Simhat Torah

Simhat Torah

My memory of Simchat Torah as a child is hundreds of people crowded into the narrow aisle surrounding the pews in our sanctuary, circling the sanctuary while packed so tightly we could only shuffle rather than walk.  More recently, I have been to celebrations where the seats are removed, and we make endless circles around the Torah.

Why circles?

We also do 7 hakafot at a wedding: the bride traditionally circles the groom 7 times when she first arrives at the huppah.  I also think of wedding rings as a way husbands and wives circle each other.  A circle is like a knot, a union of two people where they both remain whole, but are tied together.  But a circle has no knot that can be untied–it just goes around endlessly.  It is like there is no beginning or end.

Couples often remark that they feel like they were made for each other, that they can’t really remember a time when they were separate.  They become part of each other.

When we circle the Torah, we are like a bride circling the groom.  The groom is really God, but it is hard to circle an energy that is everywhere and cannot be literally seen, so we circle the conduit of divine energy and wisdom, committing ourselves to an endless cycle of study and growth through that wisdom.

As we enter Simchat Torah, whether or not you attend a celebration of the holiday, I challenge you to commit to some form of regular, meaningful Jewish study over the course of the coming year, whether it is a class, a book, or simply a regular time slot every week or every day, and to rejoice in the rich inheritance we have as Jews.

October 9th: Let the electrons rejoice: Virtual Simhat Torah5:30-7:00, Zoom room
Join with us as we celebrate the gift of Torah by chanting the end of the Torah, beginning again, and inviting our computers to sing and dance with us in celebration; we also will say yizkor (the memorial prayer).

We will each do the 7 hakafot in our own homes with whatever Torah we bring or make; it can be a chumash (printed Torah), a stuffed or mini Torah, or your own crafted Torah.
If you plan on attending Friday, please bring:

  • food and drink for making “l’chayyims” (in my house, we use grape juice and candy for childrens’ l’chayyims)
  • something to use as a torah (a mini Torah, a book with the Torah, or a make-your-own craft project); a lot of places are cancelling the dancing this simhat torah, and maybe we will feel silly, but we’re going to do the hakafot (circles).
  • If you can, think about any Jewish teaching that has spoken to you at some point this past year.

October 10th: Simchat Torah Live, 5:00 
Join us outside, with masks and social distancing, for an in person celebration of the Torah with singing, dancing, and aliyot all around.  Saturday night will be similar to Friday, except that hakafot will actually happen in a large circle around a single, real Torah, and in order to maintain social distancing, will not entail the wild simha dancing we are used to.

If you plan on attending Saturday, please bring:

  • lawn blanket and/or chairs for sitting on the lawn.  (blankets will be spaced 12 ft. 3 in. apart from each other and will demarcate our spaces)
  • your own snacks and drinks
  • children are encouraged to make their own flags to wave as we dance
  • think about any Jewish teaching that has spoken to you at some point this past year

Hag Sameach!