Everyone has a favorite holiday, and it comes as no surprise to those who know me that my favorite is Simchat Torah. What biblioholic would not love a holiday that celebrates a special book? Judaism is a wonderful religion that has so many facets and entryways. Some love the rituals, some love the spirituality, some love playing basketball at the J — however we define our Jewishness, we add that to our identity. For those of you who love the intellectual connection with Judaism and G-d, Simchat Torah is your holiday (and for those who love any or all of the other ways, Simchat Torah is still your holiday). We celebrate the cycle of reading the entire Torah coming to an end and beginning again with ritual, song and dancing together — this is the BEST holiday to go to synagogue!
Joel Lurie Grishaver, in “40 Things You Can Do to Save the Jewish People,” lists going to Simchat Torah services as one of his “40 things.” The chapter questions, “If we could only do one holiday, which would it be?’ Grishaver uses this argument for Simchat Torah: because the refuseniks in the former Soviet Union, who had to choose one holiday to celebrate, chose this one. He goes on to say that there are three reasons: (1) Simchat Torah is pure celebration; (2) Simchat Torah says that Torah is the center of our Judaism; and (3) Simchat Torah raises those two insights together into a community arena.
So what can you do with your family? First, go to the synagogue of your choice and celebrate. Second, make sure you have at least one book of Torah at home with interesting commentary. Third, keep the learning going — you do not need to be a Torah scholar, in fact you do not need to read Hebrew, to learn from the Torah stories. Today we have Internet access to Torah, we have music, we have children’s books — start where you are comfortable. Begin the cycle of learning with Simchat Torah and never stop. As a rabbi with a very funny name (Rabbi Ben Bag Bag) said in Pirke Avot 5:26: “Turn it and turn it; for everything is contained in it.”
Laura Seymour is director of camping services and Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.