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Simchat Torah Memories

Simchat Torah is the day when Jews around the world conclude the cycle of reading the Torah and begin again with the book of Genesis. We dance, we sing, and we celebrate. Here are a few memories of previous Simchat Torah celebrations:

1. My first REAL Simchat Torah was in Israel. Carol and I were living in Jerusalem while I was in Rabbinical school. We went to a modern Orthodox Synagogue called Yedidya. At that time, Yedidya was the only Orthodox community in Israel inviting women to dance with a Torah. They also had a separate women’s reading set up where men sat in the back! I saw Israelis from all over the country holding a Torah for the first time in their life. Carol read the Torah as dozens of women were called up for the first Aliyah of their life. We saw women dancing with joy, tears streaming down their faces as they felt invited and included.

2. My first Simchat Torah at Kol Emeth. We had different people leading singing throughout the morning. Geoff Cooper led “Dancing before the Torah” and people did all kinds of fun line dancing back and forth. Rabbi Lewis led a crazy David Melekh. As the dancing concluded, Rabbi Lewis, Rabbi Graff, and I all got up on chairs and sang as we were surrounded with love by the whole community. It was an overwhelming feeling of being accepted, brought in, and becoming part of something wonderful.

3. Some other Kol Emeth Simchat Torah memories. There was a time when someone came to Simchat Torah in a wheelchair. She was on the edges, enjoying watching people dance. I went over to her with a Torah. At first, she refused, but I said it was fine. We handed her the Torah and she held on to it as the community danced and sang around while she cried tears of joy. Or the time a Russian Jew, denied the right to practice his Judaism for the first part of his life, came to Kol Emeth and danced with a Torah. He jumped, he laughed, and he wouldn’t let go of the Torah went it came time to read!

The Hasidim teach that dance is a means of uncovering a joy that binds a community together and connects them to God. The dance only connects us to God, however, when we invite people to come and be a part of the joy. Sometimes a miracle happens and the experience changes everyone in the circle. All of us are elevated because of the experience of each participant and in the center of that circle are the Torahs and the God’s holy presence.

I so hope to get to dance with you this Simchat Torah, October 7th at 6:15 pm and the 8th around 10:30 am.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Samech!

Rabbi David Booth 

Sat, December 9 2023 26 Kislev 5784