of the Torah.For the Jewish people learned the hard way while under Babylonian captivity to forsake God’s instructions will inevitably lead to physical and spiritual bondage. The Torah is the first five books of the Bible, also known as the Law, or God’s instructions for life on HOW to love, HOW to live, and HOW to worship. Each week, in today’s congregations of Judaism, Messianic Judaism, and many Hebrew Roots’ congregations read a certain portion of the Torah in their services. So the whole world (of those groups) is studying the same portions in unity. However, many years ago, circa 175 BC, when Antiochus Epiphanes conquered the temple, he outlawed the public reading of the Torah, replaced the holy artifacts with pagan gods within the temple, slaughtered pig, an unclean and abomination according to Leviticus 11, Deut 14, and Isaiah 65-66, as a means to mock God’s ordained sacrificial system, and even tormented and killed Jews for holding to their belief in the one true God and their desire to adhere to His laws. All of this was an “abomination of desolation”, which will happen again according to prophecies found in the Books of Daniel, Matthew, and Revelation. Consequently, the rabbis of those days researched and prescribed related passages of the Torah found in the Prophets to be read each week instead of the Torah during that tumultuous time. This became known as “Haftarah”, which means “conclude”. After that horrific time, the practice of reading from the Prophets stuck so today, passages called portions from the Torah and the Haftarah, which are related are read. In Messianic Judaism (and possibly Hebrew Roots too), related portions from the Brit Chadesha (Renewed/New Covenant) are read as well. This photo captures this week’s. The Torah portion’s title is selected from the first few words of the passage.

Torah Portion: Chukat

A “chukat” is a Hebrew word found in the first few verses of this week’s Torah portion meaning “statute”. A “chukat/statute” is a command from God with no rational explanation (i.e. red heifer ashes for purification; Moses & Aaron speaking to a rock). Can you find the connections in these Bible readings?

Torah Portion: Korach

While there always is so much wisdom gleaned from the various Torah, Haftarah, and Brit Chadesha’s portions, notice in these passages the theme of rebelling against God’s prophets, a type of spiritual leadership, Korah (and others) rather desired to have power and control. Later, in the Book of Samuel, we read how the people also didn’t want a prophet to lead and judge them, rather they sought a kingly carnal type of leadership in Saul. The people of Israel crucified Moses, Aaron, and Samuel with their ongoing complaining and rebellious words. And yet, when the ultimate prophet and king, being Yeshua, The Messiah, manifested, the descendants of Israel, repeated history, feeling threatened by their desire for power and control, rejecting the voice of God through a man, and crucified ‘The King of Jews’, the ultimate king they and their ancestors had longed for!

What Is the Torah Portion & Haftarah About?

Did you know when Jesus / Yeshua read Isaiah 61 in the synagogue on Shabbat (Sabbath/Saturday), which we can read about in Luke 4:16-30), He was reading from that specific week’s “Haftarah” portion? For thousands of years, those of the Judaism faith have read from the Torah and Haftarah. A major part of the Jewish worship service since the days of escaping Babylonian captivity (see books of Ezra & Nehemiah), is the public reading of the Torah.For the Jewish people learned the hard way while under Babylonian captivity to forsake God’s instructions will inevitably lead to physical and spiritual bondage. The Torah is the first five books of the Bible, also known as the Law, or God’s instructions for life. Each week, in today’s congregations of Judaism, Messianic Judaism, and many Hebrew Roots’ congregations read a certain portion of the Torah in their services. So the whole world (of those groups) is studying the same portions in unity. However, many years ago, circa 175 BC, when Antiochus Epiphanes conquered the temple, he outlawed the public reading of the Torah, replaced the holy artifacts with pagan gods within the temple, slaughtered pig, an unclean and abomination according to Leviticus 11, Deut 14, and Isaiah 65-66, as a means to mock God’s ordained sacrificial system, and even tormented and killed Jews for holding to their belief in the one true God and their desire to adhere to His laws. All of this was an “abomination of desolation”, which will happen again according to prophecies found in the Books of Daniel, Matthew, and Revelation. Consequently, the rabbis of those days researched and prescribed related passages of the Torah found in the Prophets to be read each week instead of the Torah during that tumultuous time. This became known as “Haftarah”, which means “conclude”. After that horrific time, the practice of reading from the Prophets stuck so today, passages called portions from the Torah and the Haftarah, which are related are read. In Messianic Judaism (and possibly Hebrew Roots too), related portions from the Brit Chadesha (Renewed/New Covenant) are read as well. This photo captures this week’s. The Torah portion’s title is selected from the first few words of the passage. You will notice all of these passages have to do with sending out (i.e. spies & apostles). I hope you had a peacful, wholesome #Shabbat!