SIMHAT TORAH 5780
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. ■
‘TRUTH EXISTS, it throbs.’