Ju­daism

SIMHAT TO­RAH 5780

The Jerusalem Post - The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - CONTENTS - SHMUEL RABINOWITZ The writer is rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites.

On Simhat To­rah, which we cel­e­brate af­ter the seven days of Sukkot, all syn­a­gogues re­joice in hakafot – ex­ten­sive danc­ing with the To­rah scrolls. This hap­pi­ness rep­re­sents the end of the an­nual round of read­ing the To­rah ev­ery Shab­bat – from the be­gin­ning of the book of Ge­n­e­sis/Bereshit to the end of the book of Deuteron­omy/De­varim. We ex­press our hap­pi­ness that we have mer­ited end­ing an­other cy­cle of To­rah read­ing, with the Ve­zot Habracha por­tion, and start­ing from the be­gin­ning again.

The read­ing of the To­rah por­tion ev­ery Shab­bat is, in fact, To­rah learn­ing in which ev­ery Jew is sup­posed to par­tic­i­pate. Of course, any­one want­ing to in­ten­sify his knowl­edge and un­der­stand­ing of the spir­i­tual world of Ju­daism does not only lis­ten to the read­ing, but makes time for ad­di­tional study from the vast wealth of Jewish books. Even so, read­ing the To­rah por­tion in the syn­a­gogue ev­ery Shab­bat sym­bol­izes the ba­sic To­rah learn­ing in which ev­ery­one par­tic­i­pates.

The feel­ings of hap­pi­ness that erupt on this day ar­tic­u­late the deep sense that the Jewish Peo­ple through­out the gen­er­a­tions have felt to­ward the To­rah, and con­tinue to feel to this day. The To­rah is not a rem­nant of an an­cient religion, in which only traces of com­mon folk­lore re­main. The To­rah is a spir­i­tual sys­tem en­com­pass­ing the en­tire re­al­ity of a be­liev­ing Jew, trans­form­ing it from a gray and dreary life to an ex­alted and sa­cred ex­is­tence, which has a di­vine pur­pose.

One of the great­est Jewish lead­ers in re­cent gen­er­a­tions, the Rebbe of Gur, Rabbi Abra­ham Mordechai Al­ter, is known by the book he au­thored Im­rei Emet (Poland 1866 – Is­rael 1948). Im­rei Emet was one of the spir­i­tual lead­ers of Pol­ish Jewry and in­vested much ef­fort for the young Jewish re­set­tle­ment of Eretz Yis­rael. In his book, he states an amaz­ing quote, which ex­poses an all-en­com­pass­ing per­cep­tion of the sig­nif­i­cance of life and the role of Ju­daism. He claims that “ev­ery per­son in this world is a mes­sen­ger to awaken the point of truth” (Im­rei Emet, Parashat Shelach).

First, the Im­rei Emet teaches us that ev­ery per­son is a mes­sen­ger. Man is not liv­ing in this world ar­bi­trar­ily. Ev­ery per­son has a mis­sion, a goal, a pur­pose for which he lives.

Sec­ond, there is truth in this world. The truth is not ex­posed, and it must be awak­ened. But it ex­ists, it throbs. It moves re­al­ity and af­fects pro­cesses. It is hid­den, but there is a way to awaken it. And not one way only, but a col­lec­tion of ways to awaken the point of truth.

The mis­sion given to man, any man, is to awaken the point of truth. Not only to ex­pose the truth and

The To­rah trans­forms a gray and dreary life to an ex­alted and sa­cred ex­is­tence

the good, but to awaken them. To dis­cover and ac­ti­vate the truth, to bring it to a level of con­scious­ness – truth must be alert and vis­i­ble. We can say that many peo­ple feel the ex­is­tence of this mis­sion in­tu­itively.

This is no sim­ple mis­sion. It is dif­fi­cult to as­sume that man was sent on this mis­sion with­out any guid­ance. The To­rah en­com­passes our en­tire ex­is­tence, di­rects the life of a be­liev­ing Jew and awak­ens the truth in all that we do – in our mar­i­tal and fam­ily re­la­tion­ships, be­tween friends, in fi­nance, in cop­ing with per­sonal in­stincts and oth­ers.

The To­rah is, there­fore, a liv­ing and de­tailed man­ual for the way we must ful­fill our mis­sion. Learn­ing To­rah is the first and fun­da­men­tal stage in the most im­por­tant ar­eas of our lives. This ap­proach to the To­rah, up­held by the Jewish peo­ple from time im­memo­rial un­til to­day, is the pre­req­ui­site for our en­rap­tur­ing hap­pi­ness on Simhat To­rah.

We com­plete read­ing the To­rah and im­me­di­ately start again. There is no break; not even of one day. From this un­der­stand­ing that the To­rah is the source if mean­ing in our lives, and from the love and ad­her­ence to mitzvot, we cel­e­brate Simhat To­rah with the great­est hap­pi­ness and de­vo­tion to this mis­sion. ■

(Pix­abay)

‘TRUTH EX­ISTS, it throbs.’

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