Simkhat Torah – Take a moment and join the dance.
Now is the season of joy – In the aftermath of the days of introspection, we borrow clothes, go out and dance (well, perhaps zoom into music and dance in our living rooms), and create a space to live that allows us a glimpse of the most mysterious containers of the light of creation, (the stars) while being surrounded by the glory of green and growth at a time when the harvest has been brought in to dry as we prepare agriculturally for a time of rest. As finale, we smash the last of our mis-steps metaphorically and pick up the thread of sacred text once again, as we are about to do with Shemini Atzeret and Simkhat Torah. When we get to that moment of wild abandon, of dance and song and a bit of dizziness, we are told to read the end and the beginning. How does one do this? There are two Torah scrolls, if a community has the resources, and the very end of Deuteronomy is read immediately followed by the beginning of Genesis. Special blessers are called to open these readings, and we thus formally enter the new year, repentance accepted, and truly embark upon the re-creation of ourselves and our world.
It’s funny, Judaism – the days begin at night, and the beginning starts with the end. We cycle back to the day AFTER creation every Shabbat to celebrate doing nothing. And on Simchat Torah, we stop to read the last words of Moses, who created the nation of Israel and left before he could see the fruition of his labors. And in his death on the page of our holy scroll, we know there are the seeds of possibility, the ideas that sent our metaphorical ancestors on their journey to a land they only knew from stories, a land of goodness, of milk, of honey. Then we turn to the other scroll and in the same breath as we read of the kiss of G!d that ended Moses’ life, we read the start of the story that leads quickly to the kiss that brought Adam and Eve into being. And that kiss, which we recapitulate with every breath we take, is a kiss to be savoured. Our tradition shows us how to keep alive the wonder and splendor of becoming.
We do not read the account of creation on the birthday of creation, unlike my mother, who recited the particulars of my birth to me every year. We wait. We wait until we know the book which was open and scribbled on from our exploits of the last year has been closed and we know the year holds for us a clean page in the book of our lives. We wait until we have broken our fast of penitence, listened to music, eaten with friends, slept under the stars, and walked around a synagogue seven times. We wait in the creative light of the coming fall. We wait for the time of darker-ness to come gently to us, where we are a bit more ready to sit around a fire and listen to the ancestral tales. We begin the re-reading of the Torah at the end of the harvest, when our bellies are full and there is hope on the table next to the grapes. Thus we open our minds to the awesomeness of creation as we settle into the slowing of the season, and it brings us comfort and inspiration. Especially this year, as we look at massive changes in our world, contemplation of it’s beauties can be in the front of our minds, for there is much gratitude to be grasped. Take a moment, and come join the dance…
By: Rabbi Elisheva Salamo
Kehillah Jewish Studies Teacher