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Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Halachic Times (Zmanim)
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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

Look deeply within each person you encounter, no matter how brilliant or dull, refined or crude, righteous or wicked you judge this person to be.

Beyond their clothes, beyond their skin, beyond their behavior, beyond their words.

Beyond the emotions they show, the personality in which they dress, past whatever masks they don to conceal their inner woes.

Look deeply and see the vicious war each one fights inside, the battle to remain human in a maddening world—a world you will never know, for no two of us are placed in the same world and no two of us confront the same challenges—

—the sickness at knowing one’s own failures and deficiencies, the yearning to be more, the disappointment at not being that, the struggle to fight every sorrow, every pain, every plummeting, disastrous trauma of life…

True, perhaps not everyone fights every battle. Some have long surrendered.

But the very fact that this person was assigned this battle tells us more than can be spoken, for the One who created him knows he has the power to prevail and win.

That alone is enough to admire, and to be humbled, asking yourself, “Do I fight a battle nearly as fierce as the one I expect this person to win? In what way am I any better?”

Tanya, Chapter 30.