Rejoicing in the Torah – Simchat 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. 

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 begin a new year 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.  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 given to different groups until everyone has taken part in the celebration.

The Eighth Day

The number eight holds the Biblical vision for ‘new beginnings’ as in the Simchat Torah celebration. Dedication ceremonies for the Temple, the anointing oil and the Altar also lasted eight days hence the re-dedication of the Altar at Hanukkah lasting for eight days.  Jewish baby boys were, and still are,  circumcised and named on the eighth day in a ceremony called a b’rit-milah

A b’rit-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 with 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 b’rit-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 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.

According to the details given in the first two chapters of Luke, it can be determined 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 Simchat 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 circumcised and given the name salvation in their very presence.  What a b’rit-milah Yeshua had with his entire family of Jewish 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 b’rit-milah can also mean “the cutting of the Word‘ or ‘the  covenant of the Word.‘  With a b’rit-milah every Jewish baby boy enters into a covenant with the Word.  Who is the Word of God?  Whose blood became the ‘cutting of the covenant’?   Yeshua!

Though circumcision of the flesh is commanded for Israel and is 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 (Hebrews 11:6, Deuteronomy 30:6-8).

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 his beloved son’s foreskin is ‘cut’,  that the father is ‘cut to the heart‘ and remembers the promises given to Abraham and his descendants.   It is this sign of the covenant in the flesh, the b’rit-milah, that is a reminder of the promised Seed, the salvation that would come from Israel and the Jewish people to the world.

“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 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 while everyone in Israel was celebrating  the Word of God, Yeshua had his b’rit-milah and entered into the covenant of the Word.  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.  As his Father watched, He remembered His covenant with Abraham.

©2014 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing. For a hard copy of this article,  please purchase Journey with Jeremiah: Nourishment for the Wild Olive.

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