Photo credit Mequon Jewish Preschool
Remember that book, the one you (or your child) wanted to hear again and again and again until everyone in the family knew it by heart? Hearing the story was a moment of joy each time. Sound familiar?
That’s the holiday of Simchat Torah in a nutshell.
It takes an entire year to read the Torah (the 5 books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy). That’s 54 Torah portions, almost 6,000 verses, almost 80,000 words.
On Simchat Torah we finish reading the last words of the Torah and without a moment's delay, we begin again. How do we react? We don’t yawn and say, “Oh no, not again.” Instead we are filled with joy. We sing and dance in circles (like the cycle of Torah reading). We celebrate.
Why? Why don’t we get bored reading the same Torah over and over again year in and year out?
We can learn something from a child’s love of that favorite book. There is comfort in the familiar. There is joy in hearing stories we love.
But it goes deeper. We read the Torah again and again, but each time we see it anew . Rabbi Ben Bag Bag (yes, that was his real name!) was famous for saying, “Turn it [the Torah], and turn it, for everything is in it. Reflect on it and grow old and gray with it. Don’t turn from it, for nothing is better than it.” (Ethics of the Fathers 5:22) As we change and grow (no matter our age), there is always a new insight to be gained by studying Torah. That is why we are so joyful on Simchat Torah . . . we are grateful that we can begin our favorite book again.
Milwaukee has amazing resources for studying Torah (call your local synagogue for class schedules), click here for CJL classes, or look online where you will find tons of online classes, podcasts, and videos. Pick up a book of Torah stories and read with your child. Maybe it will become a favorite to read again and again. (PJ Library will send you free Jewish children’s books every month. Sign up here.)
This year Simchat Torah begins on Thursday night, October 12 (or Wednesday night, October 11 if you are in Israel or if you follow Reform Jewish tradition). Enjoy the holiday!
There are so many educational opportunities in Milwaukee. If you would like some help finding the right program for your child, contact Tzipi Altman-Shafer to talk about how you can “Go Jewish” with your family (414-963-2718 or TziporahA@MilwaukeeJewish.org).