Sukkot or the Feast of Tabernacles ends this mid-week. In Israel it is followed by a day called Shemini Atzeret (which literally means “the assembly of the eighth (day)”), also known as the holiday of Simhat Torah. This holiday begins Thursday night and ends Friday night. Outside of Israel, it is a two-day holiday. The majority of Jews consider the level of celebration and joy of Simhat Torah as surpassing that of Sukkot.
What is Simhat Torah? It is a time of celebrating the giving of the Word of God to Moses. Literally meaning, “rejoicing in the Law,” this holiday is marked by a remarkable celebration whereas the Torah scroll is lifted high and carried around the synagogue in wonderful procession on the shoulders of joyful Jews. Personally having the privilege of attending a Simhat Torah service in Jerusalem, it is a moving experience.
Simhat Torah also marks the completion of the annual cycle of weekly Torah readings. On this day, the last portion of the Torah (Deuteronomy 34) is read, immediately followed by the reading of Genesis 1, the first reading in the annual cycle. Simhat Torah is also the day to officially begin prayers for rain. Without even the threat of rain in Israel since April or early May at the very latest, the fall rains can come anytime from October to December. Viewed as a sign of blessing, every Jew in Israel begins to earnestly pray for rain on this special day.
Considering the high degree of how much the Hebrew Bible is celebrated by Jews, it makes me wonder about how we as Christians view the Word of God. When is the last time you’ve seen a worship service in your own church where the Bible was lifted high and carried around the sanctuary on the shoulders of believers? Have you ever seen the Word of God celebrated in similar ways? Regrettably, I doubt it.
The psalmist wrote, “The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb. By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward (Psalm 19:7-11).”
This week, take time to joyfully give thanks to the Lord for the written Word of God. And when no one is looking, dance around with it. And if someone is looking, don’t worry too much about it!! 🙂 Praise God for His Word!