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  • Writer's pictureBishop Vince McLaughlin

Simchat Torah

Updated: Feb 3

Rt. Rev. Dr. Vince McLaughlin, Th.D., D.Litt. Ph.D.

Today is “Simchat Torah!” – Rejoice with us!

Right now, no one in Israel is rejoicing because she is under attack by the forces of evil. It has been a most frightening day as Islamic terrorists are infiltrating Israeli villages from Gaza whilst over 5000+ missiles have been fired into Israel.

Casualties are mounting with the last count of at least 22 dead Jewish Israelis and over 600 wounded. Prime Minister Netanyahu has clearly stated the Israel is at war. Hamas has reported that it has kidnapped dozens of Israeli Jews.

Around the world, today should be the festive holiday of Simchat Torah (Joy of the Torah), where the Jewish People display their gratitude to God for giving us the great gift of His Word.

We usually read the last pages of Devarim (Deuteronomy) and the beginning of Bereisheet (Genesis)! The reading of the yearly Torah cycle has come to an end, and a new one began. Hallelujah.

The services will last 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 the men joyfully danced around the bema, proudly holding the sacred Torah Scrolls. As the Rabbi and cantor sing from Holy Word of God, the whole congregation will gather in one accord singing in Hebrew.

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

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).

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," accompanied by joyful singing and dancing.

In some synagogues, the celebrations are spilling out of the sanctuary into the street, where participants dance and sing while carrying the scrolls. It is considered a mitzvah (good deed) to dance with the Torah and to rejoice over it on Simchat Torah.

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.

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.

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 Hebrew roots yarah, which means to shoot, aim, or point to, and morah, meaning teacher.

Therefore, the Torah is the Almighty 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 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)

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

Of interest, Yeshua and St. Paul both quoted from other books of the Tanakh, including the Psalms and the Prophets, and also called them Torah (law).

For example, 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, St. 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)

Archbishop Foley Beach (ACNA) recently offered a Prayer Alert: Pray for Peace in Israel

“Please pray:

- Pray for wisdom for the leadership of Israel.

- Pray for strength for the medical services.

- Pray for God's sovereignty and comforting presence to stretch out over southern Israel and the Gaza Strip.

- Pray for mercy for those that have been taken hostage.

- Pray for the people of Gaza that they would come to know the Prince of peace, Jesus Christ.

Above all, pray for peace. Pray for swords to be beaten into plowshares. Pray that the people of this region will seek His face. Pray for the Lord's healing over this Land, a place so dear to his heart.”

In the language of the Psalmist, “shaalu shalom Yerushalayim,” “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! May they prosper that love you. Peace be within your walls and prosperity within your palaces!” (Psalm 122).

Dear Abba Av,

You are the Rock and Redeemer of Israel. We pray for the peace of Jerusalem. We are sad to see the violence and suffering as men, women, and children are injured and killed on both sides of the conflict. We understand the eschatological signs of the times and we continue to pray for justice, Your sovereignty and righteousness, Lord. And at the same time, we pray for mercy. For everyone involved we pray, for governments and peoples, militants, and terrorists, we ask for Your Kingdom to come and rule over the land.

Shield the nation of Israel, Lord. Protect the soldiers and civilians from bloodshed. May your truth and light shine in the darkness. Where there is only hatred, may your love prevail. Bring your salvation to Israel, Abba Av. Draw every heart to You. And bring your salvation to the whole earth.

In Yeshua’s name


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