"'On the eighth day hold a closing special assembly and do no regular work.’” — Numbers 29:35
At sundown today, Jews around the world will begin the observance of Simchat Torah, which literally means “rejoicing in the Torah” or “Joy of the Torah.” This day marks the completion of the annual reading of the Torah from Genesis through Deuteronomy. Because this is a non-working holiday, this devotion was prepared in advance for you. Discover more about the Jewish view of the Bible from Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein’s DVD Bible study on the Torah.
If you’ve ever struggled to find the perfect gift for a loved one, you can relate to my anxiety when buying my wonderful wife an anniversary gift. I wanted to buy her something that she will love and cherish. At the same time, I know that my taste is not necessarily the same as her own. When we buy our loved ones gifts, we often worry that they will be received with a smile that might just be a polite one. But then there are the times when eyes light up, and the joy is unmistakable.
It’s only when our loved ones sincerely enjoy our gifts to them that we can take great joy in having given it to them.
It’s the same way for God. God gave us His greatest treasure when He gave the Bible to the world. However, if we receive it with lukewarm thanks, it brings sadness to God. However, when we sincerely enjoy and love the Torah, it brings great joy to our Father in Heaven. Just after Sukkot, we celebrate Simchat Torah, literally “the Joy of the Torah.” We dance and sing all night celebrating God’s Word.
There is an old Jewish tale about what happened in heaven one morning after Simchat Torah celebrations. As the story goes, the angels arose to praise God along with the Jewish people celebrating the holiday. But on this early morning, the prayers were delayed because the Jewish people were so exhausted from dancing the night away. The angels decided to do some “housecleaning” in heaven. Usually they found holy items in heaven, but this time they found tattered and torn shoes.
They turned to the angel Michael and asked him what these objects were doing there. The angel explained that the night before so many shoes were broken as the people danced out of love for the Torah. The broken shoes symbolized their profound joy in having received God’s Word. The angel concluded, “Usually I make God a crown out of prayers, but today I will crown Him with these tattered shoes for they are surely beloved by Him.”
I want to encourage us all to take joy in God’s Word. Let’s take a moment to reflect upon what our world might look like if God had not given us the Bible. What a dark place the world would be! What a broken world we would be living in! So much confusion would be present in our own lives, and I cannot even imagine the lack of morality that would pervade our society. Let’s celebrate God’s greatest gift. As we express our joy, we also bring great joy to God.
For more on Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein’s teaching about the Bible as the bedrock of our faiths, visit ifcj.org/store for his four-part DVD Bible Study, The Jewish Roots of God’s Word — perfect for a small groups, Sunday school, or individual study.