Shemini Atzeret & Simchat Torah

 

 

Celebration Dates:

October 12-13, 2017

October 1-2, 2018

Shemini Atzeret (שמיני עצרת - "the Eighth [day] of Assembly") is a Biblical/Jewish holiday. It is celebrated on the 22nd day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei (first month of calendar), following seven days of Sukkot. "For seven days present food offerings to the Lord, and on the eighth day hold a sacred assembly and present a food offering to the Lord. It is the closing special assembly; do no regular work," Leviticus 23:36In the Diaspora, an additional day is celebrated, the second day being separately referred to as Simchat Torah

Shmini Atzeret and Simchat Torah (Rejoicing with the Torah) are commonly thought of as part of Sukkot, but that is technically incorrect; Shemini Atzeret is a holiday in its own right and does not involve some of the special observances of Sukkot. These two days mark the end of the annual cycle of weekly Torah readings and the beginning of the new cycle. On the morning of the holiday, the last parashah (portion) of the book of Deuteronomy is read in synagogue, followed by the first chapter of the book of Genesis (the end and the beginning of the Torah, respectively). It is a joyous holiday that celebrates the love of Torah and study.  For Jews, Simchat Torah is celebrated by taking all the Torah scrolls out of the ark in synagogue and spending the evening dancing, singing, and rejoicing. The scrolls are carried around the sanctuary in seven circles called hakafot. Though only seven circles are required, the dancing and celebrating usually goes on much longer. Many people also take the Torah scrolls out to the street and dance publicly as a way of showing their pride.

Much of the liturgy for this holiday is similar to Passover and Shavuot. These two holidays along with Sukkot made up the three feasts that were to be pilgrimage holidays. During these three holidays, people would try to travel to Jerusalem if they didn’t live there. The reason for this pilgrimage was to get to the Temple to take part in the festivities. These three holidays were huge social gatherings, where people camped out and fellowshipped together.  It has been said this holiday is as though God is a host, who invites us as visitors for a limited time, but when the time comes for us to leave, He has enjoyed Himself so much that He asks us to stay another day.

The haftorah reading (reading of a prophet) for this event is 1 Kings 8, which relates to how King Solomon blessed the people at the dedication of the newly erected Temple, an event that is usually understood to have occurred on the eighth day of Sukkot, also known as Shemini Atzeret.  Jews say, "On Simchat Torah, we rejoice in the Torah, and the Torah rejoices in us; the Torah, too, wants to dance, so we become the Torah’s dancing feet." During today’s Torah reading, everyone, including children under the age of Bar Mitzvah, is called up to the Torah; thus the reading is read numerous times, and each aliyah (the immigration of Jews from the Diaspora to the land of Israel) is given collectively to many individuals, so that everyone should recite the blessing over the Torah on this day.

The Eighth Day Festival

The Scriptures say, "On the eighth day hold a closing special assembly and do no regular work," Numbers 29:35. The rabbis interpreted this verse to mean that God asks all who made a pilgrimage for Sukkot to tarry (atzeret, which comes from the Hebrew root word meaning "to hold back") with Him one additional day. From this, the rabbis concluded that Shemini Atzeret is an independent festival.

To understand Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, we must review a few things. First, the seven days of Passover (Pesach) are followed by a 49 day period of counting the omer, which climaxes with the fiftieth day of Pentecost (Shavuot). For this reason, the liberation of Passover is linked with the revelation and giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, known as Shavuot (Pentecost). If we look at the festival cycle, Shemini Atzeret is comparable to Shavuot, which is understood to be the conclusion to Passover. Just like Shavuot is a one-day festival and is the conclusion to Pesach -- a seven-day festival, so Shemini Atzeret, a one-day festival, is the conclusion to Sukkot, a seven-day festival.

Therefore, we see that Shemini Atzeret is the eighth day -- that is the day after "seven." Seven, being a perfect number in the Bible, signifies a complete unit of time as each week ends with the seventh day called the Shabbat (or, the Sabbath). Thus, the eighth day is the day after time. It is the end of both kinds of time. It is thus not just the promise of redemption, but the actual moment of it. God said, "Remain with Me (atzeret) an extra day," a time beyond time.

Simchat Torah: Rejoicing in the Torah

At last comes the most joyous day of all, the day of Simchat Torah, rejoicing in the Torah. Simchat Torah is celebrated on the 23rd of Tishrei, or the day following Shemini Atzeret. Once again, it should be noted that the Hebrew word Torah means "teaching, or instruction," as it teaches us our way of life, the kind of life God wants us to lead. The Torah is the foundation for understanding the entire Bible.

Yeshua, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah

Tishrei 22, Shemini Atzeret, and Tishrei 23, Simchat Torah, in ancient times were considered one long day and celebrated on Tishrei 22. Simchat Torah is a celebration of rejoicing in the Torah. John 7:37 says, "On the last and greatest day of the festival [of Sukkot], Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink."  This day would be known as Hoshana Rabbah, or Tishrei 21. John 8:1-2 records, "Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn He appeared again in the Temple courts, where all the people gathered around Him, and He sat down to teach them." This is the next day after Hoshana Rabbah, the day attached to Sukkot called Shemini Atzeret. Once again, in ancient times that day was also called Simchat Torah, the rejoicing in the Torah. So, in John 8:5, we see Yeshua, the author of the Torah, is questioned about the Torah on the day referred to as "the rejoicing in the Torah"

The seventh year is called the Year of release or the Sabbath Year (Deuteronomy 31:10). Debts are to be forgiven at this time (Exodus 21:2; Leviticus 25:1-4; Deuteronomy 5:1-12; Jeremiah 34:8-22). The seven years are a picture of the 7,000-year plan of God (Psalm 90:4; 2 Peter 3:8). The Sabbath Year is a picture of the seventh day or the Messianic age -- the Millennium delay of judgment. Yeshua referred to this in both Isaiah 61:1-3 and Luke 4:16-21. The phrase, "liberty to the captives" in Isaiah 61:1, speaks of the Year of release. Yeshua is saying, in essence, "I am that release. Trust in Me and you will be free."

In the future, we will experience the real Simchat Torah during the wedding of the New Jerusalem to Messiah while the great multitude of all nations enter into the City and rejoice in the Word of God. We will be experiencing the "season of our joy," the time of the Messianic kingdom of Heaven. The reading, teaching, and understanding of the Torah will be at its height during the millennial delay in Heaven, during rest from sin and suffering.

 

Simchat Torah Prophetic Event

October 13, 2017

 

No doubt, President Donald Trump is a man who is doing as he pleases. When he believes in a cause he will act according to his beliefs, even if against the whole world. Today, he stood up against Iran, Europe, China and Russia by decertifying the JCPOA Iran deal and targeting the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corp. Daniel 11:3-4 warns in the latter days, "a mighty" leader "will arise, and he [Trump] will rule with great authority and do as he pleases. But as soon as he has arisen, his kingdom [America] will be broken up and parceled out toward the four points of the compass." What does this portend? Trump will soon take us to war to destroy Iran, as foretold in Daniel 8:3-8; however, "as soon as he [Trump] was mighty, the large horn [America] was broken; and in its place there came up four conspicuous horns toward the four winds of heaven." America's power will be dispersed towards the four corners of the globe; this is a sad commentary on where events are headed.

 

Today, during Trump's momentous announcement, the annual Simchat Torah was being celebrated. The Scripture scrolls were being raised up with joyous dancing in synagogues around the globe. The prophetic predictions in the book of Daniel are truly beginning to be be fulfilled, just as the Hebrew prophets wrote over 2,000 years ago, that will lead day by day to the King of kings and His eternal Kingdom. Nonetheless, celebration will soon give way to sorrow with many trials to come, including the downfall of the U.S. as the world's superpower and the death of millions in World War III. May God cover us with His grace as we trust in Him, moment by moment. 

My Personal Simchat Torah Story: A Rescue Mission Devotional by Kevin Swift