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V’zot Haberacha (And This is the Blessing) D’Varim (Deut.) 33:1-34:12 and Shemini Atzeret

: V’zot Haberacha (And This is the Blessing) D’Varim (Deut.) 33:1-34:12 and Shemini Atzeret 

Haftorah Readings: Joshua 1:1-18

Today and tomorrow are both holidays. Today is Shemini Atzeret and tomorrow will be Simchat HaTorah. The celebration today is seen as the beginning of the rainy season in Israel. Tomorrow, Simchat HaTorah is not found in scripture but has been developing over the millennium to be a day to celebrate both the ending of the yearly cycle of Torah readings and the beginning of a new year.

Today, I want us to look at Shemini Atzeret and see what G-d has for us in this day. I pray it will speak to us all. The holiday of Sukkot ended last evening. The essence of Sukkot  should show us, among other things, that our lives are much like the temporary structure we built and used during the holiday. The sukkah is totally vulnerable to the elements as we have seen this week, with rain, wind, heat of the day as well as the pleasant times to reflect on our lives. None of us are meant to be more than passing through this world. However, our challenge is to live each day with the fullness of G-d’s will for our life being our guide for everything we do.

This holiday also has a special meaning for believers in Yeshua. During biblical times the sacrifice made in the temple equaled 70 bulls being offered as well as sheep. Seventy corresponded to the nations of the world. So many see this holiday having a universal message. It is also mentioned in John 7 where Yeshua traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate the holiday along with all of Israel. It is also mentioned in Zechariah 14:16 where the prophet said that all the nations that came against Jerusalem would go up from year to year to worship the King, the L-rd of Hosts and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. So now let’s look back at the time we have just passed through and this day we are in, Shemini Atzeret.

It first appears in Leviticus 23:26 and is mentioned again in Numbers 28-29, especially Numbers 29:35. In this verse we read, “On the eighth day you shall hold a solemn gathering; You shall not work at your occupation.” In fact, the name for this day in Hebrew is found in this verse. Shemini is the word used to translate eighth day. Atzeret is also used here and in our translation usually is translated as solemn assembly. However, it has a deeper meaning, such as, a little extra time. It is as if G-d is saying to His people and to us, “Stop, stay awhile longer, rejoice with Me.” When I read this during the week it struck me how often we are too busy to stop for a bit and just rejoice before our King. It is like He is saying, “Sit a spell and let's just chat, sing, rejoice together.”

This idea of rejoicing should speak to each of us. We see it mentioned over and over throughout scripture. In II Chronicles 7:8-10 we read, “On the twenty-third day of the seventh month (today) Solomon dismissed the people to their homes, rejoicing and in good spirits over the goodness that the L-rd had shown to David, Solomon and His people Israel.” Here Shemini Atzeret was the day Solomon spoke these words to Israel. The words used in these verses for rejoicing is the Hebrew word sameach, meaning joyful, glad, rejoicing, followed by the word tov, meaning good, happy or joyful. We can see one of the points of this day was to rejoice and be glad for all the Father had done for them. Again, this should be looked at as G-d saying, “Let this be a day of rejoicing solely for you and me.”

We see this same theme played out in the Messianic scriptures, even when things might seem difficult. We see this over and over in verses like Romans 5:2 where Saul said, “We rejoice in the hope of the glory of G-d.” In Romans 12:12, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Lastly, in Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the L-rd always again I say rejoice.”  Joy is to be part of our lives in this world. Joy is listed as one of the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23.

My point for all of us is even in times like we are in now we are not to allow ourselves to be swept away by anger, hate or fear. G-d is well able to give us the strength to still rejoice in all He has done for us. So let us rejoice and remember the words of the Psalmist in Psalms 118:24, “This is the day the L-rd has made, let us exalt and rejoice in it.” Amen and a joyful Shemini Atzeret!