Prove yourselves doers of the Torah, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. - Yaakov(James) 1:22
Simchat Torah (Celebrating the Torah/Word)
Some have said we shouldn't celebrate this festival because it's not commanded in Scripture. I have previously written regarding this very poor reasoning and why it is error, suffice to say, this is an extra biblical festival that is entirely focused on the Bible. The ironic hilarity born of the foolish admonishment of some, is a poignant reminder that we should define ourselves by who we are and not by what we are not.
It's true that Simchat Torah was probably developed during the latter diaspora. There is no record of it's celebration in Israel until the eleventh century. The rabbi's teach that like a generous host, HaShem invites us to remain with Him after Sukkot, to tarry a while and continue the celebration, hence, Simchat Torah.
Just as the festival of Shavuot is connected to the giving of the Torah, the festival of Simchat Torah is connected to the perpetuating of the same. It's at this time of year that we complete and renew the Torah cycle: the Chatan Torah (Groom of the Torah) reads the final Torah portion of Devarim/Deuteronomy followed by the reading of the first Torah portion of Beresheet/Genesis by the Chatan Beresheet (Groom of the beginning). Our Messiah Yeshua is the Aleph and the Tav, the beginning and the end, because He is the eternal one He's also the end and the beginning, the Chatan Torah and the Chatan Beresheet.
When we speak of grooms we are reminded of the Jewish wedding vow, "I have loved you with and everlasting love, I betroth myself to thee..." HaShem "has" betrothed Himself to Israel, notice the past tense; "with an everlasting love," notice the future tense. The sum of this statement is eternity past present and future. This is the love we celebrate during Simchat Torah.
The Torah is ketvi (written word), it contains the representation of the memra (word essence), the d'var (written essence) and the kol (voice). All of these are echad (one) in HaShem, all are representations of Ha-Ben (the Son) our Messiah. When we celebrate the Torah we are celebrating the living Torah, Yeshua, our salvation. We might just as easily call this celebration Simchat Yeshua (Rejoicing in Salvation/Yeshua). Lets return to those who have rebuked us and ask, "Should we refuse to celebrate our Messiah? A curse on it!"
It is interesting to note that Simchat Torah and Shemini Atzeret are essentially synonymous in Israel today. Therefore this is a Biblical feast, the eighth day which follows Hoshana Raba (The great salvation)!
This festival is the culmination of the High Holy Days. It’s purpose is simply to celebrate the Word or Torah of G-d. We began the High Holy Days by "listening to the voice of the Ram's horn," the voice of Yeshua, G-d's sacrificial Ram. We now bring the High Holy Days to perpetual completion by celebrating the presence of Ha-Kol (the Voice), Yeshua our Messiah.
Tradition dictates that all members of the community should participate. In synagogues, as many aliyah’s as possible are called to the bima (pulpit) to read from the Torah and the prophets.
One could site the writing of Shaul/Paul the Shaliach (Apostle) in defense of this practice:
"Until I come, don't forsake the Torah cycle and it's public readings, because it brings exhortation and teaches doctrine."
1 Timothy 4:13
It's this very same cycle of public readings from the Torah that Simchat Torah celebrates.
The readings of the Simchat Torah celebration are done beneath a chuppah (Wedding canopy) signifying G-d's relationship to Israel as groom and Husband. We also look forward to the day when all believers in Messiah Yeshua are united as a bride to our Messiah at the wedding feast of the Lamb.
"Let the word of Messiah richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and encouraging one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God."
The service begins with the Chatan Torah/The Groom of the Torah. This person is selected for the privilege of reading the last portion of the Torah for the end of the yearly Torah cycle.
After all the other service readings, the Chatan Bereshit/Groom of the beginning reads the first portion of Genesis to begin the next yearly Torah reading cycle.
Messiah Yeshua is both the Groom of the Torah (in that He fills the Torah with purpose and unifies the Word of God) and the Groom of the beginning; He is the Alpha and Omega, eternal, the Aleph and Tav, the beginning and the end.
“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fill."
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it."
Another tradition is the giving of candy or honeyed foods to the children to remind them that God’s word is sweet like honey from the honey cone.
What the Bible says about The Torah/Word
"I have not turned aside from Your ordinances, For You Yourself have taught me. 103 How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!"
"For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart."
"How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word. 10 With all my heart I have sought You; Do not let me wander from Your commandments. 11 Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You."
"Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path."
"But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.’”
The living Torah/Word—Yeshua The Messiah - John 1:1-5
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were made through Him; and without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life; and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness; and the darkness cannot overcome it.”
· Symbol: TALLIT--Tzittzit, Shamash thread
The Shamash (Servant) strand, binds the five knots of the tzitzit (tassels), representing the books of the Torah and the wynds representing each book of the Tanakh.
Yeshua is the servant Messiah who said, "I have not come to be served but to serve."
Yeshua is the Word essence that binds the Torah together. He is the Author.
The written Torah/Word – Matthew 5:17-20
“Don’t think that I have come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete. 18 Yes indeed! I tell you that until heaven and earth pass away, not so much as a yud or a stroke will pass from the Torah — not until everything that must happen has happened. 19 So whoever disobeys the least of these mitzvot and teaches others to do so will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But whoever obeys them and so teaches will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness is far greater than that of the Torah-teachers and P’rushim, you will certainly not enter the Kingdom of Heaven!
The Full Torah - Mathew 5:21 -37
“You have heard that our fathers were told, ‘Do not murder,’ (Exodus 20:13, Deuteronomy 5:17) l and that anyone who commits murder will be subject to judgment. 22 But I tell you that anyone who nurses anger against his brother will be subject to judgment;
Lev 19:18 You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people; but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am Adonai.
“You have heard that our fathers were told, ‘Do not commit adultery.’(Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17) 28 But I tell you that a man who even looks at a woman with the purpose of lusting after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Exo 20:17 You shall not lust after your neighbor's house, You shall not lust after your neighbor's wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is your neighbor's.
“It was said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife must give her a get.’(Deuteronomy 24:1) 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of fornication, makes her an adulteress; and that anyone who marries a divorcee commits adultery.
Deu 24:2-4 And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife. 3 And if her next husband hates her, and writes her a bill of divorce, and gives it to her, and sends her out of his house; or if he dies. 4 her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before Adonai:
“Again, you have heard that our fathers were told, ‘Do not break your oath,’ and ‘Keep your vows to ADONAI.’ Leviticus 19:12; Numbers 30:2; Deuteronomy 23:22) 34 But I tell you not to swear at all — not ‘by heaven,’ because it is God’s throne; 35 not ‘by the earth,’ because it is his footstool; and not ‘by Yerushalayim,’ because it is the city of the Great King. 36 And don’t swear by your head, because you can’t make a single hair white or black. 37 Just let your ‘Yes’ be a simple ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ a simple ‘No’; anything more than this has its origin in evil.
Exo 20:16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
The Rock - Mathew 7: 24 – 29
“So, everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on bedrock. 25 The rain fell, the rivers flooded, the winds blew and beat against that house, but it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a stupid man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain fell, the rivers flooded, the wind blew and beat against that house, and it collapsed — and its collapse was horrendous!” 28 When Yeshua had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at the way he taught, 29 for he was not instructing them like their Torah-teachers but as one who had authority himself.
· Symbol: Rock
Psa_18:2 (18:3) The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my rock, in Him I take refuge; my shield, and my horn of salvation, my high tower.
Psa_18:46 (18:47) The LORD lives, and blessed be my Rock; and exalted be the God of my salvation;
Psa_19:14 (19:15) Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable before Thee, O LORD, my Rock, and my Redeemer.
Psa_71:3 You have become to me a rock of shelter, a safe place where I can continually turn, a place You have appointed for my salvation; for You are my rock and my fortress.
Celebrate with me, The Rock, The Covering, The Ketvi, The Memra, The D'var, The Kol, The Torah, The Word, The Messiah, HaShem...
Chag Simchat Torah Sameach Lekulam!
© 2014 Yaakov Brown
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.