Heschel

Heschel

Monday, October 5, 2015

Simchat Torah: Rejoicing In Torah

The Feast of Tabernacles has drawn to a close, and today marks the Simchat Torah, A day of rejoicing with the Torah. This is not a biblical feast, it was added later to the Jewish holidays, but I love the implications. 

Devout Jews read through the Torah cyclically through the year. The eighth day of the Feast of Tabernacles marks the end of the cycle of weekly Torah readings with Deuteronomy 34, and the new cycle begins, going back to Genesis 1. Synagogues hold services on this day, and at the end of the reading service, a ceremony call the Hagbah is performed. The Hagbah is lifting the Torah Scroll for the people to see. It is held in a way where it is reversed with all the weight of the scroll on one side to symbolize turning the Torah back to its beginning. This eighth day is said to be the last great scene of Jehovah’s joy in the accomplishment of His purposes of grace.

What are the implications here for believers in Yeshua? Jesus is the Living Word, the Living Torah, written upon our hearts, so that we can truly dance and embrace God’s Truth. David said of the Torah:

I delight in following your commands more than in having great wealth. I study your instructions; I examine your teachings. I take pleasure in your laws; your commands I will not forget (Ps. 119: 14-16 NASB).



In Nehemiah 8, Nehemiah and Ezra, and the Levites, gathered the people to read them the Law (Torah), because it had been lost for so long, and the people did not know or understand what was written in the Law:

Then Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them, “Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”  So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.”  All the people went away to eat, to drink, to send portions and to celebrate a great festival, because they understood the words which had been made known to them (vv. 9-12).


The people were weeping at the reading of the Torah. That we would be in awe over hearing God’s Word. Nehemiah instructs the people not to mourn, but that this is a time of celebration. Celebrate over the Word—that we would celebrate over the Word. Right after this, the people realized that the Feast of Booths had not been celebrated since the days of Joshua.

The sons of Israel had indeed not done so from the days of Joshua the son of Nun to that day. And there was great rejoicing. He read from the book of the law of God daily, from the first day to the last day. And they celebrated the feast seven days, and on the eighth day there was a solemn assembly according to the ordinance (vv.17-18).

Again there is celebration over obeying the Word; such an example for us.

Jesus said in Matt. 5, that He came not to destroy the Torah, but to fulfill the Torah. He is the embodiment of the Word. Jesus Is the Word and He came down and dwelt among us;

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.  In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.  The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it… And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:1-5,14).

Jesus is the Word and we should be celebrating Him every day. We should be thankful for His Word, and allow it to guide our lives—daily.



The Word came to make you whole, and to heal you. I love the account of the woman caught in adultery. The religious leaders threw her at the feet of Jesus, at the end of Sukkot (Jn.8). Jesus had remained in Jerusalem during the conclusion of the eighth day of the Feast of Tabernacles, and it was during this time that a woman caught in her sin, had an appointment with the Word Himself. Not to be condemned by it, but cleansed by it.   

The Torah in which they were celebrating, Numbers 5 to be precise, describes a test for a woman suspected of adultery. If a husband suspected his wife committed adultery but could not prove it, he would bring her to the priest. The priest wrote the curses of the law on parchment. He would then mix the water from the dirt and pour it over the ink-stained parchment. This would cause the ink to bleed into the cup. The woman then was required to drink it. If she was not guilty she would have no ill effect. If she was guilty her thigh would swell.

This test for adultery is known as the trial of bitter waters, and it usually is performed in the temple. The leaders however, decided they would kill two birds with one stone; condemn the woman and trap their enemy. They did not understand that they brought her to Christ—for the Living Torah Himself to bring judgement according to the Word. He simply knelt down and wrote in the sand. Is it possible that He wrote this in the sand with the finger that created the universe?

Lord, you are the hope of Israel; all who forsake you will be put to shame.Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the Lord, the spring of living water (Jeremiah 17:13).

They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.  When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court. Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.” John 8:6-11


Whatever Jesus wrote in the sand that day, we will not know—at least not on this side of eternity. But He was most likely writing in the very dust that would have been used at the woman’s bitter waters trial that day. The religious leaders brought her to Jesus to condemn her according to the Torah; He restored her according to the Word. He told her to go and not sin—He never condoned her sin, He freed her from it. Now we can rejoice that the living Torah delivers the sinner from sin and guilt, and restores them to life. This is worth celebrating. 











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