At the end of the Feast of Tabernacles in the Fall is rejoicing-with-the-Torah day! In Jewish communities there will be whoops and shouts of joy, singing and dancing and much merriment, as Torah scrolls of the first five books of the Bible are held up high and paraded around for all to see and enjoy.
Join us in enjoying the Torah throughout the year!
It is the end of the Feast of Sukkot, and also the end of the yearly cycle of reading through the Torah, portion by portion, and so also the beginning of the next year’s cycle. (You can join us in the weekly readings too if you like – check out our “Weekly Torah Portion” section!)
The last day of Sukkot has become known as “Shemini Atzeret” (8th day of the Assembly) or “Simchat Torah” (Joy of the Torah). In Israel they are both the same thing, but in other places in the world they happen over two days.
One of the most important commandments of Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, is to rejoice. And on this, the last day of the festival, we hold nothing back! It is said that you’ve never experienced joy like the joy at the end of Sukkot. God commands a day of rest and a feast of rejoicing, and the rabbis over the years have made this commandment a very visible aspect of the feast as traditions have developed and ways to appreciate the Torah have grown.
In many ways, the world has much to learn from the Jewish people about the Bible and how to relate to it – the love, devotion and joy that the Word of God inspires is quite amazing to behold. Do you enjoy your Bible in such a way? Are you overjoyed to have the Word of God in your hands? It’s the very Word of God! Living and active! Yet we can sometimes take it for granted or fail to be delighted by it. But what a remarkable gift, so carefully and diligently carried by the Jewish people for millenia to reach homes all around the world, in hundreds of different languages today.
The true treasure of the Word of God
Faithfully transcribed, letter by letter, with such accuracy it beggars belief. When the Dead Sea Scrolls surfaced in 1947, they found only a few letters different in the whole of the book of Isaiah – it had been almost perfectly preserved for over a thousand years. Far from exaggerating, losing the original meaning or becoming distorted in a game of Chinese Whispers (or Broken Telephone, as we say in Israel) the Bible has been delivered to us today with astonishing care. Every jot and tittle.
Yet I sometimes think that the point is being missed. Like pirates being satisfied with their treasure map, instead of seeking the treasure it points to.
Yeshua says to the religious people around him:
“You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (John 5:39-40)
I spent the weekend with Orthodox Jewish Israelis who love to study the Scriptures, but who do not know the One about whom they testify. We talked about it, of course, and I also prayed that God would allow his words to leap off the pages as they read them with love.
Hebrews 4:12 tells us that “the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
Please pray for the Jewish people today, that the God of Israel would speak through his word, and through believers. Pray for spritual hunger and thirst to be stirred as we rejoice with the Torah, that those who don’t yet know Him can enjoy the great joy of abiding with our God, tabernacling together for eternity.