|We are in an exciting time this week as we just wrapped up the Holiday of Sukkot. God always end His parties with a party, which is why I get to send out another observation! Unfortunately, I didn’t send it out on time, as this week has been very busy. But I still wanted to write about this season we just finished. The Festival of Sukkot ends with 2 holidays that I will explain here in a minute. It is also when we read the Final Torah portion for the completion of this years Torah cycle.
The first holiday we celebrate is called “Shemini Atzeret—The Eighth day
of Assembly.” But if we translate the Hebrew literally, it means
“The Eighth ‘Delay.’” Why does it translate to the “Eighth delay?”
Leviticus 23 gives a little information about the Feast of Sukkot, it says, “…[there] shall be the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days to the Lord…On the eighth day you shall have a holy convocation.”
From reading this we know that the Festival of Tabernacles (Sukkot) is seven days long. Then comes an eighth day at the end of the week, which God tells us is to be another holy convocation. Why do we have another convocation and why call it the “eighth delay?”
Sukkot is a reminder to us of God’s desire to tabernacle with His people. For seven days we dwell in booths. Then we get to day eight; the number 8 represents the concept of “all things made new.” It’s called the “eighth delay,” because it’s as if God wants to tarry with us a little longer to remind us of a coming day when God will physically tabernacle among His people. The Jewish people liken this eighth day to the idea of a King who threw a weeklong party for His whole Kingdom, on the eighth day however, He invites His close servants and tells them “don’t go…stay a little while.” This is what Shemini Atzeret is about, it is God saying, “don’t end the party yet, I still want to draw close to you.” The eighth day is a reminder of God’s desire to dwell with mankind, a wake up call for humanity to this soon-coming reality. That reality is, the Messianic Kingdom, when King Messiah—“Melech Mashiach” reigns in the world and we tabernacle with Him.
holiday we celebrate at the end of Sukkot is called “Simchat
Torah—Rejoicing with the Torah.” It is when we finish the reading of the
Torah cycle and start over from the beginning. Every year we read
through the entire “Pentateuch—The Five books of Moses—the Torah” ending
and also starting over, the Torah cycle for the year.
Basically, it is a celebration of the Word of God given to us. In synagogues across the globe, people dance with and around the Torah scrolls and rejoice for the gift of God’s word given to mankind. On this day we read the very last portion of Deuteronomy and the very beginning of Genesis showing that we never “arrive or finish” with the reading of God’s word. It is a fresh new restart to another year of diving into the word He has given us.
I’m reminded of a story found in Midrash Vayikra Rabbah 30:1 about the value of Torah in this world. “Rabbi Yochanan was walking with Rabbi Chiya from Tiberius to Sephoris. (In the area of the Galilee) They happened to pass by a farm. Rabbi Yochanan turned to Rabbi Chiya and said, ‘You see this farm? I used to own this farm, but I sold it to study Torah.’ They passed an olive grove and again Rabbi Yochanan turned to Rabbi Chiya and said, ‘you see this olive grove? I sold it to study Torah.’ As they continued on their journey, they passed a vineyard and once more, Rabbi Yochanan turned to Rabbi Chiya and said, ‘you see this vineyard? I also sold it to study Torah.’
Rabbi Chiya at this point showed a very disturbed countenance and looked exceedingly sad. ‘Chiya, my friend, what makes you so sad?’ Rabbi Yochanan asked. Rabbi Chiya replied, ‘Looking at all you have owned and all you sold makes me sad…if you had kept these things, you could have been rich in your old age…’ Rabbi Yochanan smiled at his friend. ‘Do you think I would have been so foolish?’ He replied…‘I sold things that were worth only 6 days, and I gained something worth 40 days and 40 nights. It took God only 6 days to create the entire world, but God spent 40 days and nights revealing the Torah to Moses at Sinai.’”
This is why we celebrate Simchat Torah! We celebrate because the Torah is worth so much more than anything else in the world! God put more time into the giving of the Torah than the creation of the universe! The world may be the place where we live, but the Torah is the only way how we can truly live, as it says in Deuteronomy 32, “…all the words of this law…it is your life…”
It is on Simchat Torah that we read the last Torah Portion in the Torah and then we roll back the scroll the Genesis 1:1. So real quickly, I wanted to do a short observation on “V’zot Habracha—This is the Blessing” from the last Torah portion, from Deuteronomy 33:1-34:12.
This portion relates Moses’ blessings over the tribes of Israel before his death on Mount Nebo. Deuteronomy 34 tells us of the passing on of Moses, in verse 2 it says that God showed Moses “all the Land…as far as the western sea…” Moses is finally seeing the Promised Land he has dreamt about for so many years. But it is interesting that it mentions the “western sea.” Yes, it is probably true that Moses saw the Mediterranean when he overlooked the Promised Land, but God also showed him something else. You see the Hebrew Words for “Western Sea” are “HaYam HaAcharon.” But if we change a vowel in this sentence to read “HaYom HaAcharon” it comes to mean the “Final Day.”
God showed Moses His plan for the redemption of the world, all the way to the culmination of the “Final Day,” when God alone is enthroned and everything is once again restored to perfection. I pray we see the reality of what God showed Moses in our time!
In Deuteronomy 34:5 we read that, “…Moses the servant of the Lord died…according to the word of the Lord.” In Hebrew, the expression “word of the Lord” can also be translated as “mouth of the Lord.” Tradition tells us that this wasn’t just a fulfilling of God’s word, but in all actuality, Moses really did die by the “mouth of the Lord.” The Rabbis tell us that Moses died by a “divine kiss.” God’s love for Moses was so much that Moses’ last moment on earth was feeling God’s kiss encompassing and enrapturing his soul.
Moses was a man
who knew God, heart to heart, and “face to face.” I pray it would be
someday soon that we all experience the reality that Moses, the “man of
God” only got a glimpse of. The reality of seeing God and being with
Him, “Face to face—Paneem el Paneem.” As it says in 1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see dimly, as through a mirror; but then face to face…”
“Chazak, Chazak, V’nitchazek—Be strong, be strong, and we will be strengthened!”
“In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth…”
And the Story Continues…
Until Next Time,