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A Belated Celebration

A Belated Celebration

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Once a year, Jews around the world gather in their synagogues and joyously celebrate, dance and sing. The holiday is a celebration of the Torah -- as is indicated by its name, Simchat Torah. The timing of this holiday is often questioned: why celebrate our connection to the Torah more than four months after the date when it was given: Shavuot? Wouldn't it be more appropriate to do the hakafot on the day when we actually received the Torah?

The answer given is that our celebration on Shavuot is somewhat muted because the First Tablets were eventually destroyed. Simchat Torah, however, is a celebration of the Second Tablets, which Moses brought down from Heaven when G‑d granted forgiveness for the sin of the Golden Calf on Yom Kippur.

The First Tablets were a gift. The Second Tablets we earnedSimchat Torah is the culmination of the three-part Biblical holiday season. With each holiday, the joy steadily increases. After Passover and Shavuot we have Sukkot, a holiday dubbed "the Season of our Joy" -- and then we are treated to the unbridled joy of Simchat Torah which eclipses even the joy of Sukkot. And the reason for this great joy? We are celebrating our "second chance."

The great joy generated by the giving of the Second Tablets has a dual nature:

a) To fully appreciate that which one has, one must first lose it. b) The First Tablets were a gift from Above. Even before the world was created, the Divine master plan centered upon this great gift G‑d would bestow upon His nation. The Second Tablets, however, we earned. It was our sincere repentance and Moses' successful intervention on our behalf which caused G‑d to reconsider His harsh decree and re-give the Torah.

Simchat Torah is the bridge between the holy three-week holiday season and the mundane year which is about to begin. The joy of Simchat Torah is meant to tide us over during the months which follow, energizing us until next year's holiday season, when we will again recharge our spiritual batteries. And the lesson of this holiday is clear: we must not be discouraged if our personal First Tablets have been wrecked and crushed beyond repair. Even if our connection to (G‑d, through) the holy Torah has been destroyed due to gross negligence on our part, there is always the Second Tablets, the second chance. And the Second Tablets are oh so much more precious than the first set.

On this Simchat Torah, let us all commit to earning our personal Second Tablets. We will then experience the real joy of this exulted day.

Adapted by Naftali Silberberg from the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
Rabbi Silberberg resides in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife, Chaya Mushka, and their three children.
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