Why we celebrate Simhat Torah?
What significance of closing eyes when praying “Shema”?
Simchat Torah means, “Joy of G-d’s Torah” or “Rejoicing in Torah” We have just gone through an austere time of reflection and introspection during the High Holy Days, examining our lives, repenting and correcting our deficiencies. Confessing and seeking forgiveness from G-d, and from those that we may have offended. This week ends the yearly cycle of our weekly Torah Parashat, and next week we begin the series all over again. We reflect on what we have learned during the year and anticipate what we shall learn in the coming year through Torah study. Simchat Torah represents the past, present and future, and the passing on of G-d’s Torah to the next generation. It is a time of praise, thanksgiving, and joy. As Messianic believers, we celebrate Simchat Torah with both the Living Torah (Yahshua) and Written Torah (G-d’s Instructions) in mind. Simchat Torah is a relative new celebration in Judaism, and is rabbinical, not ordained to be celebrated by G-d, yet it’s purpose might fall in the same category as Chanukah, which is also not G-d ordained, but was celebrated by Yahshua. There is no indication that this festival was celebrated before the ninth century C.E. However, the symbolic significance of the holiday is unmistakable. To be immersed in the study of Torah is a joyous thing for a believer. It is also a tradition that you do not end a Torah cycle on a sad note, therefore, the joyous occasion of Simchat Torah.
Why some believers cover their eyes during the Sh’ma is to concentrate totally upon what is said. When the liturgy was evolving after the destruction of the Temple early rabbis understood that repeated recitation of a prayer or blessing led many to a fixed and uninvolved ritual, and the heart was not involved in the process. Therefore, the rabbis taught we practice kavanah. That is direction or intention or another translation is cleaving to G-d. Covering of the eyes affords some people the ability to focus and direct their intention to G-d. Some congregations or rabbis teach this, and others do not. I teach it is an individual option. The practice has merit as correlated in the B’rit Chadasha (New Testament) when Yahshua advised us to “go into your closet” when you pray. Some others cover their heads with their tallit to afford an environment of intimacy and privacy.