Enter your email address to get our weekly email with fresh, exciting and thoughtful content that will enrich your inbox and your life.
To view Shabbat Times click here to set your location

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Halachic Times (Zmanim)
To view Halachic Times click here to set your location
Simchat Torah
Jewish History

As a youngster (in c. 960), R. Chanoch was captured by pirates, along with his father R. Moshe and three other great Torah scholars. R. Moshe and his son were ransomed by the Jewish community of Cordova, Spain, where R. Moshe opened a yeshivah for Talmudic studies. When R. Moshe passed away, he was succeeded by his son.

These events marked a turning point in Jewish history. Until then, the primary centers of Torah scholarship were located in the great and ancient Jewish communities of Babylonia, and Jews throughout the Diaspora depended on their leaders for guidance. With the opening of the yeshivah of R. Moshe and R. Chanoch in Spain, Jewish leadership shifted westwards, and European Jewry slowly became independent of the Babylonian community. Thus began the golden age of Torah scholarship in Western Europe, where it flourished for the next five hundred years.

Link: The Four Captives

Laws and Customs

Today is Simchat Torah ("Rejoicing of the Torah"), on which we conclude, and begin anew, the annual Torah reading cycle. The event is marked with great rejoicing, and the "hakafot" procession, held both on the eve and morning of Simchat Torah, in which we march and dance with Torah scrolls around the reading table in the synagogue. In the words of the Chassidic saying, "On Simchat Torah, we rejoice in the Torah, and the Torah rejoices in us; the Torah, too, wants to dance, so we become the Torah's dancing feet."

During today's Torah reading, everyone, including children under the age of Bar Mitzvah, is called up to the Torah; thus the reading is read numerous times, and each aliyah is given collectively to many individuals, so that everyone should recite the blessing over the Torah on this day.

Links: Torah in the Winter; Dancing with the Torah; Love, Marriage and Hakafot; A Crown of Slippers

Vzot Haberachah (Deuteronomy 33-34)

Daily Thought

On Simchat Torah we dance with our feet, not with our heads.

We are celebrating the Torah, and the Torah is something we study with our heads. But we dance with our feet, not with our heads.

If we would dance with our heads, each one would dance a different dance, each in a different space, some with friends but not with others, some as lonesome souls.

One head is higher, one is lower, one is here on earth, the other in the clouds or beyond, and some minds know only their own space that no one else can know.

But we dance with our feet, and all our feet are here on the same earth—none higher and none lower. So now we can all dance as one, with one heart, as a single being.

Now there is no loneliness, only joy.

Likkutei Sichot, vol. 20, p. 370.