By Laura Seymour
This is the season for Jewish holidays and each of us has a “favorite.” Joel Lurie Grishaver, in “40 Things You Can Do to Save the Jewish People,” asks, “After the Messiah comes and people only have to celebrate one Jewish holiday, which one will it be?” (In fact, this question should be asked today, when so many Jews only celebrate one or two holidays…) With your family, talk about this important question. Look at each of the Jewish holidays and what is the importance of each. How should we decide (if we really had to)?
With no hesitation or doubt, my vote goes to Simchat Torah! The reasons are endless:
Simchat Torah is the ultimate joyful community celebration — bring your children and dance with them;
Simchat Torah is the ultimate celebration of learning — it focuses our attention on the cycle of study and reminding us of the centrality of Torah to our lives;
Simchat Torah will ultimately keep us Jewish as the Torah is the center of our Jewishness!
The following is from Dr. David Ackerman of JCCA from a number of years ago:
The moment we finish V’zot Habracha and complete the annual cycle of Torah reading, we turn back to Genesis, the beginning of the Torah, and start the cycle anew. This is a return to the past, to the beginning of the Jewish (and the world’s) story. Recalling the past stabilizes us while we catch our breath.
The very next thing we do, though, is read the haftara, the prophetic selection, from the book of Joshua, Moses’ successor. Joshua is the future, the next adventure of the Jewish people as they enter the land. So on Simchat Torah, when we are light-headed from circling around V’zot Habracha, and from dancing in circles with the Torah, we clear our heads by looking first to the past, and then to the future. Simchat Torah teaches no moment is isolated in time. We are always connected simultaneously to our past and to our future.
So this Simchat Torah, go to your synagogue to dance! Grishaver gives us one final thought: “Celebrate every Jewish holiday like it is the only one you will get to celebrate, and pack all your Jewish feelings into it.”
“Dayenu” — the literal translation of this wonderful expression that we remember each Passover is — “It would have been enough!” If you have taken your children to the synagogue for Rosh Hashanah — Dayenu! If you also took them to hear the shofar blown at the end of Yom Kippur — Dayenu! If you have eaten a few meals in a Sukkah (and maybe built your own) — Dayenu! If you danced with the Torah on Simchat Torah — DAYENU! But that really isn’t enough — there is so much more. So when do we begin?
Laura Seymour is Jewish experiential learning director and camp director emeritus at the Aaron Family JCC.