An Entire City Rejoices!

By Nic Lesmeister, President and CEO
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Posted in Jewish HolidaysSimchat Torah on January 14, 2018

My family and I once spent a year in Israel, arriving at our Jerusalem residence in late October. On our first day in the Eternal City, we enjoyed meandering around the confusing corridors and narrow cobbled streets of the Old City. We took time to explore and soak in the beauty of the ancient heart of Israel.

All of a sudden, we found ourselves directly in the pathway of a lively, oncoming procession.The noise echoed loudly down the crooked, stony street as a mass of Orthodox Jews approached. I have to admit that my initial response was concern as the Old City had been a hotbed of conflict in the months leading up to our arrival. To my surprise, the noises we heard were that of incredible joy! As my eyes focused through the dark tunnel on the approaching crowd of people, I noticed carefree dancing, singing, and laughter. We paused and watched with intrigue as the parade passed us.

Later that evening, I stepped onto the balcony of our apartment in downtown and listened to the sounds of singing, dancing, and laughter continuing to fill Jerusalem with joy. A friend had informed me that I was witnessing Simchat Torah (The Joy of the Torah/Law), which was a Shabbat holiday at the end of the fall holiday of Sukkot. Imagine an entire city rejoicing over God’s Word!

Every year, Jewish people read through the complete Torah. Simchat Torah marks the end of the Torah readings and the beginning of the next year’s readings–as the scrolls are wound back to Genesis 1. Men, women and children spend the day celebrating the Torah with hakafot–dancing in circles around the scrolls as they are paraded through the city in celebration.

The words of King David entered my mind as I took in these beautiful sights and sounds:  “Oh, how I love Your law! I meditate on it all day long!” (Psalm 119:97).

In that moment, I was overcome with deep gratitude for the ancient traditions of these joyful yet sober Jewish people. Their strict preservation of the Word has allowed a Gentile like me access to the revelation of God Himself. The Apostle Paul similarly understood this when he wrote that the great benefit of being Jewish is being “entrusted with the very words of God” (Romans 3:1-2).

We live in a time when the love of and honor of God’s Word appear to be at historic lows. When is the last time you witnessed a man, woman, or child dance and sing for joy in circles around their Bible? The Messianic Jewish Bible Institute is striving to bring this very joy and honor to thousands of Messianic Jewish believers around the world. By teaching these students God’s Word, we see firsthand this glow of joy, as ancient, written words become the living Word in their hearts.

May you also experience a Simchat Torah of your own!