This past Monday, the 24th, was the celebration of Sh’mini Atzeret, the Eighth Day. This is also called Simchat Torah, or Joy of Torah. The joy is that we read the last sentence or two of D’varim (Deuteronomy) and then, as the congregation sings songs of joy, we turn the Torah back (you can get real “Popeye” arms from doing this!) to the start, and read the first sentence or two of B’resheet (Genesis.) The Parashot readings are usually over a one year cycle, but some synagogues will read the Torah over a three year cycle. In either case, Simchat Torah will always be on the eighth day of Sukkot.
This first parashah takes us from nothingness to just before God causes the flood. Of course, even in the nothingness of a universal void, God already was there. What was for Mankind the very beginning of everything was just another eon for God.
For the Jewish people, reading the Torah is joy, and the Haftorah portions and traditional Holy Day readings incorporate most of the rest of the Tanakh. But for many Christian people, they never get to know who Yeshua (Jesus) really is because they separate the Torah and the Old Covenant writings from the New Covenant. This is mainly because we are all taught, both Jews and Gentiles, that these books represent two separate religions. Of course, nothing could be farther from the truth.
Traditional teaching is that the “God” of the Old Covenant is vengeful, violent and strict, whereas the “God” of the New Covenant is, essentially, Jesus (real name- Yeshua), and I say that because whereas the O.C. is all about the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the N.C. talks about God only as “the Father”, and He gets second billing to Jesus. The O.C. God has the Jews kill nations and depopulate Canaan, He kills His own people, He is strict, He has all these rules and laws and commandments, He requires sacrifices, He has His prophets call fire from heaven on people, yadda-yadda-yadda. That O.C. God is a real meanie. Oh, but the N.C. God, this nice, quiet, calm and totally loving Jesus is nothing like that. He is all about love, He is all about forgiveness, and acceptance, and peace. He cried at Lazarus’s tomb. He is such a nice boy, to make His mother proud.
Get real, people- Jesus was (and still is) His Father’s son! Did Jesus ever say anything nice, loving, compassionate or forgiving about the Pharisees? As I recall, He called them white-washed sepulchers, full of dead man’s bones. And what about those quiet, society-serving businessmen that were helping people to buy sacrificial animals and exchanging monies in the Temple courts? They were serving the people, and Jesus whipped them, over-turned their tables and (without using bad language) cursed them out. He told His followers they had to eat His flesh and drink His blood; He told His followers that He came to separate families and turn fathers against sons, and mothers against daughters; He said people had to crucify themselves if they wanted to follow Him. He even called-out one of His best friends: when Kefa (Peter) voiced how upset he would be if anything bad happened to Jesus, instead of lovingly hugging him for being so concerned, Jesus called him Satan- He said, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” He didn’t say, “C’mon, Pete- get with the program” or “Thank you, Brother, for the kind concern but I must do my Father’s work.” No- Jesus chewed Peter out, in front of everyone!
As we start to read the O.C. again, let’s remember (and if you never learned this before, then learn it now) that these are NOT separate stories about two separate religions: it is the same story, the same religion, the same God and the same Messiah.
- The O.C. starts with absolutely nothing in existence. It then tells how God created everything, chose a people, developed them, grew them despite everyone else in the world trying to kill them; gave them His rules for how to worship and honor Him, and how to treat each other. It tells how He set them up in their own land so that from there He could rule them, and they were to be an example and a blessing to the world. Finally, through His chosen people, His Torah (which means teachings, not laws) and His Messiah, the entire world would find salvation from their sins and have eternal communion with Him. It ends with the overthrow of Jerusalem, destruction of the Temple, and the dispersion of the Jewish people throughout the known world.
- The N.C. is the continuation, taking over where the O.C. left off, with the coming of the promised Messiah who taught the Jews the hidden meanings of the Torah that they had not discovered. Jesus taught them how to live the Torah to it’s fullest, both physically and spiritually, and that He was there to finalize the Almighty’s plan of salvation by becoming the ultimate and final sacrifice for sin. Because we all failed to live in accordance with Torah, Yeshua ha Maschiach (Yeshua the Messiah) completed God’s plan of salvation by overcoming, with His own blood, those sins that we could not overcome on our own. We then read how His story spread and how salvation came to both Jews and Gentiles. The N.C. ends as the O.C. began, with a brand new beginning.
If I was to write a dust jacket for the (entire) Bible, it would be something like this:
A wonderful love story of the one and only God and how He fulfilled His plan to create Mankind and provide an eternal paradise for them. There is action, death, rebellion, supernatural events, romance, treachery and despite what seems to be the total destruction of God’s plan, there is a happy ending for those that find the truth and accept the salvation provided for them. It can be hard to understand in parts, and sometimes the story line drags a little, but it delivers a satisfying read with many messages that are appropriate for both the individual and the society. Overall, I give it two thumbs up! (Available in both paper and digital format.)
If you think that the O.C. is for Jews and the N.C. is all Christians really need to know, try reading the second book in a series without reading the first one. After you do that, then read the first book, and you will see how much you were missing. It is the same with the Old and New Covenants- please believe me when I tell you these are one book, one story, one God (the same one in both) and one Messiah, promised in the first book and delivered in the second. With one beginning and one ending, which is a new beginning.
That new beginning at the end of the bible is when the new heaven and the new earth are created for the survivors of the destruction of the old earth; it is a new paradise.
Start your year right now, with a new beginning of understanding and a new realization of the symmetry and synergy between the Old and New Covenants. Read from Genesis all the way through Revelations, and see how it all fits perfectly. If you are Jewish and have never read the New Covenant, invest in your eternity and buy a Messianic version just so that you can get passed some of the subtle anti-Semitic intonations of the King James and NIV versions. However, even those versions will give you an idea, if you are willing to look, of the Jewishness of the New Covenant. Jesus’s real name is Yeshua, meaning God’s Salvation, and He was, is and always will be identified as a Jewish man, the Son of the God of the Jews. That is an unfortunate label, because God is not the God of the Jews, He is God- the one and only God, and the God of everyone and everything. He has no religion, He has His commandments, rules and regulations for worshiping Him and treating each other.
That’s all there is- worship God and treat each other as you would want to be treated. All the rest falls into place if you do those two things.
Chag Sameach! (Happy Holidays) and may God bless you in your endeavor to know Him better, to serve Him with love and faithful obedience, and may you be a blessing to others.