On Simchat Torah we begin reading the Torah all over again. Even the greatest Torah scholars once again come to the conclusion that they need to reread it, since they failed bitterly the previous year. After all, we only start reading the first words and already we get stuck, unable to understand the actual meaning; and we can never really get beyond that place. While in the non-Jewish world the whole point is to finish a book, in Judaism we are all just perpetual beginners.
Running our world by remote control has not been good for our souls; and walking on the moon has not helped us to know our next-door neighbor any better. On the contrary, technological progress has robbed us of our own humanness. It is therefore most meaningful that one item has maintained its constancy. It carries a text that has had greater influence in the world than any other we know of. It has changed the universe as nothing else has; it encourages people to move, to discover, and to develop. But it is written on parchment, by the hand of a person, holding a quill, as if to say: Be yourself. Don’t get run over by the need for progress.
The Torah reading in synagogue is not conventional Torah learning, but rather a kind of a wake-up call. We are shocked by the text before we even have a chance to get used to its deeper content. And although we have read it for many years, the fact that the story appears again an entire year later, and no earlier, gives us a chance to forget it and then rediscover it as never before.
A Sefer Torah presents us with a stunning paradox: It is a text that has had greater influence in the world than any other we know of. It has changed the universe as nothing else has; it encourages man to move, to discover and to develop. But it is still written in the traditional way–on parchment, by the hand of man, holding a quill pen.
We will soon be celebrating Simchat Torah, and Jews throughout the world will dance with Sifrei Torah in their synagogues, community centers, university campuses and even in the streets. This is remarkable for many reasons.
For hundreds of years, Jews have had the custom to complete the yearly Torah reading in the synagogue on the day of Simchat Torah only to immediately begin all over again. Why the hurry? There is nearly no time to contemplate what one read last year! What is the point of reading something which, for […]
Jewish learning is a tradition of constant beginnings without any end in sight. At the end of Succoth, Jews over the world will be completing the reading of Torah in their synagogues and immediately starting all over again. This is a most remarkable tradition which takes place on Simchat Torah. Instead of being satisfied with this last reading, they conclude that they really did not read it well enough and that there is a need to read it once more. Taking into account that this kind of re-reading has already gone on for thousands of years and that there are no indications it will end in the future, one wonders when Jews will ever complete their reading of the Torah
Since Simchat Torah is the day in which we celebrate the Torah, its divinity, greatness and superiority, it is quite perplexing that there is no special mitzvah commanding the Jewish people to study Torah more deeply and for longer on this festival than on any other day. In fact little studying can be done since much of the day is occupied with dancing and singing and even the reading of the Torah is kept to a minimum: Specifically the concluding words of the Torah and not much more than some opening verses of Sefer Bereshith and a small portion related to some festival sacrifices in the Tabernacle.