SIMCHAT TORAH-שמחת תורה
” שישו ושמחו בשמחת תורה ותנו כבוד לתורה.”
“Be glad and rejoice in Simchat Torah and give honor to the Torah . . . -for she is our strength and our light.” (From the liturgy of the Simchat Torah prayer service).
A year of joy and hope! The first month of the Jewish year, Tishrei-תשרי, contains the most Jewish Holidays in the calendar. Beginning with the solemn Rosh Hashanah and concluding with the joyous achievement of completing and beginning the annual cycle of reading the Torah-שמחת תורה-Simchat Torah. The Torah is our guideline for maximizing the essence and purpose of our lives. It teaches us how to cope with our daily challanges and create an atmosphere of joy in our day to day living. It teaches us to make the most of every moment G-d grants us. It’s our guideline for the moral and ethical way to navigate between right and wrong. G-d gave us the Torah so that each person can rejoice with the gift of life, guided by its script.
It is each person’s responsibility to enhance the life of others. The Torah reminds us constantly that we should network in our community, centered around the synagogue, our local spiritual center. That is one of the reasons a Jewish holiday is called in Hebrew “chag-חג,” meaning, celebrating and working together. Unity is paramount in our ability to maximize the potential of one’s happiness.
Because of these teachings, it is no wonder that on Simchat Torah we dance and rejoice with the Torah. We thank G-d with this happy celebration for allowing us to truly get the best of life. Therefore its imperative to take the time and study the teachings of the Torah. That’s the way we start to appreciate the gift of life.
In conclusion, the Mishna in the text of “The Ethics of our Fathers” teaches us:
“עשה לך רב, וקנה לך חבר”
Make it your responsibility to study with a teacher, and you will have acquired the “best” friend.”
Wishing you all a wonderful and joyful year, 5779.
Rabbi Tzvi Berkowitz
Rockwood Park Jewish Center
National Conference of Shomrim Societies
On Monday and Tuesday,September 24 and 25, we will be celebrating the Festival of Sukkot. This holiday lasts for seven days and is then immediately followed (on the eighth for some, the ninth day for others) by Simchat Torah (the Rejoicing of the Law),when the annual cycle of the Torah (the Five Books of Moses) is concluded and then begun again.
Sukkot is a holiday of immense joy, where we express our complete trust in G-d and celebrate our confidence in having received a “good judgement” for the coming year. Throughout the holiday it is traditional to eat, sleep and socialize in the Sukkah, a hut reminding us that the Israelites lived in these booths during their wanderings in the desert for forty years and that G-d is our ultimate protection-just as He protected our ancestors in the desert.
We read in the bible:
“The festivals of G-d which you shall proclaim as convocations of holiness, these are my Festivals”.
The phrase “convocations of holiness” is what the festivals are-a calling to holiness.In the prayers for the festival service we say “You have given us festivals of joy,holidays of gladness”.In other words, the festivals should provide a carry-over of joy and gladness throughout the entire year.
The simcha “joy” of the festivals is certainly not primarily that of gustatory delights that grace the table, but rather the simcha “joy” of the mitzvot, “the commandments” of the festival.
The joy and holiness which the festival represents and convey, whether it be the liberation on Passover,with its many Divine miracles, the receiving of the Torah on the holiday of Shavuot, the commemoration of the protective clouds of glory on the festival of Sukkot, the soul searching and rededication of one’s life on Rosh Hashanah, “the Jewish New Year” or the cleansing of the soul and the Divine forgiveness on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement”,serve to intensify the bonds of brotherhood among Jews,as people congregate to join in prayer and celebration and as they are aroused to give particular attention to the needs of the underprivileged.
All Jews have a stake in one another. Our deeds, our behavior, and our character, alter the way other faiths perceive us as a people. Indeed,the behavior of one Jew can influence how others perceive Judaism.When Jews ignore the suffering of other people-in our own community and around the world-we implicate the source of humanity.
Where Jews find illness, we are commanded to heal.
Where Jews find hunger, we are commanded to feed.
Where Jews find suffering, they are commanded to alleviate the pain.
In caring for one another we express our love both for G-d and of G-d’s creatures.
In the words of the Babylonian Talmud:
“Who shares in the community’s trouble will also share in its consolation”.
Chaplain Alan Edwards