Becoming familiar with the teachings of our forefathers regarding the laws in the Torah, not only that it does not contradict the principles of faith of believers regarding the law, can further deepen our understanding of the Hebraic roots of the Christian faith.
There are 613 laws in the Torah.
Our ancient sages distinguished between different aspects of the laws in the Torah. They pointed out two major kinds of laws: 1. the laws between a person to another fellow human being, called in Hebrew “bein adam le-cha-vero.” These are the rules or laws of human relationship and 2. the laws between a person to God.
The laws between a person to God are called “the laws between a person to the Place.” The word “Place” is a reference to the place of the “Shekhinah,” or in other words, God. The substitution of the name is a form of reverence to the Creator.
To clarify this distinction, look, for example, at the Ten Commandments: “You shall not kill,” “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor,” and “You shall not covet” are all person-to-person laws and were characterized as “Light Laws.”
“You shall have no other gods before me,” “You shall not make for you any engraved image,” “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain,” and “Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it” are person-to-God laws and were characterized as “Severe Laws.”
Throughout history, religious leaders, scholars and clergy have viewed the person-to-God category as paramount. Therefore, the person-to-person laws were viewed as secondary. Consider what was viewed as “Light” versus “Severe.”
The sages taught that “Yom Kippur,” the Jewish Day of Atonement, allows forgiveness of sins transgressed against God (sins between a person-to-God). but it does not provide forgiveness for person-to-person sins. These sins must only be first forgiven by the inflicted person.
In Matthew 23:23, Jesus makes an earth-shattering equation and even reverses the importance of these two categories by calling the “Light” laws “weightier matters of the law.” Making such a statement at that time in history was nothing short of shocking. The reason why Jesus downplayed the role of person-to-person laws held as so important by the Pharisees was to characterize them as hypocrites. There is no way to fully understand the meaning of the repeating reference to the scribes and Pharisees as hypocrites other than to be familiar with our subject today: the Laws between a person-to-God.