By Laura Seymour
Everyone has a favorite holiday and it should come as no surprise to those who know me that my favorite is Simchat Torah. What bibliophilic would not love a holiday that celebrates a special book?
Judaism is a wonderful religion that has so many facets. 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 God, Simchat Torah is your holiday. And for those whose Judaic pursuits are perhaps not quite as intellectual, Simchat Torah is still your holiday. On this wonderful day, we celebrate the ending of the Torah’s reading cycle … AND we celebrate beginning again with ritual, song and dancing — this is the BEST holiday to go to synagogue!
Joel Lurie Grishaver in his book “40 Things You Can Do to Save the Jewish People,” puts attending Simchat Torah services as a terrific activity. He uses this argument for Simchat Torah: The Refuseniks in the former Soviet Union who actually had to choose one holiday to celebrate chose this one.
He then goes on to state the three reasons for why observing Simchat Torah is so important: 1) Simchat Torah is pure celebration; 2) Simchat Torah says that Torah is the center of our Judaism; and 3) Simchat Torah combines two insights into a community arena.
So how can you commemorate this special time with your family? First, attend 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.
Even if you don’t have a hard copy of the Torah at your house, we do have Internet access to Torah. We also have music, children’s books, commentary … the trick here is to start where you feel comfortable.
What a terrific time of year! Begin the cycle of learning with Simchat Torah — and never stop. As 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 and Youth Services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.