Simchat Torah—REJOICING IN THE LAW
When Moses conveyed God’s instructions concerning the holiday of Sukkot, a distinctive celebration following the 7-day event was included. More than an extra day tacked onto Sukkot, Simchat Torah—also known as Rejoicing in the Law—provides a climactic conclusion to the annual feast cycle.
LEVITICUS 23:39 (emphasis added)
“Also on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep the feast of the Lord for seven days; on the first day there shall be a Sabbath-rest, and on the eighth day a Sabbath-rest.”
Today in Israel, the “extra day” Shemini Atzeret— literally the eighth day assembly—is observed on a single day with Simchat Torah (Rejoicing in the Law) incorporated into the celebration.
In the Diaspora, the feast is held over two days; the extra day, Shemini Atzeret, is followed by a second day celebration of Simchat Torah.
Rabbinic tradition likens the celebration to a father who invites his family to a seven-day feast, but when it is time for his children to leave, he’s having such a wonderful time that he begs them to stay an extra day!
Whether celebrated on one or two days, Shemini Atzeret is characterized with exuberant joy. With the reading of Deuteronomy 33 – 34, the yearly Torah reading schedule (the first five books of the Old Testament) concludes. At that point, the opening of a new scroll and the new cycle of Torah readings begins with the first chapter of Genesis through chapter two verse three.
The reading is followed by the Hakafot procession where synagogue members take turns holding the Torah Scroll while joyfully marching, singing and dancing around the bimah (the platform where the Torah is read).
During a normal synagogue service, everyone is given the opportunity to touch the scroll as it passes through the congregation to the bimah.
In the Hakafot procession, every able-bodied individual has the privilege of holding the Torah Scroll. It is a symbolic act demonstrating the reverence and joy associated with the Torah. It is significant that the joyful and exuberant climax of the biblical feast schedule focuses on the Word of God.
King David articulated the proper attitude toward the Word of God in the 19th Psalm:
The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
Yea, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. PSALM 19:7-11
Not only is the Bible to be a prized possession, but the principles and precepts contained within the divinely inspired pages are to be highly esteemed.
The accessibility of the Word of God available today is an incomparable privilege.
Thanks to 21st century technology, we can have the Bible with us wherever we go. There are numerous Bible apps with a diversity of translations and languages. Most are free and available through a quick search on digital devises.
God’s Word is powerful; it contains everything we need to cope with daily life and people of faith are no longer limited to a print copy. Take the Bible with you wherever you go—not just today, but every day!
David exclaimed, “I rejoice at Your word as one who finds great treasure” (Ps. 119:162).
Make reading, meditating upon and internalizing the Word of God your priority.
The exuberant joy symbolized by Simchat Torah can be the experiential reality for people of faith every day of the year!
Simchat Torah celebration, September 26, 2013 at Yokneam City Hall, Israel. (Note the many Torah scrolls in this multi-faceted photo montage! Jokneam Illit is a city in northern Israel located in a hilly region of the lower Galilee at the base of the Carmel Mountains. Overlooking the Jezreel Valley, Yokneam is a high-tech Israeli “Startup Village” surrounded by forest in close proximity to other small communities. By רועי אדוט (Yokneam City Hall) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons – Enhancement: MKM Portfolios
© Charles E. McCracken 2016, devotional comments only. Repost/Reprint with permission from the author. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Charles E. McCracken is an international Bible teacher, long-time friend of Israel and advocate for the Jewish people. With 40 plus years of ministry experience, Rev. McCracken is known for authenticity in communicating biblical truth that makes his presentations relevant for those seeking to understand the significance of Israel and the church in Bible prophecy. He staunchly supports the nation of Israel and the Jewish people’s right to exist and live in peace.