The Mitteler Rebbe, the second Rebbe of Chabad, had a group of chassidim with fine voices trained as a chorus and he had another group trained to perform acrobatic stunts on horseback. Usually, they would perform on Chassidic festivals or the like, but once on an ordinary weekday, the Mitteler Rebbe called for a performance. His son, anxious to please his father, led the horsemen in their feats. But in the midst of one of his stunts, he fell, crashing to the ground in stinging pain. The Mitteler Rebbe ordered that medical assistance be given to his son, but asked for the performance to continue.

When the performance was completed, the Rebbe went to his son. “Why didn’t you go to your son beforehand?” one of the chassidim respectfully asked the Rebbe.

“Let me answer your question with another question,” the Rebbe replied. “Why did I call for a performance on an ordinary weekday?

“Happiness has great powers. I saw that there was a heavenly decree against my son and so I wanted to nullify — or at least mitigate — it. Therefore I called for a celebration. When I saw that he was injured, I hoped — and indeed, it proved true — that continuing the celebration would speed his recovery.”

Simchas Torah is a day of great happiness and rejoicing. The celebrations of that day seal all the positive decrees from our judgment on the Days of Awe and have the potential to mitigate any negative ones.

Simchas Torah

The happiness of the Sukkos holiday comes to a climax on its last two days, the holidays of Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah. On these days, we rejoice exuberantly, letting all limitations fall away as we hold a Torah scroll in our arms and dance jubilantly.

It’s interesting. Many who will not attend a synagogue throughout the year come on Simchas Torah and celebrate. They see nothing hypocritical in taking a participatory role in the rejoicing even though previously, they showed little identification with the Torah.

The key to understanding this phenomenon is the concept that we dance with the Torah while it is closed. Our happiness on Simchas Torah is not a result of our comprehension of its intellectual qualities, but rather because of our bond with its essence, as the Zohar teaches “Israel, the Torah, and the Holy One, blessed be He, are one.” This unity comes to the fore on Simchas Torah.

This level of connection surpasses the conceptual framework of any mortal, even the most sophisticated. On the contrary, the way to relate to it is not through intellectual sophistication, but through letting go, through opening oneself up to something higher. On this level, the common person and the scholar are equal. Indeed, perhaps the common person possesses an advantage because he has less inner impediments holding him back from rejoicing fully.

May the joy of Sukkos and Simchas Torah lead to a year of happiness and well-being in all matters, including the greatest happiness, the coming of Mashiach.

Looking to the Horizon

The celebrations of Simchas Torah foreshadow the ultimate celebrations when “crowned with eternal joy,” we will proceed to Eretz Yisrael led by Mashiach. Implied is a twofold dynamic. The knowledge of the forthcoming redemption injects a greater dimension of happiness into our lives at present. In the present gestalt, we trust and believe in G‑d’s providence, but do not always see His hand openly. Thus the knowledge that ultimately, there will come a time when His influence on our lives will be palpably felt reinforces our commitment. Conversely, the happiness we show in recognition of this promise serves as a catalyst, hastening its fulfillment.