Rejoicing in the Torah

“Tell the people of Israel, ‘On the fifteenth day of this seventh month is the feast of Sukkot for seven days to the LORD … on the eighth day you are to have a holy convocation and bring an offering made by fire to the LORD; it is a day of public assembly; do not do any kind of ordinary work” (Leviticus 23:34-36).

The Feast of Tabernacles lasted seven days with an added day at  its conclusion called Shemini Atzeret or the ‘eighth day assembly’.   Simchat Torah, Hebrew words meaning ‘Rejoicing in the Torah’ is celebrated as part of this assembly. 

Rolling Torah Scroll

Rolling Torah Scroll

Simchat Torah is a joyful celebration with dancing and flags which surpasses even the ‘season of our joy‘ in the entire Feast of Tabernacles.  On this day, the yearly cycle of reading the Torah concludes. The scroll is rolled from the end of Deuteronomy back to the beginning of Genesis in order to start a new yearly cycle of studying God’s teachings and instructions.

In synagogues the Torah scroll is removed from the ark and given to a group in the congregation to hold.  Then it is marched around or hakafot while people touch and kiss the cherished Scriptures.   Once the Torah is returned to the ark, everyone dances in circles.  Children wave flags and hand out candy.  This hakafot is done seven times as the scroll is handed to other groups until everyone has taken part in the celebration.

The Eighth Day

The number eight holds the the Biblical vision for ‘new beginnings’.  Dedication ceremonies for the Temple, the anointing oil and the Altar  lasted eight days.  Jewish baby boys were, and still are,  circumcised and named on the eighth day in a ceremony called a brit milah

A brit milah is the Hebrew terminology for ‘covenant of cutting’ or circumcision.   Circumcision was the covenant sign, a symbol of a blood sacrifice,  given to Abraham as God’s promise to make him the father of many nations.   Abraham believed God and trusted in the promise of a son, an heir. 

Because of Abraham’s faith, a brit milah, was always to be in unity with the circumcision of the heart.  When God told the Israelites to ‘circumcise the foreskin of their hearts,’ He was directing them back to Abraham, the father of their faith to whom circumcision was given.   He was also alluding back to the Garden of Eden and the hope in the coming Seed of woman who would become the blood sacrifice for sin.

From the details given in the first two chapters of Luke, we can reason that Yeshua was born on the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles.  This means that on the eighth day, the Shemini Atzeret, while he was being circumcised in the Temple of Jerusalem, the Jewish people were dancing and celebrating the Torah.  As Israel and the priests were rejoicing in the Torah that held all the prophecies of their coming redemption, the Living Torah, a little baby was being given the name salvation in their very presence.  What a brit milah Yeshua had with his entire family of Jewish and Israeli brothers and sisters!

“On the eighth day, when it was time for his b’rit-milah, he was given the name Yeshua, which is what the angel had called him before his conception” (Luke 2:21).

In the modern spoken Hebrew language, milah also means ‘word’.   Thus a brit milah can also mean “the cutting of the Word‘, ‘circumcision of the Word’, or ‘covenant of the Word’.   Who is the Word of God?  Who became the covenant of the Word?  Yeshua!

With a brit milah every Jewish baby boy enters a covenant with the the Word and ultimately Yeshua in the flesh.    Though circumcision of the flesh is commanded for Israel and vitally important to the covenant made with Abraham, it is  even more important that one enters into the covenant of the Word by faith and receive a  circumcised heart.  Without  faith it is impossible to please God; without a circumcised heart, it is impossible to obey God.

Years ago I remember a Messianic pastor saying that the circumcision of a baby boy was not so much for the baby as the father who gives the child to be circumcised and witnesses the event.   It is at the moment when the beloved son’s foreskin of his flesh is ‘cut’,  that the father is ‘cut to the heart‘ and remembers the promises given to Abraham and his descendants.   It this the sign of the covenant in the flesh, the brit milah, that is a reminder of the promised Seed, salvation that would come from Israel and the Jewish people.

“A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical.  No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God” (Romans 2:28-29).

Simchat Torah

Loving God’s Word

Simchat Torah is the joyful celebration of the Torah, the written covenant God gave to Israel so they would be a light to the nations.  On the eighth day when everyone in Israel was celebrating  the Word of God, Yeshua had his brit milah and entered into the covenant of the Word.  As his Father watched, He remembered His covenant with Abraham.   One cycle of Torah ended and another began.  The Word had become flesh and was ‘cut’.  Yeshua became the Living Torah, the covenant of the Word that would bring the circumcision of the heart to Israel and the nations.

©2014 Tent Stake Ministries (Chapter from Journey with Jeremiah: Nourishment for the Wild Olive that has more teachings on how to celebrate the Feasts of the LORD in your home or with others.)

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