Simchat Torah - Endings and Beginnings

Simchat Torah is the one of the happiest days in the Jewish calendar, but for me it has an undercurrent of sadness, because my beloved father passed away three days after, in 1990. The weeks before his passing were also painful, and my body remembers this year after year, as I spend one day weeping for no conscious reason, usually between Rosh HaShannah and Yom Kippur.

The end of the Torah too, calls for weeping. Our greatest of leaders, Moses, dies in the desert, not having arrived at the Promised Land that he devoted his life to reaching. Yet he leaves having given each tribe a special blessing, a blessing that resonates to this very day.

We live in paradox, where our greatest sorrows and greatest joys are intermingled, often co-existing at the same time. Indeed, it would hard to continue with hope, were it not for the new joys that life brings, and the blessings of memory and of those who have
given us life.

This is why on Simchat Torah, we read the very ending of the scroll, AND the very beginning. Death, and new birth, are part of the cycle.

This year for me, too, the sorrow I still feel at my father's passing is balanced by my overwhelming joy in anticipating the birth of a new granddaughter, my fifth grandchild. I pray with all my heart that she will arrive healthy and whole.

The five Books of the Torah parallel in many ways the passages of our lives:

Genesis, Bereishit, represents creation and birth.

Exodus, Shemot, is adolescence,
breaking free from the place of our upbringing.

Leviticus, Vayikra, contains the details for making a home a sanctuary,
as we move into our nesting years.

Numbers, Bamidbar, is the story of our travels and adventures
as we journey through the storms of mature life.

And Deuteronomy, Devarim, is the age of memory,
where we look back and assess the decades of our life,
and pass on our wisdom to those who will listen.

We read from the Torah, and we dance with her, because dancing fires up the flames of intense joy, hitlahavut, as the Hasidic teachers used to say. With Torah in our arms, we feel the Divine Presence flowing through us, bringing us hope and joy, and love.

Let us dance!