Simchat Torah 5770 October 10 – October 11, 2009
“Celebrating the Gift of Torah”
by Rabbi Mel Gottlieb, PhD
President, Academy for Jewish Religion, CA
Simchat Torah is definitely on the top of my list of favorite Jewish Holidays. I have so many memories of dancing ecstatically with the Torah with large groups of Jews, from the streets of Washington Heights outside of Yeshiva University, to the hills of Yerushalayim with Jews flying out of their bodies, as their souls take momentary flight to the upper worlds. It is the one night where Jews, both adults and children, are supposed to dance together with the Torah expressing great joy and fervor. It is the one night in the Synagogue where decorum is secondary to spontaneous letting go in celebration for the gift of Torah, our precious heritage which we complete reading the following morning.
Why do we dance with such ecstasy when we embrace the Torah or dance around it? Our Rabbis teach us that in the sacred letters of the Torah there is an awesome power. Letters are the means through which great sublime thoughts and ideas are transmitted from one generation to another. In the letters repose the souls of their authors where they are preserved eternally fresh and forever young.
Through Torah study, our thoughts are broadened, our minds sharpened and our aspirations soar higher and higher. Through Torah study, our spiritual powers become ever stronger. Our souls grow and expand. The more a human being learns the more does s/he perceives what a human being should be, what a Jew should be.
For all, Torah is the treasure of life and it reveals what our soul yearns for. All must study Torah to learn the principles of righteousness and justice, the wonders of G-d’s creation, and the depths of the moral law. Torah creates a feeling of freedom within the human heart, and an uplifting of the human being towards G-d. Fervent Torah study creates a sensation that transcends human intellect and reaches the deepest recesses of the human soul. We, the nation that Moses proclaimed is the light unto the world, the beacon of hope for humankind, who produced the bestseller of all times, the Holy Scripture, feel compelled to dance on Simchat Torah when we complete and re-begin its study.
The Almighty proclaimed Divinity and Sovereignty at Mt. Sinai by advocating in the first commandment, “I am the Lord thy G-d, who has taken you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.” This proclamation lays down the ground rules for emancipation. We must come to the rescue of the oppressed. We must deliver the poor, the weak, the handicapped from their aggressors. We must provide for the underdog while securing his/her continued existence. G-d delivered our nation from the bondage in Egypt. As a result, we celebrate Simchat Torah with great joy and dancing, celebrating this wonderful Torah and its uplifting ideas. What a wonderful tradition to live up to, to feel obliged to. So this night of the year, we join our souls and our feet, and we dance with ecstasy, hands joined, angels singing, letting go. Come dance with your loved ones on Simchat Torah!