When I was a child, we were told that all we had to do was turn up in synagogue twice a year, stand when the rabbi says to stand, sit when he says to sit, remain seated through his entire sermon, and for this we will be forgiven for all our sins and be good Jews.

Okay, I could see some logic in our entire community dressing up and getting together once a year to reaffirm their Jewishness. But why oh why did they have to choose Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur?

Why not Simchat Torah?

The Birthright Dance

Simchat Torah is the day when we celebrate our Jewishness by taking it for a dance—literally. We hold a Torah Scroll, rolled, tied and wrapped, and we hug it and dance with it.

And no, as explained elsewhere, it is not normal to dance with a book—especially with a holy book. And yes, scrolls are books.

But this is a Jew—one who dances withThis is a Jew—one who dances with the divine. the divine.

Call it the birthright dance—because the Torah is the birthright of every Jew, every letter of it. It is a vital dance, and its message lies at the very heart of what it means to be a Jew. In this dance, the Jew touches G‑d Himself, wrapped up in that scroll. And it is with G‑d that the Jew dances.

So if the Jew is to come only once a year to celebrate being a Jew with other Jews, let it be on Simchat Torah. Let it be with this dance, and then no Jew would ever be lost.

Because, yes, there’s a point where the Jew could become lost: When the One wrapped up within the scroll is lost.

When the Jew ceases to see beyond the black ink on parchment, when the Jew no longer feels a living covenant and an eternal bond with the infinite, when the Jew finds only curious legends, quaint stories and archaic laws, and dissects the Torah as though it were the frozen cadaver of some ice age creature—then G‑d is lost in translation, and the JewWhen G‑d is lost in translation the Jew is lost in a sea of oakwood pews. is lost in a sea of oakwood pews.

And so it was that the shtiebel became a House of Worship, the chazan became a reverend cantor, Yom Tov davening became The Festival Service and we just sat there watching, obeying commands to rise and be seated, sitting quietly through the rabbi’s sermon. We and the Torah became mutual strangers and the synagogue became the place where you meet G‑d as one might meet one’s ex once a year over a coffee.

Art by Sefira Ross
Art by Sefira Ross

The Fire Dance

A Jew must be on fire. Torah is an all-consuming flame and the Jew is its red-hot coal. Cool down the coals and the flame retreats back to the place where all fire hides. All madness is lost, love gives way to reason, and the marriage is on the rocks.

Please, all you Jewish people, it’s not that Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are not important. They are very important. But why did we choose the most serious days of the year to reaffirm our Jewishness? If it’s going to be only once a year, make it the most joyous. Bring your family, your children, your friends for Simchat Torah. Grab a Torah and dance your heart out. Bounce off the walls and onto the street. Go nuts.

Why should the souvenirs of your Jewishness be solemnity, self-searching, starvation and proper decorum? Let it be circles of joy and explosions of song and dance. Embrace fellow Jews that you never saw before, jump and twirl with them in celebration of…what were we celebrating again? Oh yes! The plain and simple fact that hey you’re a Jew, you’ve got a Torah in your arms, and there’s no stopping you!

You don’t have to know the words wrapped up in that scroll. And if you do, you don’t need to know whether you agree with them or not. You need only to dance with that scroll, as a married couple dance through life together despite their differences, despite all the unresolved baggage, despite all vicissitudes—because they are one, because their love cannot be extinguished and so they cannot part.

So too, you and your G‑d are one, and the Torah is the marriage that binds you and has bound you for the journeys of 3331 years. It is our birthright, this Torah, and as long as we can dance the birthright dance, the Torah will remember us. It is our birthright, this Torah, and as long as we can dance the birthright dance, the Torah will remember us.

We need to change the way we pray, the way we teach our children, and the way we meet with our Beloved Above. We need to make the entire year a wild and joyous year of Simchat Torah. We need to dance our way to the liberation of our souls. With joy.


Read more of Tzvi Freeman on Simchat Torah:

Is It True That Jews Dance With Books?

The Holiday That Doesn’t Fit

Why Jews Dance in Circles