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Home » Simchat Torah

Simchat Torah: Pure Joy

Submitted by on October 2, 2018 – 10:04 pmNo Comment | 115 views

For ten days we prayed, self examined, and repented. This introspection reached its zenith on Yom Kippur, when we set ourselves and our comforts aside and focused solely on G-d. We didn’t eat or drink, we rejected creature comforts, and spent the day wrapped up in supplication.

At this point G-d embraced us as an elder father would embrace his only child after a year long separation. The father is not overly concerned with how the child behaved during the year, the father has only one thought; my child is home and I am overjoyed. This is how G-d thinks of us on Yom Kippur and this is how we think of G-d. My life isn’t perfect, there are many changes and improvements that I would like to see, but I am happy because I am back home with my father.

The Hut

The question thus arises why we step out of the home shortly after Yom Kippur and spend seven or eight days in an outdoor hut? If we are home with our father, should we not beautify our home so that it resembles a royal palace and spend the next holiday, the festival of Sukkot, awash in luxury?

The answer is that Sukkot is the corollary of Yom Kippur. On Yom Kippur we set our needs aside to focus on G-d. We didn’t eat or drink, we didn’t bathe or wear comfortable shoes, we thought all day only of G-d. On Sukkot we do the same except that we don’t deny ourselves. We eat, drink bathe (during the intermediate days), and wear comfortable clothes, but we don’t think of ourselves, we think only of G-d.

We don’t luxuriate in our homes, where our creature comforts are all provided for. No, we step out of the comfortable home and celebrate the festival in a simple hut that doesn’t even sport a decent ceiling. The roof springs leaks and has cracks though which the stars can be seen. And we love it because as we eat and drink, the heavenly stars remind us of G-d.

If Yom Kippur is the day to deny ourselves and focus on G-d, Sukkot is the festival to enjoy ourselves but focus on G-d. Of the two, the second is more difficult. It is easier to distract ourselves from our needs when we don’t engage in them than to distract ourselves from our needs while we engage and indulge ourselves.

Yet, that is the synergy of Sukkot. Lavish delicious meals in a simple unadorned hut. We celebrate and rejoice, but it is G-d’s celebration, not ours. The joy brings us closer to G-d, not closer to ourselves. The merrier we are, the less we think about ourselves.

This is why we pray during this festival for all peoples of the world. In the Temple, our ancestors offered sacrifices and prayers for all the nations, not just for the Jews. Of these nations, some supported Jews others were contemptuous of Jews, but our ancestors prayed for all of them. They thought not of themselves during Sukkot. Theirs was a pure joy, one that was completely without ego. Completely without a sense of self.

Alone Time

This leads to the eighth day, the festival of Shemini Atzeret, when we pray only for our people. For seven days we prayed for the world at large, on the eighth day we pray for Jews. And we do this on G-d’s invitation. G-d says, you spent seven days praying for others, lets dedicate this one day for us, just you and I.

After dedicating ourselves completely to G-d for these many days, thinking not a whit of ourselves and only about G-d, selfless and pure for three whole weeks, G-d turns around and says, now it is my turn. You and I will spend this one day together and I will think of nothing else, only you. This day is for you.

The Torah

From Shemini Atzeret, we enter Simchat Torah, the day of celebration and rejoicing over the Torah. On the face of it, we celebrate the completion of our Torah studies. We studied the first Torah portion a year ago and continued our studies throughout the year. At this point, we are about to study the last portion and we celebrate the completion of our Torah study.

But on a deeper level, we are celebrating our unique relationship with G-d as expressed through the Torah. The fact that we don’t celebrate on Simchat Torah by studying the Torah, tells us that we aren’t merely celebrating the completion of our Torah studies. That we celebrate by dancing with the Torah tells us that this is a celebration of our very connection to the Torah.

The days we spent thinking only of G-d prompted G-d to think only of us. This dual dynamic highlighted our connection with G-d and G-d’s connection with us. This relationship is channeled through the Torah; the medium through which G-d connects with us and we connect with G-d.

Thus, we cover the Torah and dance with it. Every Jew dances, not just the scholar. It is an expression of the deep connection-sentiment that we honed over the last three weeks. We are now fully cognizant of our bond with G-d and thrilled over His bond with us. We can’t take it sitting down. We grab the Torah and jump to our feet, leaping and twirling with pure joy over the connection that we enjoy with G-d.

The Legs

The Torah too wants to celebrate because nothing is as dramatic and exciting for the Torah than to see its charges appreciating its value. The Torah exults in great cheer and wants to dance around the Bimah. But the Torah has no legs, therefore we become the Torah’s legs. By lifting the Torah and dancing with it, we become the legs that carry the Torah around the Bimah. It is thus true to say that the Torah carries us around the Bimah and we carry the Torah around the Bimah.

We close with a novel thought. If indeed, we merit to become the Torah’s legs, then it behooves us to ensure that the Torah travels. Not only in endless circles, but in a direct line to the home of every Jew.

If our love for Torah is complete, and G-d’s love for us is complete, and the Torah exults over serving as the nexus point between us and G-d, then the Torah wants its message to be heard and internalized by every Jew, not just the ones that dance with the Torah on Simchat Torah.

Therefore, as we dance in pure joy this Simchat Torah, lets resolve to become the Torah’s legs in the most literal sense. To walk from home to home and introduce Jews in to the beauty, wealth, warmth, and inspiration of the Torah. Whether we use our physical legs or as is more common in our day, our virtual legs, whether we visit physically or virtually, the key is to help the Torah journey across the land, the world, and the globe, to reach and inspire every single Jew.

Chag Sameach

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