The Month of Tishri

The month of Tishri in the Hebrew calendar is the seventh month of the Jewish year, and it is the month of the high holy days as laid out in Leviticus 23. "In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of the blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation . . . " This celebration is today called New Year, Rosh HaShana.

The next high holy day in the month Tishri is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement: "Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation to you; you shall afflict your souls."

A third celebration follows: "The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days to the LORD." The festival this year commences on the twenty-fifth of September, it is always a most joyous occasion and is concluded with a special day which is called Simchat Torah, the Rejoicing over the Law.

This special day, Simchat Torah, was adopted in the early centuries, and it related to the reading of the Law of Moses in the synagogues over the period of one year. On this day of rejoicing over the Law the reading of Deuteronomy is completed and Genesis recommenced.

All those assembled in the synagogue on this day are called upon to pronounce a blessing over the reading of the Law, and little children come to the synagogue bearing colourful paper flags with inscriptions extolling the Word of God. The flags often have lighted candles burning on the flag rod, a delight to the boys and girls.

The scrolls of the Law, wrapped in beautiful velvet mantles of red, scarlet, blue and white, and ornate with golden embroidery and inscriptions, are taken out of the Ark of the Law by loving hands. These scrolls, which are the living oracles of God, are the most precious possession in Israel. Men have lived and died to preserve these for generations yet to be born.

As we think of the present day rejoicing over the Law in the synagogues we remember Nehemiah's time as he wrote: "For all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded Moses.

"So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the congregation, of men and women, and all who could hear with understanding, on the first day of the seventh month" (Nehemiah 8:1,2). There were 42,360 people (7:66) who had returned to Jerusalem who were gathered there that day, AND THEY REQUESTED THE WORD!

Ezra stood on a pulpit of wood with thirteen supporters at his side and read the precious word of the law. "And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people . . . and when he opened it, all the people stood up. And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. Then all the people answered, 'Amen! Amen!' while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground" (8:5,6).

This happened "from morning until midday" a period of say six hours, the people standing to show their respect for the Word, and receiving it with all their hearts.

"And Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, 'This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.' For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law" (8:9).

We can see in these events the mighty sovereign hand of the Holy Spirit, firstly to draw the people together to one place, where they were prepared to stand to hear the reading of the Law, and then the hand of God upon each one so that they bowed in worship, and recognized who they were, and what they were like in the presence of God. Indeed, the Word of God as the sword of the Spirit, brings brokenness, and leads to revelation, which leads to repentance.

The conclusion of the day's events was just as wonderful. "Then he said to them, 'Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our LORD. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.'

"So the Levites quieted all the people, saying, 'Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.' And all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them" (8:10-12).

The people offered great sacrifices and rejoiced; God had made them rejoice with great joy. Their wives and children also rejoiced, so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even far off. The people who had wept before under a sense of sin were now called upon to rejoice. Holy mourning prepares the way for spiritual joy and gladness in the Lord.

We recognize that this is the sovereign work of a mighty God, "who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us . . . " as we read in the New Testament in Paul's Letter to the Ephesians (3:20). This he accomplished through the ministry of His Son the Messiah, "by him to reconcile all things to himself . . . having made peace through the blood of his cross" (Letter to the Colossians 1:20).