A Celebration of Love for God and His Word

Yael Eckstein  |  September 29, 2021

Dancing with the Torah scrolls at Simchat Torah

For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel. —Deuteronomy 34:12

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1

Today, my family and I mark the observance of Simchat Torah, a celebration of the completion of the annual Torah readings and the immediate beginning of the new year of Torah readings.

The final day of the festival season is called Simchat Torah, literally translated as the “Joy of the Torah. And what an appropriate name it is. On this joyous day, the synagogue service is extended far beyond the usual, even for a festival, sometimes lasting up to five or six hours!

Much of this time is spent singing and dancing with the Torah scrolls, as though we are at a wedding. In fact, our tradition teaches that the relationship between the Jewish people and God is similar to a marriage. The Torah is a marriage contract, describing our mutual love and everlasting commitment to each other.

Throughout the day, there is an atmosphere of celebration and festivity. Children are more present in the synagogue than usual, and candies, symbolizing the sweetness of the Torah, are distributed freely — to the disappointment of many of the moms in the community!

A Celebration of Love for God and His Word

The cause for the celebration on this day is the completion of the annual cycle of weekly Torah portions. The final section of the Torah, Deuteronomy chapters 33 and 34, is read for this special occasion.

But we don’t wait for the next week to start again. On this very day, just after we read the final verses of Deuteronomy, we open another Torah scroll and read the beginning of the Torah, the Creation story from Genesis 1:1 to 2:3, beginning the cycle again.

The truth is that we could have just waited for the next Shabbat to begin the new cycle of weekly readings. In fact, Genesis 1:1 -6:9 will be read again on that first Sabbath. So why do we read the Creation story an extra time on Simchat Torah? Why not wait?

But that’s exactly the point. We want to show God that we don’t want to wait. We can’t wait. The reason we are celebrating is not because we’re done with the Torah and it’s over. This isn’t like the last day of school before vacation!

By immediately beginning the new Torah cycle, we tell God, and ourselves, that our celebration is all about love of God and His Word. And we won’t wait to start all over.

Your Turn:

Are you ready to read the Torah portion every week? Join me in reading the weekly chapters so that we can rejoice together next year at the completion of the cycle.