Each week, the liturgy of our Shabbat morning service is a dramatization of the covenant at Sinai. We are reminded of our calling, the Torah, and the presence of God. The Torah service is the centerpiece of the liturgy. Our Torah portion for this week contains the liturgy that we say at the very beginning of the Torah service: “Then it came about when the ark set out that Moses said, ‘Rise up, O LORD! And let Your enemies be scattered, And let those who hate You flee before You’” (Number 10:35).
You know it! “Vah-y’hee bin-so-ah ha-aron, vah-yo-mer Moshe, koo-mah Adonai v’ya foo-tzoo oy-veykha v’ya-noo-soo m’san’eycha mee-pa-ney-kha . . .”.
Then when the Torah is returned to the Ark we say* the next verse: “When it came to rest, he said, ‘Return, O LORD, to the myriad thousands of Israel’” (Num 10:36).
These two verses serve as the brackets around the Torah service. In the text, these verses represent the assurance that the presence and protection of God would go before the children of Israel as they travelled in the wilderness. The Ark of the Covenant served as the visible assurance that God would fight against their enemies and always be with them. Later in history, we know that when the people went to battle against the Philistines they took the Ark of the Covenant into the battle. However, they treated it like a “good luck charm” or simply as a “religious thing to do” and were not only defeated, but the Ark of the Covenant was captured.
At some point in Jewish history, the Torah Scroll came to represent the presence and protection of God. When we remove the Torah Scroll from the Ark and march around the sanctuary, we are dramatizing these great truths about our covenant relationship with God. When we walk around with the scroll and then read from it, we are declaring that our battles belong to God and He is victorious. When the Torah Scroll is returned to the ark, we are declaring victory.
But there is more. As we all know, when we remove the scroll from the ark, we sing more than the one verse mentioned above. The second phrase that we sing is our hope for the future, when the final battle will have been fought. It is the last line of Isaiah 2:3 which reads: “For the Torah will go forth from Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem”. Again, you know it! “Ki mi-Tzion te-tze Torah, oo-d’var Adonai mi-rushalayim”. Therefore, the liturgy is not only designed to encourage us that God is our covenant king who is always with us and fights for us—but that there will be a day when the Torah will go throughout the world and the nations will come under the authority of God so that there will be world peace and no more conflict or war. In every synagogue in the world, these verses are read with this hope and assurance.
However, at Beth Messiah Congregation, this liturgy comes to life in a new and dynamic way. This is because Yeshua is the living Torah, and through the Ruach HaKodesh, Yeshua/Torah is dispensed throughout the earth so that wherever there are Messiah followers there is the unity of peoples in Him. Whether Messiah followers are found in the United States, Bangladesh, Beijing, Tel Aviv, or even Gaza, there is a unity between them. The world is in the dark, but we are the children of the light! Every week in our service, the Torah/Yeshua “travels” to people from different ethnicities and cultures. In our service, we are reminded of the universal message of Good News to all peoples! We are reminded that the coming of the Messiah is “a light, for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel" (Luke 2:32; Cf. Isa 42:6; 46:13; 49:6, 9; 51:4; 60:1–3).
It is as if we are celebrating Shavuot every single Shabbat! When the Torah is moving through the sanctuary, and Jews and persons from varieties of people groups are rejoicing and singing together, it is a precious foretaste of the world to come! As we have heard many times, we are a living example of “Jewish Particularism with a Universal Horizon”! In our Shabbat Service, the Torah Service is a dramatization of new covenant realities! We are reliving both Sinai and Zion! It’s a two mountain experience! Let us continue the journey of this life together with great encouragement and hope as we move forward in our vision of experiencing Israel’s future today!
*This verse is sung at the beginning of a longer paragraph. At Beth Messiah when we return the Torah to the ark, we sing the last part of the paragraph which is a prayer that acknowledges the lifegiving power of the Torah and asks for new covenant renewal.