Once again, it’s time to hear from our sister in Jerusalem about what she is witnessing there as a believer in Yeshua. Put your prayer shawls on and pray for Israel and Sister J. Now here she is —
“Also on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep the feast of the Lord for seven days; on the first day there shall be a sabbath-rest, and on the eighth day a sabbath-rest. And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. You shall keep it as a feast to the Lord for seven days in the year. It shall be a statute forever in your generations. You shall celebrate it in the seventh month. You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All who are native Israelites shall dwell in booths, that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.’ ” So Moses declared to the children of Israel the feasts of the Lord.” (Leviticus 23:39-44)
Greetings AGAIN, dear brothers and sisters.
May The Lord be glorified and blessed, and may you be blessed and encouraged, even though you did not expect to hear from me YET AGAIN during this cycle of fall feasts.
But today is ‘Simchat Torah’ and the singing and dancing around the Torah scrolls that we watched from our merepesset (balcony) this morning (because the singing and dancing was in the square across the street, outside) brought joy to my heart. Perhaps I can speak words of joy and we can provoke one another to seek more of Him. The songs calling for Messiah to come still ring in my ears. HE IS coming AGAIN!
Reasons that I’m writing again:
Last night I spoke with a friend in New York, the one friend that I am still in contact with since high school. What a story, but no I won’t tell it. Suffice it to say that after I met Him and after she was in the Moonie cult for many years, she gave her heart to Him. When we spoke last night, she reminded me that they had been with us during the fall feasts a number of years ago, while I was finishing up radiation treatments.
I had forgotten, but she had not, and she told me how it had changed her forever, sitting in our sukkah with various people, both His and those not yet His. And also watching the march of the nations, the believers from all over the world singing and dancing through the streets blessing the people. And then, Simchat Torah where men and women dressed in white lifted the Torah scrolls in the air and danced through the streets singing.
She, like me, being raised Jewish in New York City, had not witnessed this type of joy growing up, and it branded her forever.
That came on top of another sister telling me that she had gone to the parade and witnessed it first hand and experienced the wonder that I had described in the past. The hearts of the locals lining the road being lifted higher and higher on the blessings of the believers from around the world, marching in colorful costumes of their countries through the streets.
Interestingly, this takes place at the same time the UN General Assembly is meets yearly, bearing “civilized witness” to the curses of the nations against Israel. One is cursing by throwing accusing lies and here are the believers, standing on the Eternal Word of God and casting blessings before them. It IS truly a wonder, an exchange that happens which only He could initiate.
So, even though I participated in far less ‘activity’ this year, even though I was neither at the parade, nor did we have our own sukkah. But here it is again, Simchat Torah, and I could only write one more time!
On Friday night (Erev Shabbat – the festive evening dinner of Shabbat), we were invited to the sukkah of dear friends where we were blessed with the richest of fellowship. One of the many edifying things that happened was that we spoke briefly about dates. The setting of dates and debate about dates and our brother said simply, “I always felt that if a date was really important for us to know that The Lord would have put it into the Bible.”
My thoughts jumped back more than 40 years to a “hippie” Bible Study that I was attending. Everyone there was a new believer from the streets we were studying the book of Job. One fellow, not yet a believer, kept interrupting and asking about dinosaurs. The man leading the Bible Study wisely (and with authority) turned to him suddenly and said, “If The Lord had thought that they were important …He would have put them in The Bible!”
That silenced the young man who was seeking to sow discord and unbelief into the group of very young sprouts, but instead, the wisdom of the statement sent deep roots into my heart which I have never forgotten.
And The Lord HAS set dates in His Word.
Not always the ones that we have focused on, but dates were given: “you SHALL do this and you SHALL do that.” It is really a wonder to know the dates that He has set – the holidays and the Shabbat – they are still observed.
That brings us to Simchat Torah.
As you can see in the scripture above, the Lord (through Moses) told us that Sukkot would last for SEVEN days. ThenHe adds: “AND ON THE EIGHTH DAY (you shall have) a SABBATH REST!”
EVERY year there is a bit of a belegan (confusion) among the entire population of Jerusalem as to WHAT day is the last day we eat in the sukkah? Is it Sunday or is it Monday? Even some of our calendars have it wrong.
So, WHERE DID SIMCHAT TORAH COME FROM?
I decided to do some research.
I found out that the body of information is huge and extremely varied.
SOMETIMES, we are “The people of The Book” but SOMETIMES we are “the people of TRADITIONS.”
We are ALL familiar with Matthew 15:2-6 –
“Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying,“Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?For God commanded, saying,‘Honor your father and your mother’; and,‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother,“Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”— then he need not honor his fatheror mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.”
Thankfully, I really don’t think that this tradition transgresses the commandment of God. Sometimes our traditions enhance or illustrate The Truth of His Word and Who He Is. GENERALLY I think that is the original purpose and source of most traditions. But when they go wrong and make the commandment of no effect, it can be hard to let go. But this is another subject.
AS IT STANDS TODAY: You know that Jews read the Torah (first 5 books of the Bible) according to a yearly cycle set out with weekly portions. Many, but not all, also read a portion of the Prophets at the same time (h’ftorah).
It is in prescribed sections and was established during the dispersion to keep the Jewish body unified although we were scattered around the world. The rabbinic council in Babylon wielded the most authority and much of Orthodox modern Rabbinical Judaism is derived from the interpretations of the leaders from Babylon. Indeed, the Babylonian Talmud, the Mishna and Kabala all claim origins from the sages in Babylon (don’t forget, Daniel was there, Ezekiel and many of the other prophets and wise men were looking for a way to keep the Jews in the dispersion from scattering and embracing paganism).
Back to Simchat Torah.
Last night, the yearly cycle of reading ended with the last chapter of Deuteronomy. People stayed up through the night reading and welcoming the morning with Genesis 1:1, as the cycle has begun again. We have been given The Torah and in it we will rejoice!
According to the sources that I perused, Simchat Torah began to look something like it does now somewhere between the 7th century and the 16th century. That’s a LOT of years. Here in Jerusalem, I have found that the holidays change color year after year, perhaps just a tiny shade, but the traditions expand and contract. That should not take me by surprise because The Word IS Alive and Living and HE IS THE WORD and ONE DAY HE SHALL BE RECOGNIZED AS THE WORD MADE FLESH. We shall TRULY rejoice and worship The One Who IS and WAS and ALWAYS WILL BE THE WORD!
TOTALLY ASIDE BUT CAN’T BE IGNORED: One last thought and NOT about Simchat Torah. I saw (and perhaps you did too) a video taken on a cell phone of the approaching tsunami in Indonesia and the vain cries of the man taking the video to the people on the street below to take cover in the building. He could see the tsunami and they could not. His cries were mostly unheard or unheeded and he broke into pathetic tears as the people below were swept away as he watched. I wept with him and could only think: “This is exactly how I feel as a believer here! I see the approaching tsunami but who will hear?”
THANK YOU FOR PRAYING FOR THIS PEOPLE…THIS LAND…MY RELATIVES AFTER THE FLESH AND FOR HIS OWN REASONS…IN THE HEART OF GOD. THANK YOU FOR PRAYING FOR HIS PURPOSES…FOR HIS GLORY ALONE.
your sister J