- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On October 18, 2019
- 0 Comments
Welcome again to “Shabbat Awakenings!”
Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection as we make our way to Shabbat and this week, to Simchat Torah. Listen to Shabbat Awakenings as a podcast HERE
The Torah is not a book. The dictionary defines a book as a written or printed work consisting of pages glued or sewn together along one side and bound in covers. That is certainly not the way we keep the Torah.
The Torah is a scroll – though often it is transformed into a book. The Gutenberg Bible is listed by the Guinness Book of World records (according to Google) as the world’s oldest mechanically printed book – the first copies of which were printed in 1454-1455 CE. The introduction of the Torah dates thousands of years before that.
Nevertheless, it remains a sacred and treasured possession as a calligraphic masterpiece by a scribe. So, why do Jews maintain the scroll when it would have been much easier to keep it as a book placed on a shelf?
The Torah is not a book for a shelf. Rather, its placement is in a sacred place, the ark. Its ability to be rolled from the beginning to the end and back again is a physical reminder of its ancient significance in our own day. When Simchat Torah arrives each year, the directive in Pirkei Avot 5:22 rings true:
Turn it, and turn it again, for everything is in it. And contemplate it, and grow old and grey over it, and stir not from it, for you have no better principle than it.
When we unroll the Torah scrolls around the perimeter of the sanctuary with the very last words of Deuteronomy of one scroll practically kissing the first letters of Genesis, we are reminded that there is no end or beginning, just turning the scroll continually to rediscover anew what it contains. The scene of the community holding the scroll up and forming a huge circle with the letters facing inward and our “eyes sparkling with the light of Torah” gazing at one another creates a momentous occasion. It recalls the celebratory joy that the Mishnah 5:1 described during the Sukkot festival in the ancient Temple. “Whoever had not seen the rejoicing of the Water Drawing Festival had never seen rejoicing in their life.”
It may be hard to compare what happened during the Temple period to what happens at Temple Israel on Simchat Torah. And yet, with the unrolled Torahs around the sanctuary, the presence of the newly consecrated students carrying their miniature Torahs, and the wild dancing with the Torah scrolls on Nessel Way after the service combined together create quite an opportunity to rejoice. Therefore, it is possible to say: Whoever has not seen this kind of rejoicing at Temple Israel on Simchat Torah Eve may not have experienced rejoicing like this-ever.”
We welcome our Scholar-in-Residence, Hebrew Union College Provost and Professor Andrea Weiss for a riveting and fascinating weekend of learning. Professor Weiss will speak following Qabbalat Shabbat, which begins at 6:00 p.m. Livestream HERE. Her topic is The Power of Metaphor in the Bible and Beyond.
Rabbi Weiss will lead Torah study and focus on the Sukkot and the Shared Value of Caring for the Vulnerable.
Then at 4:00 p.m., we gather to learn about “Is There ‘Nothing New Under the Sun?’: Ecclesiastes and the Quest for Meaning in Life” and end with a beautiful Havdalah ceremony.
We also celebrate Sylvie Sacks who becomes Bat Mitzvah at the 10:15 a.m. Shabbat service.
Simchat Torah Schedule
4:15 p.m. | Yizkor (Memorial Service)
5:00 p.m. | Consecration for new students
5:00 p.m. | Simchat Torah Learning
With the Torah scrolls unfurled, we wrap ourselves in its teachings and the ultimate questions it poses to us about how we will move into the year and live our lives more fully. Join us for wine, cheese, and text study.
6:00 p.m. | Join us for our Simchat Torah Festival Service followed by music, food, and dancing!
10:00 a.m. | Simchat Torah Young Children’s Program
10:00 a.m. | Adult Festival Morning Service with Study Session
I look forward to experience the joy with you on Simchat Torah!