Torah is a Joy

October 18, 2019

Torah is a Joy

The month long cycle of Jewish holy days ends with Simchat Torah, which means simply: “rejoicing in the Torah.” On Simchat Torah, the last portion of the book of Deuteronomy is read and immediately followed by the first chapter of Genesis. In so doing, we are reminded that for the Jewish people, the Torah is a circle, a never ending story in which in which we read, and reread God’s message to us.

On Simchat Torah, we are reminded that the Torah is the most cherished possession of the Jewish people. It contains our history and heritage. The Torah tells us what to do: How to live our lives, in accordance with our covenant with G-d.

In the synagogue, the scrolls are taken from the ark, and carried around the sanctuary 7 times, called hakafot. This is no somber march, but rather an occasion for dancing, singing and revelry. Individuals are granted the honor of carrying the Torah, and throughout the circuits the scrolls are passed from one person to another. When the Torah is read, it is customary for as many people as possible to be called up to recite a blessing over the readings.

Two important lessons emerge from the rituals on Simchat Torah.

1) The Torah belongs to all of us. When G-d gave Moses the Ten Commandments, they were not meant for only Moses to follow. The rabbis teach that we, all the generations were present at Sinai. The precious teachings are ours, and as we study and live as Jews, we make Torah our own.

2) Torah is a joy. We Jews are blessed to be in covenant with G-d, and we have agreed to the ‘terms’ of the covenant, found in the Torah. When we sing and dance with the Torah we are reminded that together with obligation and commitment comes Joy. In Proverbs 3:18 we read about Torah: “ It is a tree of life to those who hold fast to it; and whoever holds it is happy.

Our holy days and festivals inspire us to celebrate our history, our relationship with G-d, reflect our gratitude for all of life’s bounty, to search our souls and celebrate the pride we feel as Jews. Simchat Torah, simply, is about Joy.

Chag Sameah!

Rabbi Judith R. Beiner
Community Chaplain, Jewish Family & Career Services of Atlanta