Hebrew Biblical or Modern Israelite Holidays
Tishrei 5780 / October 2019
Hag sameakh (happy holiday) and blessings of righteousness to you, friends in Messiah!
Shalom peace and steady endurance to you! I hope all is well with you as we come to the end of this current season’s Hebrew Biblical holydays! I hope you will join with me in heart and mind and spirit to continue and finish to celebrate, worship, and enjoy these holydays. I encourage you to design something special that you will do devotionally to help you feel still a part of this wonderful Biblical holydays time. Please join me and other interested fellow believers in Yeshua (Jesus) in this blessed and growthful time in Israel’s calendar and culture! It is Adonai Elohim’s (Lord God’s) desire and schedule that His people start this new Israelite civil year 5779 in a powerful spiritually reviving way.
The current Hebrew Biblical holidays (sometimes called the High Holy Days) are summarized as follows. I will now describe the fourth and final holyday, Simkhat Torah.
October 21 (sunset) to October 22 (sunset)
Some relevant passages for reading and meditation: Gen. 17:1; Exod. 20; Deut. 28; 30:15-16; Psalm 19:11-14; 111:10; 119; Prov. 15:24; Eccl. 5:1-7; 12:13-14; Isa. 58; Jer. 7:1-16; Zeph. 2:3; Matt. 5:6, 48; 7; 23; John 14:15, 21-24; Rom. 8; 1 Cor. 6:9-11, 19-20; 1 John 2:15-16; 5:1-4; Jam. 1:27; 2:1-4, 10, 26; Rev. 22:14-16.
“Fear of YHVH [LORD] is the foundation of true wisdom. All who obey His commandments will grow in wisdom. Praise Him forever!” — Psalm 111:10, cf. NLT
Simkhat Torah is the concluding major holyday for this Israelite current season. The name of this holiday literally means “rejoicing of [for] the law.” The “law” here refers to the Torah or instruction, commandments, and guidelines that Adonai Elohim (Lord God) gave to Moses for the Israelites, as compiled in Exodus-Deuteronomy. The word torah means “instruction”; so in later times the Torah refers also to the entire TaNaKh (the Old Testament). For believers in Meshiakh Yeshua (Christ Jesus), the term Torah could be used broadly to refer to all of Elohim’s (God’s) commandments and instructions in the Scriptures (both Old and New Testaments).
Simkhat Torah can also be treated as a special Sabbath day of rest from work. This holyday is for one day, and always immediately follows the Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) festival.
Simkhat Torah as a holiday is Biblical in its theme and desire. The annual observance of this celebration comes from 9th century AD Jewish custom, but may have existed further back into New Testament times. Simkhat Torah is used to mark the transition point to end/begin the annual Torah reading cycle in synagogue worship service.
Traditionally, special synagogue worship services take place on this holyday, focusing on the theme, but there are diverse stylistic treatments as a celebration. A popular traditional custom is for the synagogue congregation to sing and dance or march around their sanctuary 7 times, or do similarly outside in the street. The joyful party will go on for hours. The singing and dancing group includes one or several carrying the large Torah scrolls. Some people treat Simkhat Torah as a party celebration with fellow Jews or fellow believers; while others may treat it as a serious covenant recommitment to obeying YHVH Elohim’s (LORD God’s) commandments. Some sort of balance between joyful celebration and serious worship service of covenant renewal is good.
Though believers in Elohim (God) and Meshiakh Yeshua (Messiah Jesus) disagree about the lasting relevance and use of the Torah, it is true that Elohim’s (God’s) commandments, decrees, ordinances, statutes, and guidelines are ever good, holy, righteous, properly directed, wise, valuable, balanced, and life-giving for those who love and obey Him. Appreciation of Adonai Elohim’s (Lord God’s) law and instruction is what Simkhat Torah intends to embrace and celebrate. Regardless of interpretational differences among believers, there is goodness in the people of Elohim (God) and Yeshua (Jesus) taking an annual day to worship, praise, bless, honor, rejoice in, and recommit to Elohim’s (God’s) instructions and values.
The great Psalm 119 is the Biblical epitome of the right attitude for Elohim’s (God’s) people to have toward His ways and laws. So one good enlightening exercise would be to read all of Psalm 119 on Simkhat Torah and consider to what extent your sincere feelings agree with those of the psalmist.
Today few Christians know or appreciate that there is an official Israeli religious holiday to honor Adonai Elohim’s (Lord God’s) laws and commands and obedience to Him. What a blessing it is to follow His directives! We can learn a great devotional lesson from this! Let us rededicate ourselves now to love, honor, and obey Adonai Elohim (Lord God) and Meshiakh Yeshua (Christ Jesus) and His varied ways and laws He directs to us.
Yeshua (Jesus) himself wonderfully summed up the challenge in Gospel of John 14:15, where Yeshua says, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” This strict challenge clearly distinguishes those who love Yeshua (Jesus) from those who do not. In John 15:9-11 Yeshua (Jesus) tells His disciples that obeying Father Elohim’s (God’s) commandments is to be a joy in them. Joyfully loving and obeying Elohim (God) and Meshiakh (Christ) are the sincere attitudes that we reach for in Simkhat Torah.
Simkhat Torah should not be ignored as just a religious memorial to the Law of Moses, or treated as only a big party occasion. Simkhat Torah should take its place as a revitalization of our full-hearted devotion to Elohim (God) and Adon Yeshua (Lord Jesus). This is a great opportunity to renew our loving and joyful obedience to Elohim’s (God’s) glorious and wise directives! Simkhat Torah nicely finishes our spiritual entrance into the new Israelite civil year that began with Rosh ha Shanah.
May Elohim (God) and Meshiakh’s (Christ’s) grace and care dwell upon us.
May Adonai Shaddai (Lord Almighty) help us value and appreciate His ways, laws, guidelines, wise advice, and counsel.
May the Ruakh Kodesh (Holy Spirit) lead us deeper into good intimate relationship with Elohim (God) in this next year. Amen.
Barukh Simkhat Torah!
(Blessed Rejoicing of the Instruction!)