The Final Day of the Feast of Sukkot - “Shemini Atzeret”
The final day of the Feast of Tabernacles is called Shemini Atzeret (שְׁמִינִי עֲצֶרֶת) in the Hebrew language, or the "Eighth Day of Assembly” as it is called in the Bible. It follows the seven-day celebration of the Feast of Sukkot (Tabernacles) with a one-day sabbatical rest and celebration.
The Hebrew word “SHEMINI” refers to the number eight, the eighth day following the seven-day Feast of Tabernacles, and yet the observance of Shemini Atzeret is different from Tabernacles, making it both "a holiday in its own right" as well as the "end of Tabernacles.”
Either way, as the very final celebration of the Jewish year following the fall Feasts of the Lord which include the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah), the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles, Shemini Atzeret, also known as Simchat Torah, the “Rejoicing of the Law,” brings to a grand finale’ the cycle of annual celebrations with joyous prayer services, festive meals, and dancing with the Torah Scrolls at the synagogues.
The Hebrew word “ATZERET” appears a number of times in the Law of Moses, meaning "A Day of Assembly." However, its root word “ATZAR,” which means to stop or to hold back, explains how this special eighth day speaks both about a great national assembly as well as the conclusion, or the end, of the previous great Feast of Tabernacles.
Beyond its appearances in the Books of Moses, Shemini Atzeret is also mentioned during the dedication of the First Temple by Solomon and during the Jewish return from the Babylonian Exile. According to Jewish tradition, the final weekly Torah portion of the year is read on Shemini Atzeret together with the first portion of the new cycle of reading taken from the Book of Genesis.
Accepted in recent centuries as the day of “Simchat Torah,” the “Rejoicing of the Law,” Shemini Atzeret serves as the greatest display of Jewish identity worldwide as Jewish people celebrate the festival with all their hearts and might, dancing with the Torah Scrolls and thanking God for giving us His holy Word.
It was on that very day, according to the Gospel of John, that Jesus of Nazareth lifted up HIs voice while teaching in the Temple Courts in Jerusalem. John wrote, “On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.’” (John 7:37-39).
Christian tradition attributes great prophetic significance to this day, as many scholars and teachers view the biblical Feast of Tabernacles as the final epic season on earth that will usher in the return of the Lord and the coming of His Kingdom.
So let us take this promise to heart and remember that while the Jewish nation celebrates God’s Word on this “Simchat Torah” Day, our Christian brothers and sisters around the world remember the promise of the Holy Spirit that was also shared on that very same day in Jerusalem. We all look to our Great Heavenly Father to bring His KIngdom to earth according to His Word, and Shemini Atzeret is a good time to join our hearts in united prayer for that blessed end.
Blessings from Jerusalem.
Your Sar-El team