Simchat Torah: Embracing the Torah, away from the scroll
Embracing the Torah, away from the scroll
October 9, 2020
I don’t have to tell you that this year’s holidays are going to be different. I don’t have to describe to you how it felt to sit and fast at home on Yom Kippur, instead of standing in shul, surrounded by people saying the same words, feeling the same feelings, and going through the same process.
I don’t need to explain the sinking feeling in my heart when I think about not having meals in sukkot built by people whose place in my life I treasure.
But what I can say is that this year, I’m changing the way I see these holidays.
One of my favorite holidays on the Jewish calendar is Simchat Torah. Since I was young, it has been a night where I have felt like such a proud Jew, with the blur of faces dangling around me, with the weight of the Torah in my arms since the first time I was allowed to hold it around third grade.
Every time I hold a Torah, I feel an overwhelming sense of pride and gratitude towards my community and how important they always will be to me. It breaks my heart that this year, I won’t get to see the smiles on the faces of my friends and family as we dance and celebrate.
But Simchat Torah does not just celebrate reaching the end of the Torah. We are celebrating the culmination of a cycle, one that we are excited to repeat and continue to learn from. We celebrate what we have discovered and realized over the past year, and we look forward to the potential of more. It is not just an end but a beginning, full of possibilities for growth.
So we look back at what we have learned and how we have grown, and we look forward to what is next and what it will teach us and how it will help us become better and stronger people. We celebrate our accomplishments and our failures alike, and look to our potential in the coming year.
This Simchat Torah is the completion of a truly crazy cycle.
In the last 12 months, so much has happened. Last year on the night of this holiday, I was in Rabbi Stein’s backyard, surrounded by my Shalhevet community, holding onto the hands of my friends and laughing and celebrating with my teachers. Since then, I have experienced my last Shalhevet chessed (community service) trip, my last opportunity to have a teacher in Shalhevet who I had never had before, and the intimidating creature that is school over Zoom.
But this isn’t the only cycle that will be complete soon. In about eight months, I will be graduating from Shalhevet. My time here has been full of new experiences, and of learning about myself and my relationship with the Torah and Judaism, of becoming a strong Jewish woman who knows my strength and my potential, and that I am worthy of respect and a seat at the table.
As both these cycles are coming to a close — the year and my time in high school — I’ll admit that I am scared of what lies ahead. I have no idea what is going to happen! But that is okay. This Simchat Torah, I am going to celebrate that I have emerged from this latest cycle with more knowledge, both of myself and the amazing strength of my community.
I invite that community to join me in embracing what lies ahead, in Judaism, in school, and in life, the same way we embrace the Torah during years when we can. No matter what the next cycles look like, we will always have these moments and cycles to look back on and appreciate.
This year, Simchat Torah is not going to be about the feel of the Torah in our arms. Instead, it will be about the feeling of completing the Torah, and with it another year of our lives, in our hearts.