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Simchat Torah: Circular Logic

by Rabbi Eliezer Gurkow

  

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Two Types

There are two types of people; the first sees tragedy, the other sees opportunity.

If their homes go up in flames, the first would reflect on the beautiful home that was, the second would contemplate the even more beautiful home that can soon be.

Replacing the Shattered Tablets

As we approach Simchat Torah, the culmination of the High Holidays, we reflect on the holiday season that just passed. The High Holiday season began on the Seventeenth of Tamuz, the day that marks the beginning of the destruction of the ancient Jewish Temple.

On this day we mourned the lost glory of our past and yearned for the restoration of our temple. Acknowledging that our ancestors were exiled from their land for their sinful behavior, we strove, from this day onward, to mend our ways.

The Seventeenth of Tamuz also marks the day that Moses destroyed the first set of tablets. Climbing down from Mount Sinai Moses beheld the terrible sight of his nation dancing around a golden calf. Swiftly concluding that they were no longer worthy of their divine mandate, he hurled the tablets to the ground.

The circle closed. What began on the day the tablets were shattered ended on the day the tablets were replaced
This sin was the beginning of a long slide that culminated with the second tragedy , marked on that day, the destruction of the temple. Mindful of these two tragedies we initiated a period of repentance that extended till Rosh Hashanah, the first day of the new year. On that day G-d sat in judgment and we beseeched him to judge us favorably.

Our fate remained uncertain till Yom Kippur, the day deemed by history as day of atonement. On this day G-d forgave our ancestors for the sin of the golden calf and consented to provide Moses with a new set of tablets. On this day he forgave us too.

The circle closed. What began on the day the tablets were shattered ended on the day the tablets were replaced. What began as a drive for repentance ended with absolute atonement. This positive conclusion was a cause for celebration and we did indeed rejoice. We launched into the holiday of Sukkot, a festive time of joy and celebration.

A Sudden Reversal

As we danced our way through the holiday we reveled in our newfound piety and enjoyed our status as G-d's righteous people. Indeed, the festivities culminate on the last day with a celebration of G-d and Torah. We rejoice with G-d and G-d rejoices with us. We celebrate with the Torah and the Torah celebrates with us; the people that embraced it.

It is fitting that we chant the final portion of the Torah on this festive day. The verses ring with praise for Moses and his people. An ode to our nation; to our strength and spirit. An ode to Moses; to his prophecy and leadership. The last climactic words are finally chanted,"The awesome power that Moses performed before the eyes of all Israel." Chazak, we are strengthened.1

Footnotes

  • 1. Deuteronomy 34: 12.

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RELATED CATEGORIES

Mitzvot » Repentance
Holidays » Yom Kippur » Repentance

Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Talmud
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
Rosh Hashanah
The Jewish New Year. An early autumn two day holiday marking the creation of Adam and Eve. On this day we hear the blasts of the ram's horn and accept G-d's sovereignty upon ourselves and the world. On Rosh Hashanah we pray that G-d should grant us all a sweet New Year.
Sukkot
A seven day autumn festival commemorating the miracle of the Heavenly Clouds which enveloped the Jews while traveling in the desert for forty years. On this holiday we dwell in makeshift booths and shake the Four Species.
Yom Kippur
Day of Atonement. This late-autumn high-holiday is the holiest day of the year. We devote this day to repentance and all healthy adults are required to fast.
Simchat Torah
An extremely joyous one-day autumn festival following the holiday of Sukkot. In Israel it is the eighth day of Sukkot, outside of Israel it is celebrated the next day, the day after Shmini Atzeret. Every Sabbath we read a portion of the Torah. On this holiday we celebrate the completion of the yearly cycle.
Moses
[Hebrew pronunciation: Moshe] Greatest prophet to ever live. Led the Jews out of Egyptian bondage amidst awesome miracles; brought down the Tablets from Mount Sinai; and transmitted to us word-for-word the Torah he heard from G-d's mouth. Died in the year 1272 BCE.
Temple
1. Usually a reference to the Holy Temple which was/will be situated in Jerusalem. 1st Temple was built in 825 BCE and was destroyed in 423 BCE. The 2nd Temple was built in 350 BCE and was destroyed in 70 CE. The 3rd Temple will be built by the Messiah. 2. A synagogue.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.