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Rejoicing with Simchat Torah

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Simchat Torah is a holiday of rejoicing. It marks the end of one reading of the Torah and the beginning of a new cycle on the very same day. Moses bids farewell to the people he has led through the desert and then, without missing a beat, we begin again with the story of creation. This ritual teaches us about endings and beginnings.

Sometimes, one chapter of our lives needs to end to make space for the next one. Saying goodbye to one part of our life is often bittersweet, but it makes room for new ideas, new relationships, and new experiences. When we finish reading the Torah, we go back to creation; we get to re-envision the world from the very beginning.

On the other hand, no chapter of our lives ever disappears. Our experiences make us who we are, and we can always go back to visit them through our memories. We can also re-interpret them and continue to grow from them as we mature and understand their impact on our continuing story.

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There is an old Israeli song that says “Hayamim chol’fim, shanah overet, aval hamangina l’olam neesheret,” which means, “The days are passing, the year is passing, but the melody remains forever.” The melody is the Jewish People, it is the Torah, it is the song inside of you. Chapters end and new ones begin, but that unique spark within you remains forever.

On Simchat Torah, we recognize the power of endings and beginnings understanding that as we grow, chapters of our lives will end and new ones will begin. Sometimes we get to decide when those transitions occur, and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we are aware of the change, and sometimes we only see it when we look back.

At the end of the Torah, Moses recounts many of the experiences of the Israelites, but when he retells these parts of the journey, he sees them differently than he was able to see them at the time they occurred. We can do the same with our own lives. However, we should not dwell for too long on remembering the past. We roll the Torah back to the beginning, to the story of creation, because there is a new world waiting to be born. 

Bio-Rabbi-Reni

Rabbi Reni Dickman is Senior Jewish Educator at JUF and the Executive Vice President of the Chicago Board of Rabbis. Before taking on these roles, she taught at Rochelle Zell Jewish High School and the Chicago Jewish Day School. She embraces the fall as a time of change – changing leaves, changing weather, changing clothes and changing hearts. 

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