For Jews, knowledge of the Torah – the first five books of the Bible – is the foundation of faith. So, throughout the year, every week in synagogue we publicly read a portion of the Torah, beginning with the first chapter of Genesis and continuing through the book of Deuteronomy. The conclusion of this cycle of readings is marked this week by a joyous holiday: Simchat Torah.
In Hebrew, Simchat Torah means “rejoicing in the Torah” – and, on this holiday, we do indeed rejoice! In synagogue, we carry the Torah scrolls around the sanctuary amid singing and dancing, with children leading the procession. We read the concluding portion of Deuteronomy and the first portion of Genesis, beginning the cycle of readings again for the next year. In this way we demonstrate our love for the Torah, and give thanks to God for the gift of His Word.
One of the deepest truths we learn in the Torah is that our God is never-changing. And this is why we rejoice on Simchat Torah: because in our ever-changing, transient world, we know that God does not change. As the psalmist wrote, “… the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. But you remain the same, and your years will never end” (Psalm 102: 25-27).
We worship and serve the same God that the Israelites worshipped as they wandered in the desert. His love and concern for us is as inexhaustible now as it was for them then. While we cannot ultimately count on the things of this world, we can count on Him. What a comfort it is to know that, whatever our trials and challenges, He is with us!
In a world of constant change, the constancy of God and His word offers comfort and hope to Jews and Christians alike. May you come to know that hope in this and every season as we rejoice on Simchat Torah in God’s words to us, and take comfort in the truths we find in them.