Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; for I am called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts.
This year the holiday of Simhat Torah (Sim-khat Toe-rah) falls on October 3. This festival is a time to savor God’s Word. The holiday follows on the heels of the reflections of Rosh Hashanah, the repentance of Yom Kippur and the thanksgiving of Sukkot. Simhat Torah means, “rejoicing over the Law.” And that is precisely what Jewish people do during this holiday!
You won’t find Simhat Torah in the Bible, but it is a traditional holiday marking the completion of a cycle. The Torah or Law (first five books of the Bible) is divided into 52 “bite-size” portions. Every Sabbath, Jewish people read the weekly Torah portion and thus complete the cycle of reading the first five books every year. On Simhat Torah, the weekly portion includes the final passage from Deuteronomy as well as the first passage from Genesis. Simhat Torah not only celebrates the completion of the cycle, but at the same time, the holiday ushers in a new season of reading and studying God’s Word.
Songs and joy fill the synagogue as people take turns carrying the Torah scrolls around the sanctuary, displaying them before the congregation with reverence and pride. Children join the pageantry in a parade behind the scrolls, waving flags and dancing with smiles and laughter. As the scrolls pass by, many people kiss their fingertips before reaching out to touch the elaborate Torah coverings. All the people join together to sing songs of appreciation and awe for God’s excellent Word.
Unfortunately, all too many have never read the Scriptures for themselves; and for some, the elaborate coverings are the most they will ever see of God’s Word. For them, the joy is little more than catching a wave, being swept up in the feelings of the moment.
As Jewish and Gentile believers in Jesus, might we be in danger of singing and celebrating God’s Word while becoming removed from it?
God promised the Jewish people that He would write His law on their hearts (Jeremiah 31:31). He kept that promise through His Holy Spirit, making His Word come alive in our hearts through the Messiah Yeshua who is the Word incarnate! Even so, it’s easy to fill up on the tidbits the world offers, so that our appetites for God’s Word become dull and we take His Word for granted.
Simhat Torah can remind us that we are never “finished” with God’s Word; that we always have more to gain by reading and meditating on it over and over again. It can also remind us to match our inner reflections to the outward show of joy we have in our worship services, as we sing of our love for God and His Word. There is nothing wrong with experiencing pleasure in the singing, the music and outward signs of celebration, as long as we remember that the real joy—the joy that lasts—results from a steady diet of God’s Word. If we will open our ears, our hearts, (and our spiritual stomachs), God will use His Word to bring us into an ever¡deepening relationship with Him. If we will feast on the Word of God in the Messiah Yeshua, our hearts truly will be full of joy and our mouths will proclaim His praise!