"And they lived happily ever after..." - Simchat Torah

Sunday, 26 September, 2021 - 7:55 am

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“And they lived happily ever after”. This is the optimistic end of children’s stories. Yet the Torah chooses to finish with something less happy.

On Simchat Torah, this upcoming Wednesday 29/09/21, we will finish the reading of the Torah (the Pentateuch), completing the weekly portions (Parashot) which we analyzed every week, and then directly begin the new cycle of readings. It is a very joyous holiday, which we celebrate with Hakafot, i.e circles and dances around the Bima, holding the Sefer Torah. Amidst all this rejoicing, the last verses of the Torah do not seem to fit the joyous atmosphere. The Torah ends with the passing of Moses and a few words summarizing his life. Could we not read something happier as a conclusion, especially on that day?

Simchat Torah completes the period of the holidays of the month of Tishri. We started with Rosh Hashana, the Shofar and the symbolic foods, we continued with Yom Kippur, the fast and the repentance, then with Sukkot, the Sukkah and the Four Kinds and now we reach the culmination. Now we need to take all the inspiration we gathered during the holidays and internalize it, so that it gives us strength to continue during the grey routine of our everyday life which awaits us “after the holidays”. This is one of the basic messages of Simchat Torah.

This is why we read about the passing of Moses. When Moses led us, we lived in the series of miracles. The Exodus from Egypt, the Parting of the Sea, the Giving of the Torah, but also more “simple” everyday miracles such as the Manna, the bread from Heavens and other miracles. After Moses’ passing, G-d started to lead is in a more “natural” way.

Certainly, there are miracles always and everywhere, but they are usually not revealed miracles. Thus, we need more strength to continue to believe and connect to G-d when we don’t feel that He is close to us in a revealed way.

But this is precisely what G-d appreciates more, when we do an effort for Him, when we do an action that does not come easily for us. We must not get distracted by the difficulties but uncover and reveal G-d’s closeness to us in those challenging moments.

The same happens on Simchat Torah. We are now finishing the holidays and it is more difficult to feel the inspiration on a normal Tuesday. But this is exactly what G-d enjoys more, when we serve Him despite the difficulties.

Let us take the inspiration for the holidays with us through a small action that will accompany in our everyday routine for the upcoming year. Let us choose a weekly study of the Torah, a weekly phone call to an elderly or lonely person, wearing the Tefillin daily (for a man, except on Shabbat), the weekly lighting of the candles for women and girls, or simply the reciting of the Shema or any other good action. And let’s carry this on for all of 5762!

Chag Sameach!



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