What are we happy about?
The Jewish holiday season is coming to an end.
Many Jewish kids are sad for two reasons: They like the holidays and they like all the time off school.
Many Jewish parents have mixed feelings: they enjoy the family time and Jewish connections…but are happy/relieved that the kids are going back to school.
All is as it should be. But let us not forget Simchat Torah, which takes place tomorrow (Wednesday night/Thursday in Israel) on the same day as Shemini Atzeret, or in the Diaspora on Thursday night/Friday, the day after Shemini Atzeret.
Simchat Torah literally means, “"Rejoicing with/of the Torah.” We read the Torah at nite. Children get called up to the Torah. Congregations dance joyously. It is fun, meaningful, and powerful. So much so that in the Soviet Union Simchat Torah became THE Jewish identity holiday where Jews would dance joyously in the streets, ignoring KGB threats.
But what are we so happy about?
A new revelation for me this year.
During the middle days of Sukkot, we take the kids to different places around Israel. Let them have fun and get to know the country (and see what I do when I’m tour guiding!). A few days ago we went to one of Israel’s water company visitors’ centers. They show a cool movie about Israel irrigating the desert and being ahead in technology. Then you see the old systems and the new one. Pretty interesting, actually.
Our guide at the water company started off his tour in an interesting way. He took out a Torah (book version, not the full scroll) and said, “I’m not what one would call a religious person, but we need to start at the beginning – with the Torah. This is the most important book in the world. The most influential book. And, really, the only book – everything since is simply variations on it.” This Israeli water-company employee – not wearing a kippa – then went on to explain (among other Jewish connections) that the Torah spends an incredible amount of time talking about water in the story of creation – showing how fundamental water is to existence.
What we learned about water was important. But what we learned about the Torah was even more important. What a lesson. That’s what we are happy about. We are the People of the Book. The Book of Books. We received the Book. We have kept it and preserved it for three thousand years. We study it and teach it to our children and try to understand it as best we can. We appreciate its grandeur, its lessons – and its Divinity.
Simchat Torah, indeed.
Wishing you a happy holiday – go and dance!