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Simchas Torah: The Road to Happiness

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These days it seems like there’s another Jewish Holiday every couple days! We started with Rosh Hashana, then came Yom Kippur. And just a few days later, we come to the seven day holiday of Sukkot. Sukkot is known as “Zman Simchaseinu - the Time of Happiness”. But, there is another holiday that comes at the end of the seven days of Sukkot called "Simchas Torah." On Simchas Torah, we celebrate the completion of the cycle of the reading of the Torah as well as start from the beginning again. On this day, Jewish people across the world sing and dance with the Torah scrolls in celebration of the Torah and its completion.

Ok, I can understand why we would be celebrating completing the cycle of reading the Torah. But why do we feel the need to start over immediately after finishing? In addition, why do we need another separate holiday attached to Sukkot at the end of the whole holiday season? And finally, what’s so happy about this time for it to be known as “the Time of our Happiness” and “The Happiness of the Torah?”

When G-d offers the Torah to the Jewish people, he calls it a gift. As such, we treat the Torah as a special gift from G-d. There is so much depth and wisdom that can be found and uncovered in it. So it’s no surprise that we have a big celebration when we complete the reading every year. But again, why start over right away? I think the message is simple. There are so many levels of understanding and so much meaning found in the Torah. Once we finish reading it through once, we are excited to get right back to it to continue to better ourselves and learn deeper insights and ideas!

When the Torah mentions the holiday of Simchas Torah, Rashi, an 11th century, French Torah commentator explains that G-d so to speak tells us, “Kashe alay preidaschem, - your departure is difficult for Me”. Meaning to say, after spending so much time with G-d, from Rosh Hashana all the way through Sukkot, G-d wants us to stay with Him for one more day. No extra commandments like the Shofar or Lulav and Etrog, just special time with G-d. After setting our goals for the new year on Rosh Hashana, and striving to be better people on Yom Kippur, we have this special holiday where we can push ourselves to start on our journey to become our best selves possible.

In Judaism, we always want to keep improving ourselves to be the best we can be. This drive for self-improvement is embodied in how we immediately start reading the Torah again once we finish. That is why this time is known as “Zman Simchaseinu - The Time of our Happiness” and “Simchas Torah- The Happiness of the Torah”. When we start and continue our journey of actualizing our potential and becoming the best versions of ourselves, that is true happiness.

Bio-Rabbi-Jeremy

Rabbi Jeremy Schaechter is the Director of North Shore NCSY and JSU. He runs all different types of programming for Jewish teens throughout the northern Chicago suburbs including Jewish clubs in Public high schools, weekly learning and social events and more. He is also the Director of TJJ, an incredible 4-week teen summer trip to Israel. Contact Rabbi Jeremy, Rabbijeremy@ncsy.org to learn more or to get involved.

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