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Keep Dancing All Year Long

on Wednesday, September 25 2013. Posted by Rabbi Efrem Goldberg

Imagine the following scene playing out on C-SPAN: On a specific day of the year, the Supreme Court justices together with the members of Congress take copies of the United States Constitution and dance around the floor of the House of Representatives while singing, clapping and lifting the law books high in the air. With each circuit of those carrying the Constitution, the others lean in to affectionately kiss the books as they pass by. This entire scenario seems impossible and the very suggestion of this scene is ludicrous.

And yet, this is exactly what we do on Simchas Torah in Shuls around the world. We collect all the Torahs from around the shul, sing and dance in a spirited fashion and kiss each Torah as it passes us by. What explains our seemingly bizarre behavior, especially in contrast with the attitude and approach every other legal system and religion brings to their law books?

Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks writes so beautifully:
“A Torah scroll is the nearest thing Judaism has to a holy object. Still written today as it was thousands of years ago — on parchment, using a quill, by a master-scribe — it is our most cherished possession. We stand in its presence as if it were a king. We dance with it as if it were a bride. We kiss it as if it were a friend. If, God forbid, one is damaged beyond repair, we mourn it as if it were a member of the family.

The Koran calls Jews a “people of the book,” but this is an understatement. We are a people only because of the book. It is our constitution as a holy nation under the sovereignty of God. It is God’s love letter to the children of Israel. We study it incessantly. We read it in the synagogue each week, completing it in a year. During the long centuries of Jewish exile, it was our ancestors’ memory of the past and hope for the future. It was, said the German poet Heinrich Heine, the “portable homeland” of the Jew. Some Christians have found it hard to understand the Jewish love of law. To them it sometimes seems like an obsession with detail, the “letter” rather than the ‘spirit.’”

We live in a world of great darkness in which people are desperately searching for meaning, purpose, happiness, joy, direction, fulfillment, family values, and more. While so much of the world struggles, we are amazingly blessed, fortunate and privileged to be charged by the ideals, values and laws of the Torah that truly provides a prescription for a meaningful life. It is not ours alone and we have no monopoly on its message. Etz chaim hi, lamachazikim bah, it is a tree of life for all those who hold on to it.

As we close in on seven long and intensive weeks that began with the first of Elul and concludes with Simchas Torah, many of us feel burnt out, tired, and sick of cooking, eating, long davening and yes, even preparing and listening to sermons and classes. It is no coincidence that exactly when we begin to feel Jewish holidays and observant life are burdensome and difficult that we observe Simchas Torah and remember how fortunate and blessed we are to have Torah and the true simcha it brings.

Rabbi Sacks writes elsewhere:
“If you want to understand Jews and Judaism, think of Simchat Torah. It’s the only festival that is the pure creation of the Jewish People. All the others were either written in the Torah or came about through historical events, like Purim and Hanukkah. Not so Simchat Torah, which isn’t mentioned in the Torah, not even in the Talmud. It appeared for the first time in the early middle ages.

Now you might have thought that with all their dispersion and persecution Jews would have created a fast, but they didn’t. They created a day of pure joy. And joy in what? In the Torah, a book of law…If you want to understand Jews and Judaism, think of Simchat Torah and we realise that Judaism is really a love story: the story of the love of a people for a book, the book with which we dance with on Simchat Torah as if it were a bride.”

Next week, when Simchas Torah ends, let’s not put our bride away in a closet or Ark. Let’s continue to get to know her, to fall in love with her, to celebrate our relationship with her and to dance with her throughout the year. Now is the time to renew our commitment to study and celebrate Torah. There is no shortage of opportunities at BRS. Please consider taking advantage of the following from among the many we offer. For more information on any of them, please contact the Shul office.

  • Adult Education Program – our brand new brochure is in the mail and will be arriving at your homes shortly. There is a comprehensive calendar of classes, programs, events and learning opportunities for beginners, intermediate and advanced. A tremendous thank you is due to Rabbi Moskowitz for this tireless work in organizing this amazing brochure.
  • People of the Book, Part II – The highlight of our learning program again this year is a weekly class on Tuesday nights called “The People of the Book.” Join the BRS Rabbis as we examine the major books of the Jewish People throughout the ages and delve into different periods of Jewish History and key Jewish personalities.
  • Daily Minyanim – Make this your year to attend daily morning minyan. You wake up early – we have a daily minyan at 6:15/6:25. You like to sleep in – we now have a daily 8:30am minyan. Need something in between – try the 7:00 or 7:45.
  • Tuesday Morning with the Rabbis – Please consider joining me for my weekly Parsha class at 9:30 am on Tuesday morning. Stay for Rabbi Moskowitz’s fantastic analysis of the weekly Haftorah at 10:30 am.
  • Cup of Joe – Wednesday mornings after the 7:45 am minyan, enjoy a cup of hot coffee and a donut while we spend 15 minutes studying more about prayer in Rav Pinkus’s incredibly inspiring Shearim B’Tefillah.
  • Weekly Shmooze – Thursday nights following the 9:30 pm Ma’ariv, men are invited to join the BRS Rabbis for a weekly 15 boost of inspiration on a contemporary issue like being more patient, conquering anger, concentrating in prayer and more. The passionate words are always served together with hot chinese food.
  • Shalshelet Bat Mitzvah Program – Bat Mitzvah age girls and their mothers are invited to prepare for this major milestone with two premier educators, Mrs. Rina Lanner and Mrs. Michal Schochet. The program contains Torah study, projects, mother-daughter learning and a major celebration siyum. For more information, please contact the Shul office.

As we head into the final stretch of this marathon season, I wish you a Chag Sameach and a year filled with simchas Torah, the joy of Torah and simchas ha’chayim, the joy of life.

Chag Sameach and Good Shabbos

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