Shmini Atzeret/Simchat Torah
Eighth Day Assembly/Rejoicing over Torah
First Covenant Application:
celebrating God's presence with the nation and the Torah that was given to the people
New Covenant Application:
celebrating God's presence and the gift of the Word--both Jesus and the Bible
The New Jerusalem
Shmini Atzeret/Simchat Torah
not Levitical by themselves (part of Sukkot celebration)
Like the relationship between Passover and Unleavened Bread, it is sometimes difficult to tell if Shmini Atzeret should be considered separate from Sukkot or not. The Bible seems to be clear that Sukkot lasts for seven days; but... "on the eighth day, hold a sacred assembly and present a food offering to the LORD. It is the closing special assembly; do no regular work." (Leviticus 23:36). Today, like Sukkot, Shmini Atzeret is celebrated wherever a Jewish person lives; however, if one considers the original context of this Biblical proclamation, the entire nation would have been in Jerusalem together on this day. Imagine--all of God's people in the same place at the same time!
This is how the New Jerusalem will be: everyone who worships God will be in His presence, worshipping together, enjoying His fellowship and the company of each other. There will be no sickness, no war, no arguments, no inequity or injustice--no self-worship of any kind. The only difference is that this is not just the end of the story--it is the beginning of eternity; it is truly our 'happily ever after'.
It has been said by the rabbis that the reason why Shmini Atzeret is celebrated is because God loves His people so much that He wants them to stay with Him for an extra day. In the New Covenant, God is with us every day; but His love for us is definitely that strong; He redeemed us--that is, He bought us back--from death by paying with His own life so that we could be with Him forever.
This brings us to the flip-side of the coin; also celebrated in Israel on this day is Simchat Torah, the celebration of the Word. During the eighth day assembly, the Torah is taken out of the ark at the front of the synagogue and makes a procession around the assembly, touching each person. We know that in the New Covenant, the Word is not only the Bible, but Jesus Himself:
John 1:1-5, 14
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not understood it. ... The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
The Bible (including the Torah) and Jesus together are the Word. While not the same in substance (obviously Jesus is not a book), they are one in message: the Bible proclaims Jesus, and the life of Jesus interprets the Scriptures. The Torah being taken from the ark to touch the lives of everyone present is a direct picture of the presence of God coming from the Ark of the Covenant to touch each of His people; in the New Covenant, this is not only possible, it is now unhindered and eternal. It is not just His love for us that we celebrate, but our love for Him as well.