Religion & Beliefs

Simchat Torah

The Torah comes to its annual conclusion with V'zot Habracha, which is the only Parsha in the Torah not read specifically on Shabbes. Rather, V'zot Habracha is read on Shmini Atzeret/Simchat Torah, when people in the shul are called up … Read More

By / October 4, 2007

The Torah comes to its annual conclusion with V'zot Habracha, which is the only Parsha in the Torah not read specifically on Shabbes. Rather, V'zot Habracha is read on Shmini Atzeret/Simchat Torah, when people in the shul are called up to the Torah for an aliyah — even young children, even years before their respective b'nai mitzvot. I really love the creative ideas congregations come up with the differentiate the different aliyot. I, do remember the congregation I visited last year declaring one for "Cubs fans!" and one for "Sox fans!". Poor soxers. I think three people went to the bimah. But, I digress…

I heard two girls talking on the train last year and one of them said to the other, "I love Simchat Torah because it reminds me of the last week of school. It's like, 'Awesome, we're finished, let's go crazy', you know?" But, personally, I never thought of it that way. I always felt it was more about celebrating a continuity than it was celebrating an end. For me, Simchat Torah represents and celebrates the clean slate feeling we get from knowing the whole Torah is turned to begin again, and we face the chance to reread it all in a new way. A new way, with our life experiences behind us that we have learned from, that have (shehehiyanu) brought us to this moment, this era, this portion. The words of the Torah don't change, but we certainly do. Learning, challenging ourselves and growing, each year, we see the Torah in a new way. Things that caught our ears in 5767 and absorbed into us and we grew from, maybe don't stand out as much in 5768. In this new year, we hear new parts, we understand words– perhaps even words we've heard again and again, year after year– in a brand-new way. Simchat Torah reminds us, quite simply, that the Torah is a constant, we are always changing, and fret not, as we change, so do our interpretations, and, cycle of cycles, as we shift, we should try to remind ourselves that even in times of great confusion, the things that perk up our ears and comfort us this time, even where perhaps they had not before, those things are in there. And, maybe there's another thought. Maybe we are only open to hearing those "Ping! What did I just read? How perfect this is for my life right now!" moments when we free ourselves and not clutch onto our past interpretations, our past selves, our pasts at all. Perhaps we are only open to those moments when we know that everything, good and bad, positive and negative, foolish and wise, everything we have done in our lives up until right now is to be accepted, for it shapes who we are and all that we have become. Today. Right now. And, maybe when we accept, as opposed to regret, we allow those moments of new understanding, or new shoots of green growth to enter our minds. Perhaps even, regretting and fretting are the things which close our ears and hearts and minds to all the little divine threads blowing around in the world. K'shem sh'haTorah niglelet mimakom l'makom b'simcha uveshalom, kayn eglol mimakom l'makom berachamim uve'ratzon. Just as the Torah is rolled from end to beginning amid joy and peace, so too may we go from place to place surrounded by compassion and good will.

(And, so nobody goes home empty-handed, here's an interesting read– Geshem: Verses for our Mothers, highlighting the matriarchs of our Torah and their relationships to water, and here is a piece chocked-full of ideas, Women's Tefillah and Torah Reading for Simchat Torah.)