The Never-Ending JourneyOctober 14, 2012 - 5:00 am
“On the eighth day hold a closing special assembly and do no regular work.” — Numbers 29:35
As Sukkot ends and the holiday season draws to a close, God says, “Stay one more day!” “On the eighth day hold a closing special assembly.” After a month of closeness, God wants to extend our time together just a little bit longer. But what do we do on that day? On Rosh Hashanah, we blow the shofar; on Yom Kippur, we fast; on Sukkot, we sit in the homemade huts, sukkah, and wave the four species. What do we do on this final day?
We celebrate the Torah, God’s Word to man, in a celebration known as Simchat Torah, the Joy of the Torah.
On Simchat Torah, Jews all over the world will read the last verses in the Torah. They will sing and dance and celebrate. And then, just a few moments later, they will start reading the Torah all over again.
Can you think of any other book in the world that just as you finish it, you start it again? There isn’t any! Once you’re done with a book, you’re done. Maybe if it’s a really good book, you read it again months or years later. But right away? Why?
A student once approached his rabbi with a huge grin on his face, obviously feeling very good about himself. “Rabbi! I just finished learning the Five Books of Moses! I went through the entire Torah!” The rabbi didn’t look very impressed. He said, “That’s nice that you went through the whole Torah, but how many times did the Torah go through you?” The Bible isn’t a book that you start and finish. It’s a learning experience that never ends!
That’s why we start reading the Torah immediately after completing it. Just as the cycle ends, it begins again. There is no end – the learning goes on forever! When we dance on Simchat Torah, we dance around the Torah in a circle. A circle has no end and no beginning. We emphasize that while we go through the cycle every year, we are never finished learning.
Friends, I’d like to invite you to join me on the never-ending journey of Bible study. I’m excited to announce that for the next year, our daily devotions will follow the cycle of Torah study all over the world. The Five Books of Moses are broken up into different portions, and each week, one of them is read in the synagogue and studied in homes. There is also a small portion from the prophets that accompany the Torah readings. Every week, we will learn from the portion of the week, and finish the Five Books of Moses together with millions around the world.
And then of course, we’ll start reading it all over again.