Simchat Torah and Learning How You Celebrate What Matters Most to You
We invite our wonderfully unique community to share culture, traditions, memories, and variations on how individuals answer the question, “How do you celebrate what matters the most to you?” Click the link at the right to share.
This past Wednesday marked the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah (literally “the rejoicing of the Torah”). This was the last holiday in the holiday-filled month of Tishrei,and involved reading the final portion as well as the initial portion of the Torah text, dancing with scrolls of Torah, and more. Some communities unroll the whole Torah scroll to see how it all looks.
Towards a Beloved Kehillah:
How do we celebrate what matters most to us?
At the time, the medieval folks who came up with what would become the Simchat Torah holiday were simply celebrating something that they loved.
Through their innovation of Simchat Torah, people from earlier times offer us a template for how to cherish and mark what matters most to us.
How did they celebrate what they loved?
In the first place, these people realized the value of taking practical steps to honor what they prized. In our fast-paced world, we would do well to take note of their choice- and the dynamics of their choice- to recognize what they valued through their actions.
What specifically did they do, you ask?
Well, they invited a wide swath of the community- children and adults, rich and poor- to say special blessings, called Aliyot. In so doing, they aimed to encourage diverse members of the community to find meaning of their own in the practice they so loved. They sought to expand the circle of celebration beyond themselves and the usual characters, so as to include new voices- for everyone’s benefit.
Not only this, they referred to two of these special blessers as “Hatan” (specifically, Hatan Torah and Hatan Breisheet). Hatan means bridegroom in Hebrew; they were effectively positioning Simchat Torah as a wedding between people and the object of their love.
Furthermore, and relatedly, they danced with the Torah in Hakafot (or circuits). One might think that, in order to truly celebrate something, it is necessary to respect it from afar, keep it on a shelf. Instead, these folks took it into community spaces and out onto the streets and danced with it. Rather than rotely reciting it, they held it close to their hearts and demonstrated their passion for it with their bodies. And further, by taking it off of a shelf, they wrestled with it in the real world, made it their own, and celebrated it for what is was.
All this is to say, they celebrated what they loved precisely by figuring out how to love it with joy and authenticity.
Are we fortunate to love places or times or things or people in this world?
- • Do we mark that love?
- • How do we mark that love?
- • How can we mark that love?
Through the practice of that love, as expressed uniquely by each person, can we at Kehillah build what the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called a “beloved community”?