These traditions direct our gaze toward HaShem through Messiah Yeshua and remind us that we are practicing the living faith of the dead.
A contemplative look at Simchat Torah
On the face of our Kehilah’s Aron Ha-kodesh (Torah Ark), we read the words, “Ha-D’var Emet”, The Word of Truth. The Torah is The Word of Truth. Yochanan 1 reminds us that Yeshua our Messiah is The Word of Truth, therefore as we celebrate the ketvi (written) word of HaShem we are also reminded of the living Word and Author of the Torah, Yeshua our Mashiyach.
As we say the brachot and open the Ark, the Torah is revealed and its clothing is illuminated. The Torah is clothed as both King and Priest.
At its head are twin crowns which represent the unity of G-d and His King Messiah, the Priesthood and the Kingship of Israel: the High priest wore a type of crown with the words, “Kadosh HaShem” engraved upon it and the King of Israel, a crown made of precious metal.
The Torah Scroll is covered in a velvet garment representing both the priestly garments and the royal garments of the king of Israel. Embroidered on the Torah cover are the words, “From Zion shall go forth the Torah and the Word of HaShem from Jerusalem!” The New Testament explains that the Torah came through Moses and grace of redemption through the Mashiyach Yeshua. This is an extension of truth rather than a division of it. Therefore we understand that the humility of Moses and the victory of Yeshua have combined to reveal the fullness of the Torah, Who is Yeshua, Or Ha-Olam (Light of the world).
At either side of the singular crown embroidered on the cover are two pillars. These pillars are born in the protection of HaShem over Israel, the pillar of smoke by day and the pillar of fire by night as she wandered through the desert toward the Promised Land. These pillars are also representative of the two pillars of 1 Kings 7, Jachin (He will establish) and Boaz (In him is strength). We understand therefore, that it is in the Torah, The living Word of Truth, Yeshua, we find security and strength.
Over the cover rests a shield. This is the breast plate of the High Priest that contains the stones of the twelve tribes of Israel. This plate is worn over the heart (Lev), the core being, as a symbol of the Priest’s role as intercessor for Israel. This is brought to perfection in our great High Priest Yeshua. The shield is also symbolic of G-d’s protection of Israel and her king. This is echoed in the Magen David (Shield of David: Star of David).
Beside the shield hangs a Yad (Hand) pointer which is used to direct the reader through the text without the human hand needing to touch the scroll itself. The Scroll is sacred and the human hand is unclean, the yad acts as an intermediary. In Messiah and through His hand we have direct access to the Instruction of G-d.
Each of the items of outer clothing are removed and beneath is the scroll which is surrounded by a sash representing the Priestly sash and the girdle of the king. This is undone and the scroll is rolled out for the reading of the final portion of the Torah (V’zot Ha-Berachah: This is the blessing), concluding the Torah cycle. However, this is not an ending but a beginning because the reading of the last portion is immediately followed by the reading of the first portion B’reshit (Beginning).
In many congregations it is customary for everyone to have an opportunity to make aliyah, going up to the bema to read from the Torah, however there are two specific roles to be played, first the Chatan Torah (Groom of the Torah) reads from the last portion of the Torah beneath a tallit which acts as a Chuppah (Wedding Covering), then the Chatan B’reshit (Groom of the beginning) reads from the first portion of the Torah in order to begin the cycle anew. A custom has also developed where the Scroll is rolled out and held by each of the members of the shul with the text facing away from the bearer and toward all the other members of the community so that everyone is seen both imparting and receiving the Torah. This is yet another wonderful reminder of our Messiah the Word of Truth, Yeshua, Who lives in us to impart His Word to others and lives in our brothers and sisters that they might impart His Word to us. Thus we are reliant on one another, the Torah binds us together in loving instruction through the living Word Yeshua our Mashiyach.
Notice the seemingly back to front roles of the Chatan Torah and the Chatan B’reshit. Shouldn’t the beginning come first? This is another reminder of the eternal nature of The Word of Truth, Who knows the end from the beginning and Who dwells both within and without time and space. He is the Tav and the Aleph, the end and the beginning. We are also reminded of The Creator as we begin again with the words, “B’reshit bara Elohim”.
As each person is called forth to read, we pronounce the Torah blessings and are reminded again of the formula that begins our prayers, “Baruch ata Adonai, Elohaynu melekh ha-olam, asher kidishanu b’mitzvotav…” In these words we understand the nature of salvation and redemption through the Light of the World (Yeshua). We pray, “All blessing comes from You Hashem our G-d, Ruler of the universe (All things), Who sanctifies us by Your right actions…” Notice that it is not our right actions but His that sanctify us.
After the latter reading we dress the Torah and take turns carrying it as we dance around the shul seven times signifying the complete work of Hashem in all things. As we dance and sing with simchah (Great joy) we are reminded that it is the Word that holds the Universe together. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with G-d and the Word was G-d, He was with G-d in the beginning.” –Yochanan 1:1
We shower the yeladim (children) with blessing and candy to remind them of the psalmist’s words, “Your Torah… sweeter than honey from the honeycomb” (Psalm 19).
This wonderful day that (In Eretz Israel) is combined with Sh’mini atzeret (The eighth day), the day after Sukkot, reminds us of the eternal simchah (Joy) that awaits us in the Olam Habah (World to come) when HaShem and His Word will dwell with us in eternal celebration and light.
These traditions direct our gaze toward HaShem through Messiah Yeshua and remind us that we are practicing the living faith of the dead. Our forefathers passed this on to us l’dor v’dor (from generation to generation) so that we might take on the responsibility to do the same.
As you celebrate Simchat Torah this year 5776, may you know the revelation of Yeshua the Mashiyach, may you see Him illuminated as Ha-D’var Emet, and may you be redeemed by His loving sacrifice for you and be reconciled to Hashem in eternal mercy and joy.
Chag Simchat Torah Sameach lekulam!
© 2015 Yaakov Brown
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.