My earliest synagogue memory is of watching the Torah scroll being carried down the center aisle, and seeing everyone, young and old, run up to that scroll, touch their prayer book or the ends of their tallit to its embroidered velvet cover, and then kiss the spot that had just touched the Torah. Eyes closed, a meditative look on their faces—all of Judaism seemed, to me, to be in those kisses. I lifted my prayer book, whose transliterations I had been stumbling through for an awkward hour and a half, gently touched the Torah with it, and then brought its corner to my lips. For the first time that morning, I felt truly at home.

The Sefer Torah or Torah scroll is a powerful figure—a carefully guarded and much honored queen whose words we hear read aloud each Shabbat and on other designated days. We stand in her honor as she's taken out of her aron kodesh ("holy ark") and strain our necks to catch a glimpse of her through the crowd, hands outstretched to blow her a kiss when we can't quite reach her.

Yet, I have it on good authority that these public demonstrations of affection and awe are not what she really needs. Actually, I have it on her authority--

"And you shall teach the Torah to your children, and you should speak about it when you are home and when you travel, before you lie down to sleep and when you wake up." (Deuteronomy 6:7)

What the Torah really longs for, what gives her honor and makes her complete, is when we don't just honor her when she emerges from her ark decked in velvet and wearing a silver crown, but when we live with her words in our everyday life. When we study her teachings, and speak about them the way we speak about anything else that delights us, that's interesting or compelling to us.

Don't misunderstand me—I'm not suggesting that we do away with the synagogue ritual. It's part of our relationship. But if that's the extent of—or even the focus of—our relationship with the Torah it's kind of like sending your mother flowers on Mother's Day and then not talking to her the rest of the year. The real depth of the relationship is expressed on ordinary days, in ordinary moments.

In the Chabad-Lubavitch community, the 5th day of the Hebrew month of Tevet is marked as a most special and joyous day. The day celebrates the "victory of the sefarim"--the victory of the Torah books.

On this date in 1987, a US Federal court issued a ruling regarding the Chabad-Lubavitch library housed at 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, NY. Several books, many of them priceless, rare volumes, had been wrongfully removed from the library. When the case went to court, what was at stake was not just the part of the collection that had been removed but ownership of the entire library. What was on trial was our collective relationship to the library and the teachings they represent.

The court's decision—upheld in subsequent appeals—was that the library does indeed belong not to any individual but to the Chabad-Lubavitch community. The pivotal testimony, delivered with absolute sincerity, was the statement of the Rebbetzin, daughter of the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe and wife of the Rebbe. In response to the question as to whom the books belong, she answered "The books, like my father, belong to the Chassidim."

The books, the court affirmed, are not the property of an individual but rather of a communal library—and by extension, everyone who makes use of that library.

The Rebbe never regarded this victory as a personal, or even a Chabad-Lubavitch victory. He regarded it a victory for all of the Jewish people. More than that, he regarded it a victory of the books themselves, and even more so, as he stated on the first anniversary of the decision, for those bedecked Torah scrolls we honor every Shabbat.

The real completion of a Sefer Torah--the Rebbe said—is in the sefarim, the printed Torah books—books such as the ones returned to us on the 5th of Tevet. Books that you carry around with you, stealing a few moments to learn from while you wait for the train or stuck at a red light. Books that you read with your kids over cereal and warm mugs of cocoa. Books that you use to bribe them into brushing their teeth. Books you curl up with as soon as your work, for this day at least, is done.

It is only to the extent that we use our books that we complete—in a spiritual sense—the books themselves, and the Torah scroll whose words they are based on.

Upon the Rebbe's instructions, Chabad-Lubavitch Chassidim have a tradition of celebrating the 5th Tevet not only with Chassidic gatherings but also with book sales. Because the real victory for the books—for the Torah itself—is when we fill our homes with volumes of Jewish books, and our days with their teachings.

"Books with souls"--that's how the Rebbe referred to the liberated library. Souls that can only find their expression through us.

Each year, the Kehot Publication Society, the official publishing arm of Chabad-Lubavitch, holds a special sefarim sale in honor of the 5th of Tevet, in keeping with the Rebbe's instructions on how to properly mark this day. Click here for the Kehot online bookstore.