Hebrew Roots/Holy Days/Great Last Day
Shemini Atzeret is an eighth day extension of the seven day Sukkot season and concludes it, and yet it is a separate festival with its own significance, although connected to it. It is held on the twenty-second day of Tishrei.
Yahweh God gave His instructions regarding this day - ". . . on the eighth day you shall have a holy convocation; and you shall offer an offering made by fire unto Yahweh: it is a sacred assembly; and you shall do no customary work on it" Leviticus 23:36
And again in Numbers 29:35-36 ". . . On the eighth day you shall have a sacred assembly. You shall do no customary work. You shall present a burnt offering , an offering made by fire as a sweet aroma to Yahweh ... ... "
In Deuteronomy 16:14-17 we are told, ""Be joyful at our Feast-- you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites, the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns. For seven days celebrate the Feast to Yahweh at the place which Yahweh will choose. For Yahweh will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete. Three times a year all your men must appear before Yahweh at the place he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Tabernacles. No man should appear before Yahweh empty-handed: Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way Yahweh has blessed you"
“Shemini” means eighth, while “Atzeret” means conclusion or gathering. It comes from the Hebrew root “atzar” meaning “to hold back” or to “tarry”. In that connotation it is seen as an added day to spend with Yahweh which brings the feast to a conclusion but also it also prepares for the beginning of a new cycle.
HISTORICAL OBSERVATION OF THE FEAST
In Hebraic tradition Shemini Atzeret was a closure on the festivities of Sukkot and a new beginning. The people came out of their sukkahs and returned to their own dwellings, but not back to their normal routines. The people had gone from the days of awe and repentance in The Feast of Trumpets and Atonement, into a festival of joy in Tabernacles and the eighth day is decreed as a memento of all that has been gained throughout the period, so that its collective benefits could be savoured and enjoyed in one more day of intimacy with Yahweh. The Rabbis understood that in a special sense, this day was to consolidate all the knowledge, spiritual food, and instruction that had been gained in the preceding holy days for spiritual growth and maturity. They recognized that this day, in itself, was a very special holy day and saw it as distinct from the Feast of Sukkot or Tabernacles.
This day was also a transition into the new season about to commence, and a consideration of the needed rain for the earth to bring forth a new harvest in the land. One of the features of the day was the special prayer for rain for the produce of the coming season which was not done previously, as they were still living in their 'sukkot'.
On this eighth and final Day there was a gathering of all the women of Israel in the Court of the Women. They sang songs of rejoicing and praise, they danced before Yahweh waving banners and flags and torches. Then, they proceeded from the Temple Mount into the streets of Jerusalem. As they danced through the streets, the city came alive with rejoicing and with the light of the flames as the procession passed by. When they returned to the Temple Mount, in the Court of the Women, a Menorah was erected there. This menorah was 80 feet tall and had at each of the seven places, a bath of 30 gallons of fine oil. The torches were given to the husbands of the dancers to light the Menorah. When the Menorah was lit, the entire city of Jerusalem was awash in its glow.
Because the city sits within the bowl of the hills which surround it, and because this Menorah was so high and so bright, every corner of every home in the city was alight with its radiance. The rabbis say that to see Jerusalem in those days was to experience the Radiant Glory of God that has been lost since the Shekinah left the first Temple. They called this the “Light of Jerusalem.” So it was in this glorious setting that Y'shua proclaimed Himself as "the Light of the World" (John 8:12).
He was the prophetic fulfillment of light and glory which is to fill the earth with its radiance. (Numbers 14:21)
SPIRITUAL SIGNIFICANCE OF THE FEAST
There are no rituals or symbols connected with Shemini Atzeret, unlike the other feasts. It is an 'aliyah' (going up to a higher level) from the physical and material to the purely spiritual and intangible -- from that which can be seen to that which cannot be seen, from that which is temporal to that which is eternal. (2 Corinthians 1:18).
All the previous rituals and festivities had their purpose, but now that that it is all completed, it is time to be centred in Him alone and enjoy His presence without any of the facilitating means and methods of attaining that fellowship.
The picture of Shemini Atzeret is that of a very intimate union and fellowship, which follows after the broad-based and universal Feast of Sukkot whose focus is on the harvest and ingathering of the nations. It is a close family union, with greater depth of meaning and spirituality. "Rabbi Noach of Lechowitz expounded, The theme of Shemini Atzeret may be better understood if we think of it in terms of a BRIDE AND GROOM. During the wedding, they are both decked out in a wardrobe of exquisite, elegant clothes and jewelry. However, when they come together in their private chamber, they remove their garments and jewelry. "It is the same with Shemini Atzeret. During the seven days of Sukkot, the Jewish people offered a profusion of seventy bulls, but on Shemini Atzeret -- the moment they achieve COMPLETE UNIFICATION WITH GOD -- they brought only one bull (Numbers 29:36)" (The Essence of the Holy Days, p.98-99).
Comparing the symbolism of this Holy Day with the imagery of a Bride and Bridegroom, and their intimate togetherness, by themselves, after all the guests and party-goers depart, gives us a special insight into the real spiritual implications of Shemini Atzeret. The picture reveals that after the Millennial "Feast" of Sukkot is finished, and the great "Fall Harvest" has been gathered in, the Bride -- the Assembly of Yahweh - His Body of spiritual sons, the true Israelites (Galatians 6:16) -- and the Groom, Y'shua the Messiah -- will have a special "day" or time to themselves, in an even deeper expression of intimate love, sensitivity, and pure joy. It is symbolic of the consummation of the union between the Bride and her Bridegroom in the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.
"Alleluia! For Yahweh, God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready" Revelation 19: 6b, 7.
The King has been crowned and has ascended His throne and His pure and spotless, virgin Bride is seated beside Him to reign for all eternity. This marks the commencement of the new heavens and the new earth wherein dwells righteousness.
"And I John saw the holy city, New Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband" Revelation 21: 2 Also Revelation 19:11-12, 16; 20:11; 21:1-2; 2 Peter 3:13
THE NEW HEAVEN AND THE NEW EARTH
There is great significance in the number "eight" in the name of the feast. Numerically the number eight, as the eighth day, is symbolic of perfect completion, and yet the first of a new series, although it is the eighth.
Even as "seven" is God's number of perfection, or completion (as the Sabbath is the seventh day of the week, which completes and perfects the week), so "eight" is an extension of that completion which adds to it as well as being the first day of the next week, counting from the days of the previous week. Thus it represents "A NEW BEGINNING."
"Shemini Atzeret" is the new beginning of the next phase of Yahweh God's Plan Its very name identifies it as a "new beginning."
" . . . And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I MAKE ALL THINGS NEW" (Revelation 21: 5).
Isaiah the prophet also unveils this incredible scene of the new heavens and the new earth. He prophesied, in chapter 65, of God creating the new heavens and earth, as something to be rejoiced in for all eternity.
"For, behold, I create NEW HEAVENS AND A NEW EARTH: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. But be ye GLAD and REJOICE FOREVER in that which I CREATE: for, behold, I create JERUSALEM A REJOICING, and her people a joy" Isaiah 65:17-18
The harvest has been reaped. All sin, iniquity and transgression are finished, having been dealt with at the final resurrection and judgment. Everlasting righteousness is ushered in and the former things are not to be even remembered again. There has been a completion of one cycle, and the beginning of another NEW cycle, according to the Father's Plan.
As the prayers for rain in Shemini Atzeret indicate, there is another season of planting and harvest, but this time it is in righteousness, producing according to the Father's plan "after our own kind". This "new beginning" requires "rain" -- a type of the Spirit of God poured out in order to produce a new crop and a new harvest. Spiritually, then, it represents the pouring out anew of the living water and the continuation and expectation of a new harvest for the Kingdom. Isaiah 55:10-13
This is the pure river of water flowing out from the throne of God and of the Lamb (Revelation 22: 1)
"And the Spirit and the Bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take of the water of life freely." Revelation 22:17
When He created Adam it was with the purpose of him having dominion over the earth. Now with many sons having come into His glory who will rule and reign over His creation, the Father can fulfill His original intention. As Paul said, "As it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him" I Corinthians 2: 9.
What new vistas or horizons lay beyond in the ages to come? Paul said, "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the GLORY that shall be revealed in us" Romans 8:18.
This is a level of glory that is beyond our perception - to actually be included as one and in perfect union with the Godhead, and to have the same glory. That is the prayer that Y'shua prayed, and it will be fulfilled! John 17:22-24
As Paul wrote to the Church in Rome, "The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we ARE the children of God. And if children, then HEIRS; heirs of GOD, and JOINT-HEIRS with CHRIST: if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also GLORIFIED TOGETHER" (Romans 8:16-17).
Those who attain that resurrection will live in an earth restored to its Eden-like conditions over which they will have dominion and fulfill Yahweh God original mandate of being sons of the Most High God. And they will reign for ever and ever -- going onward and forward to receive all that He has purposed to those who love Him -- for ALL ETERNITY, the "olam haba" - "to the vanishing point," that, is, throughout "all ages".
Simchat Torah means "rejoicing in the Torah." Simchat Torah is observed in conjunction with Shemini Atzeret and is part of the celebration of the anticipated world to come, the "Olam Haba" - the new heavens and the new earth.
The cycle of Torah reading ends on this day in Deuteronomy and a new one commences in Genesis as part of this never-ending cycle of reading, studying and meditating on the Word of God. As soon as the last verse is finished, the cycle starts again at the beginning, without a break. The Torah is read in a continuous cycle because the circle is a symbol of eternity. It goes on forever. It is eternal, just as the One who gave us the Torah is Eternal.
Thus a never-ending cycle of feasting on His Word.
Simcha Torah then, represents rejoicing in the eternal Word - the Torah, which is an expression of the Living Torah, Y'shua. The water of His Word will flow for all eternity as a river from the throne of God.
There is no scriptural reference to this celebration but it became instituted when the Israelites returned from the captivity in Babylon and continued through the second Temple period as part of the festivities of Shemini Atzeret.
In the ninth century of our common era, the rabbis decreed to make it a separate day, a ninth day, attached to Shemini Atzeret and allocated solely to the celebration surrounding the Torah. This resulted from the importance that was given to Torah reading as a result of the destruction of the Temple. Studying the Word became an alternative and a substitute for the rituals, spiritual life and practices that surrounded the Temple.
A great celebration has been made of rewinding the scrolls of the law from the end of Deuteronomy back to Genesis. Torah scrolls are then carried in a circle and danced seven times around the sanctuary in a joyous parade called “hakafot”. This is to signify the ending of the cycle of Torah reading for the year and the beginning of a new cycle for the coming year. Candles are then put into the ark in place where the scrolls were, as a reminder that God’s law is our light. Psalm 119:105
Y'shua reminded us when He was at the Temple on Sukkot that He was the living Word - "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8:12
"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. " John 1:14
"Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say, rejoice." Philippians 4: 4
It is a command to be joyful on these days, so that will require us not to think or talk about anything negative, but instead be joyful in our thoughts and deeds and encourage others in our midst to do the same.
Services for Shemini Atzeret and Simcha Torah