We are informed that Hashem created the world for kindness, as it says “Olam chesed Yiboneh.” Avraham Avinu arrived at this conclusion when he meditated over the purpose of the rose. He pondered its function. On nibbling from it, he saw that it wasn’t edible. He further observed that animals would not eat from it either. When he smelled it and was exhilarated by its wonderful fragrance, he concluded that it is the obvious will of the Creator to bring happiness to mankind.
We also know that Hashem commanded us to learn Torah at every available time, as it says, “V’hagisah bah, yomam v’laila.” It is therefore quite clear that Hashem, our Manufacturer, is letting us know that there is no better way to attain happiness than through Torah study since this is what He recommends (and indeed demands) that we do whenever possible.
It is this fundamental realization that we celebrate on Simchas Torah.
Annually, we reiterate this theme of, “Ein simcha k’Simchas haTorah – That there is no joy like the Joy of Torah.” We do this in unison with all of Klal Yisroel, emphasizing that Torah is our national pastime. Americans can make an interesting parallel, and learn some important lessons, by comparing Torah to the American national pastime of baseball. Across the country, fathers eagerly await the time when their children will be old enough to bring to a game, to share with them the excitement of a pennant race, the edge-of-the-seat drama of a ninth inning comeback, and a gritty pitcher’s duel. How they enjoy arguing with their friends the respective merits of Mays and Mantle or to quibble for hours over the respective merits of their team’s players!
This is what Hashem expects from the true Ben Torah. He should, from a very young age, excitedly introduce his children to, “Torah tziva lanu Moshe;” to eagerly await the day comes when he can introduce his child to Abaya and Rava. He should experience the same excitement of taking his children to Torah shiurim and introduce them to the wonders of a Reb Chaim’s pshat in a Rambam.
In Krias Shema, we say, “V’dibarta Bam,” which literally means that our talk should be ‘in Them;’ namely, words of Torah. Much like others speak about the latest prowess of Matt Harvey, we should be sharing new thoughts about Kaiyen and Hevel, the wonders of Noach’s Ark and the fascinating complexities of the Seven Days of Creation.
On Simchas Torah, Jews all over the world embrace the Torah and dance with it with much celebration and joy. But we must be concerned that the Torah shouldn’t look at us and ‘say,’ “Who are you?! Am I supposed to know you – that you are dancing with Me with such enthusiasm?! I don’t think I recognize you.” So, if we want to meaningfully rejoice with the Torah, we must make a new commitment to spend more time this year with this ‘dance partner.’ We should make up our minds that we will review the Parsha weekly as we are supposed to. We will try to prepare some Torah food-for-thought to bring to the Shabbos tisch, thereby elevating it substantially. Perhaps, we will consider getting on the Daf Yomi bandwagon, or learning a daily regimen of Mishna Brurah or Kitzur Shulchan Oruch. With this commitment in mind, we could then warmly embrace the Torah and say, “Come, let’s dance! We’re going to have a great year together!”
Let’s get back to our baseball analogy. Many fans are ablaze with excitement as their team’s head into the post-season. The true fan doesn’t let a day go by without keeping abreast of his team’s latest accomplishments. In the same way, a true Torah devotee should never let twelve hours go by without learning some Torah. Indeed, we are taught that when we get to the Next World, every aspect of our lives will be weighed and considered. But, from the vast array of pursuits of a lifetime, we will first be judged about our Torah study. As the Gemora in Shabbos tells us, we will be asked, “Kovatah ittim b’Torah?” Did you make regular set times, both day and night, to learn Torah?
This is the stuff we should be thinking about as we dance and sing on this very special day.
On Simchas Torah, we do something else unique – something not done any other time of the year. Every Jewish adult gets his own aliya at the Torah. This is our opportunity to first realize that it our belief that the true aliya, namely upgrade and advancement of life, is through Torah study. It also offers everyone the opportunity to voice the blessings over the Torah that thank Hashem for bequeathing us, His special Nation, with our national treasure, the Torah, and in the second blessing expressing appreciation for allowing us to experience and prepare for the Afterlife in this world through Torah study. This is what we express when we thank Hashem, “V’chayei olam nota b’socheinu – That the everlasting world You planted with us now in our midst.”
Unfortunately for all too many, the Simchas Torah celebration is a wearisome and trying day which they watch with a mixture of tiredness and frustration, feeling that they are going through the motions of joviality without feeling any real sense of happiness. To the contrary, they are looking at their watches, wondering when it will finally be over.
With renewed commitment to Torah study and Torah life, may we all merit to have great inner joy this Simchas Torah and be blessed by Hashem with many Torah blessings.
Sheldon Zeitlin takes dictation of, and edits, Rabbi Weiss’s articles.
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