Shmini Azteret & Simchat Torah Continued
Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah come at the conclusion of Sukkot. Some authorities consider Shemini Atzeret to be a separate festival, but its connection to Sukkot comes from scripture:
Leviticus 23:36 For seven days present offerings made to YAHUVEH by fire, and on the eighth day hold a sacred assembly and present an offering made to YAHUVEH by fire. It is the closing assembly; do no regular work.
On the eighth day hold an assembly and do no regular work. “Shemini” means eighth, while “Atzeret” means gathering or assembly. It comes from the Hebrew root “atzar” meaning “to hold back” or to “tarry”. In that connotation it is seen as an added day to spend with the YAH.
Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, YAHUVEH Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. If any of the peoples of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, YAHUVEH Almighty, they will have no rain. Israel then takes one last day to be alone with YAH. A Messianic explanation for this one day holiday is based on the theory that YAHUSHUA was born on the first day of Sukkot. He came into the world and “tabernacled” with us.
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us…”
Lev 23:36 (HRB)
36 Seven days you shall bring a fire offering to YAHWEH; on the eighth day you shall have a holy gathering; and you shall bring the fire offering to YAHWEH; it is a solemn assembly; you shall do no laborious work of service.
Then, eight days later, on Shemini Atzeret, was His brit milah:
“On the eighth day, when it was time for his Brit-milah, he was named YAHUSHUA, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived.”
As a separate holiday Shemini Atzeret has fewer rituals than the preceding feasts. It is traditional though, to read one of the five “megillot”, or scrolls, Ecclesiastes, Perhaps Ecclesiastes is read because of its somber introspection, a balance to the joyousness of Sukkot, and an expression of the mood of soul searching associated with Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur preceding.
The mood swings upward again a day later on Simchat Torah. In Israel this day is not considered as a separate feast, but as the second day of Shemini Atzeret. In the Diaspora it is either a separate feast or considered the ninth day of Sukkot. Since the cycle of Torah readings would begin again, this became a joyous day.Thus the name “Simchat Torah”, “rejoicing in the Torah”.
What would otherwise have been a day of tediously re-rolling all the Torah scrolls to their beginnings, now became a very joyous festival involving the whole family.
Traditions for this day include reading the last verses of Deuteronomy and immediately reading the first verses of Genesis. Jewish tradition did not want to leave the slightest impression that we are ever finished studying YAH’s word. A portion of Joshua is also read to show that YAH’s word extends even beyond the Torah. As believers we can consider the eternal nature of the Word:
“In the beginning was the WORD, and the WORD was with YAH, and the WORD was YAH.”
In synagogues that read from the actual Torah scroll a great ceremony is made of rewinding the scroll. It is considered an honor to be called up to help with this task. Also, the Torah scrolls are carried in a circle seven times around the sanctuary in a joyous parade called “hakafot”.
Children are given flags or small scrolls to follow in the procession. Candles are put in the ark in place of the scrolls, a reminder of YAH’s law is the WORD become flesh being our light:
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”
Also, as YAHUSHUA reminded us when He was at the Temple on Sukkot:
When YAHUSHUA spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” We take delight in our celebration of the Torah as mentioned in Psalms:
Luk 2:21 (HRB)
21 And when eight days had passed to circumcise the Child, His name was called Yahshua, the name called by the cherub before He was conceived in the womb.
“Let your compassion come to me that I may live, for your law is my delight.”
“I rejoice in your promise like one who finds great spoil.”
“I long for your salvation, O YAHUVEH, and your law is my delight.”
Sweets are appropriate at this celebration to remind us:
“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”
As believers we can rejoice in the LIVING WORD:
“The WORD became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the ONE and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
YAHUSHUA IS HIS NAME