Next week, on Sunday evening, we will be celebrating the holiday of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. This comes on the heels of Sukkot.
Simchat Torah is the one the most joyful holidays in Judaism, and celebrates the annual completion of the Torah reading. Growing up it was always my favorite. Yet, for so many, the main exposure in a Synagogue is to Rosh Hashanah and especially Yom Kippur, which could be very solemn.
What do we do on this holiday? We read the last verses of the Torah, and immediately, read the first verses. This is because learning Torah never ends, so the very moment we conclude, we begin once again. No matter how much we think we know, there is always more to learn, new perspectives to understand, and deeper insights to appreciate.
And then we dance. We dance with the Torah scrolls like there is no tomorrow.
We dance because we are genuinely happy and thankful to G-d for giving us this greatest gift, and for the ability we have each day to learn it and live it. And when one is genuinely happy, they dance and celebrate!
What is most interesting about this holiday, is that it is not focused on the scholarly accomplishments of Torah learning. This is not a celebration just for those who have dedicated many hours each day or week to Torah study. It is also not a celebration based on the depth of one's knowledge.
On Simchat Torah, we are celebrating the Torah itself. When we dance with the Torah, it’s rolled up and tied closed with a strap and cover.
When the Torah is open, each person may relate to it differently. Some people know more than others, some people can learn more than others, so we may not always feel so equal next to an open Torah. But when the Sefer Torah is closed, we’re all the same.
On this holiday, every Jew is equal in that we all received the Torah together, and it belongs to each of us. This is why we dance with the Torah while it is covered. During this celebration, every person, no matter their level of knowledge or the depth of their understanding, celebrates and rejoices the same way.
We will be celebrating the holiday with a Sushi in the Sukkah on Sunday evening, followed by the Simchat Torah celebration. Whether Hakafot and Simchat Torah is something you grew up with, or it is new to you, please join us as we celebrate together. This will be a highlight of your Jewish year!
Rabbi Mendel Alperowitz Blog
Serving the spiritual needs of the South Dakota Jewish community. Based in Sioux Falls and travels the state.