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Simchat Torah: Celebrating Yeshua – the Word That Dwells Among Us

830_Torah word

On this festive holiday of Simchat Torah (Joy of the Torah), the Jewish People are displaying their gratitude to God for giving us the great gift of His Word.

If they only knew that the Word they so joyously celebrate is none other than the Messiah Yeshua (Jesus).

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. ”  (John 1:1)

Throughout the Tanakh (Old Testament), the Jewish people read that the Word of God in the Torah (first five books of Moses) is everything they need to live a righteous and long life.  

As it is written:

The Torah (Word) is the Way

“Teach them the statutes and the laws [torah], and make known to them the way in which they are to walk and the work they are to do.”  (Exodus 18:20; see also Psalm 119:1)

The Torah (the Word) is Truth

“Your righteousness is everlasting and your law [torah] is true.”  (Psalm 119:142)

The Torah (the Word) is Life

“The teaching [torah] of the wise is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death.”  (Proverbs 13:14; see also Deuteronomy 32:47)

The Torah is Yeshua!

I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”  (John 14:6)

In fact, whenever Yeshua refers to Himself as “I” we could replace it with “Torah” because they are one just as Father God and Yeshua are one.

“I [Torah] and the Father are one.”  (John 10:30)

Let’s look a little closer at what exactly the Torah is comprised of and how the Jewish People are celebrating God’s Righteous Word here in Israel and around the world.

Torah-Synagogue-Simchat Torah-Tel Aviv

The Torah is paraded outside of a synagogue on Simchat Torah in a suburb of Tel Aviv.  A tallit (prayer shawl) is held over the Sefer Torah.  Hundreds of congregants danced and followed the procession.

Celebrating the Torah in Israel

At 8 a.m. this morning the synagogues in Israel were packed as we read the last pages of Devarim (Deuteronomy) and the beginning of Bereisheet (Genesis)!

The reading of the yearly Torah cycle had come to an end, and a new one began. Hallelujah.

The services lasted about three hours, as the men and women relished in the Word given to our people by God Himself through Moses — the most treasured Word in the world — the Torah (Five Books of Moses).

In every synagogue throughout the hundreds of towns and cities across Israel this morning, the men joyfully danced around the bema, proudly holding the sacred Torah Scrolls.

In our synagogue, there were 11 Torah Scrolls, and as the silver crowns were removed from the Holy Parchment Scrolls, they glistened in the sunlight.  As the Rabbi and cantor sang from the Holy Word of God, the whole congregation gathered in one accord singing in Hebrew.

All the men took turns reading from the Torah.  And the faces of the children, women, and men beamed, rejoicing in the honor of the Holy Book that the One God of Israel entrusted to His Chosen People.

Torah-Scrolls-Ten Commandments

Holding up the Torah in Jerusalem for all to see.  The wooden Torah tik that houses the scroll is decorated with the Ten Commandments.

Although we are still celebrating Simchat Torah here in Israel, elsewhere in the world this wonderful holiday begins at sunset tonight at the conclusion of Shemini Atzeret (Eighth Day of Assembly), a Biblically mandated assembly celebrated the day after Sukkot ends (Leviticus 23:36).

Tonight at around 7:30 p.m., thousands of people will gather in each city and village square, throughout the Holy Land.  Hopefully most of Israel’s six million Jewish People will be rejoicing in the Word of God.

For the second time in 24 hours, they will dance around the Torah Scrolls, and this time, throughout the night.

“Oh, how I love Your Torah; It is my meditation all the day.  You through Your commandments, have made me wiser than my enemies. …  Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”  (Psalm 119:97–98, 105)

On Simchat Torah, ALL of the ornately decorated Torah scrolls are taken out of the Ark in which they are safeguarded, in contrast to Shabbat and regular holidays when only two are removed from the Ark.

The Jewish People will parade these precious Torah scrolls around their synagogues in circles called “hakafot,”  joyfully singing and dancing.

In many congregations, the celebrations spill out of the sanctuary into the street, where participants continue dancing and singing while carrying the scrolls.

Mitzvah-good deed-Torah-Simchat Torah

It is considered a mitzvah (good deed) to dance with the Torah and to rejoice over it on Simchat Torah.

Simchat Torah: The Beginning and Ending of the Parasha Cycle

The Jewish People have diligently preserved the Word of God for more than 3,000 years, and Simchat Torah gives jubilant expression to the Jewish People’s love of the Torah.

Besides rejoicing, another central theme to this special day is the completion of the annual cycle of weekly Torah readings.

Today, the last portion of Deuteronomy 34 will be read.

But as soon as we end the cycle, we begin anew, and a portion from the first chapter of Genesis is read immediately afterward.  This serves to remind us that our study of the Torah never ends.

11 Sacred Torah scrolls-Simchat-Torah-Israel-synagogue

Holding one of 11 sacred Torah scrolls in a Tel Aviv synagogue on Simchat Torah.  There were about 400 people singing and dancing for joy in this synagogue.

Torah Points in the Right Direction

What is Torah?  This Hebrew word Torah is often translated in English Bibles as “Law”; however, this is a rather poor translation.

The word torah comes from the roots yarah, which means to shoot, aim, or point to, and morah, meaning teacher.

Therefore, the Torah is God’s instruction to His people.  These instructions teach us how to live on this earth and point us to eternal life through Yeshua, who as the Word in flesh, perfectly embodied all of God’s teachings.

The Torah contains all the wisdom and instruction we need to live healthy, happy, successful, prosperous lives.

“Be strong and very courageous.  Be careful to obey all the instructions [Torah] Moses gave you.  Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left.  Then you will be successful in everything you do.

“Study this Book of Instruction [Sefer haTorah] continually.  Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it.  Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.”  (Joshua 1:7–8)

Torah-God's instructions-Simchat Torah

Rejoicing over the Torah, God’s instructions, on Simchat Torah

The Books of the Torah

The Torah, in its strictest sense, includes the five books of Moses: Genesis (Bereisheet), Exodus (Shemot), Leviticus (Vayikra), Numbers (Bamidbar), and Deuteronomy (Devarim).

However, Yeshua (Jesus) and Paul both quoted from other books of the Bible, including the Psalms and the Prophets, and also called them Torah (law).

For instance, in John 10:34, Yeshua quotes Psalm 82:6 referring to it as the Torah.

“Yeshua answered them, Is it not written in your Law (Torah), I said, You are gods?”  (John 10:34)

In 1 Corinthians 14:21, Paul references the prophetic book of Isaiah, calling it the Law:

“In the Law (Torah) it is written: ‘With men of other tongues and other lips I will speak to this people.’”  (1 Corinthians 14:21; compare to Isaiah 28:11)


Dancing and singing with the Torah on Simchat Torah

Another word for Torah often used by Jewish people is the Tanakh, which is a Hebrew name for all the books of the Jewish Scriptures.

This word is actually an acronym (T-N-K) for Torah (Five Books of Moses), Nevi’im (Prophets) and Ketuvim (Writings – Psalms, Proverbs, etc).  

The word Torah comprises the first three letters of each of these words: T-N-K [Hebrew letters Tav, Nun, Kaf].

Orthodox Jews consider yet another compilation of writings as “Torah.”  This is the Talmud (comprised of the Mishnah and Gemara) which are rabbinical interpretations and commentaries (oral instructions) of the written Torah.

They consider both to be the Torah because they believe that the “written Torah” cannot be understood completely without the interpretation of the “oral Torah.”

Sadly enough, most Orthodox Jews consider the oral law of greater weight and authority than the written Torah, and many spend the majority of their time  studying these rabbinical teachings.

Yeshua Teaches in the Synagogue, James Tissot

Yeshua Teaches in the Synagogue, James Tissot

Yeshua Fulfilled the Torah

Because Yeshua is the Word (John 1:1), He is the ultimate fulfillment of the Torah (God’s moral guidelines for mankind to live in righteousness).

Some Believers in Yeshua think this means that the Torah is abolished.  But Yeshua clearly taught that He did not come to abolish the Torah:

“Don’t misunderstand why I have come.  I did not come to abolish the Torah of Moses or the writings of the prophets.  No, I came to fulfill their purpose.  I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s Torah will disappear until its purpose is fulfilled.

“So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven.  But anyone who obeys God’s Torah and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.”  (Matthew 5:17–19)

As the Jewish People diligently study the Scriptures in the Torah as well as the prophets and other writings, trying to fulfill His teachings on their own, they miss the very essence of God’s Word that they so desperately seek to learn and obey.

Yeshua said, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life.  These are the very Scriptures that testify about me.”  (John 5:39)

It is time for the Jewish People to meet their Messiah.