On the eighth day hold an assembly and do no regular work.
Bemidbar (Numbers) 29:35
Tishrei is a special month in the Biblical calendar due to the number of Holy Days observed.
The first day of the month, which the world calls Rosh Hashanah, the so-called Jewish New Year, is really the Festival of the Sounding of the Shofar.Yom Teruah marks the beginning of a time of spiritual introspection and community reconciliation culminating in Yom Kippur. Five days afterwards is the seven-day long, Sukkot. Immediately following the seventh day of Sukkot is another holy day, called in Hebrew Shemini Atzeret, which simply means the “Assembly of the eight (day).”
Shemini Atzeret coincides with the completion and recommencing of the annual cycle of the reading of the Torah. A special celebration, called “Simchat Torah” (Joy of the Torah) is observed. In the Land of Israel Simchat Torah is observed on Shemini Atzeret. Outside of the Land of Israel where certain holy days are doubled, Simchat Torah is observed on the second day of Shemini Atzeret.
If all these special days seems like a lot to you, it’s because one half of this whole Biblical month is given over to a special focus on G-d. Fulfilling all these observances would mean major changes to our normal schedule. In Bible times, celebrating Sukkot meant taking your whole family to Jerusalem for the week.
But I think G-d knows that our normal schedules need upsetting.
In our fast paced society, it seems that we have a lot of difficulty breaking our normal routine to give G-d this kind of attention, but I don’t think we need it any less than the people of ancient times.
Those of us who do take time for G-d often approach him as we do many other things we do. We slot him in somewhere. We spend time with G-d just like any other meeting, rarely taking time to linger in his presence, not to mention setting apart several days just to focus on Him.
When G-d provided His people with His yearly calendar, He directed us to give over to Him large amounts of time. Besides the weekly Sabbath, there are festivals throughout the year. Once a year there would be these two weeks, which includes even more intense time with Him.
Those who know Yeshua but believe the L-rd has “released” His people from Torah may think that we are “free” from such observances. But if the people back then needed this kind of time with G-d, how much more should we want to have intense and prolonged times with him now?
If we know the love of G-d in Yeshua should we not want to spend more time with him, not less?