10-20-16 Message to Beit Adonai Yisroel – Shemini Atzeret (“assembly of the eighth”)
Torah Portion for Shabbes Chol HaMoed Succot; Ex 33:12 – 34:26
Haftarah: Ezek 38:18 – 39:16
Suggested Acheron K’tuvim: John 7:37-38
The Great Day of the Feast
Central question of this message: Are you looking forward to even greater joy?
Today we are in the midst of the festival of Succot. The intermediate days between the first and last day of this festival are called Chol HaMoed – “all [the days of] the season.”
So, today is called Shabbat Chol HaMoed Succot, and has its own special Torah reading.
Although this is the Shabbat, we don’t read the last portion of Devarim (Deuteronomy) today, but wait until Simchat Torah (rejoicing regarding the Torah) which this year begins Monday night at dusk.
Tonight begins the final day of the festival of Succot, known as Hoshana Rabbah, which means “salvation in the highest [manner]”. And then Sunday night begins Shemini Atzeret, which some congregations combine with Simchat Torah.
Hoshana Rabbah has a number of special observances, many of which reflect similar events that occurred during this season in the time that the Temple still stood.
We read in Talmud (Succah 4:5) that the priests would carry palm or willow branches in their hands, and would make a procession around the altar every day during Succot, and then seven on the seventh day.
It has been said that the seven circuits relate to the seven circuits made around Jericho, and in the same manner the wall that separates us from G-d’s love is torn down by our persistent repentance and celebration of His love.
Another tradition associates the seven circuits with the seven Hebrew words in the verse found at Psalm 26:6, translated as “I shall wash my hands in innocence, And I will go about Thine altar, O Lord”
Many read or chant some special prayers during the circuits, symbolizing Elijah the Prophet crying out for the soon coming of the Messiah. Compare that with the life of John “the baptizer” who Yeshua compared directly with Eliyahu (Elijah) the Prophet.