OCTOBER 13-21, 2000 15-22 TISHREI 5761
- Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
On Simhat Torah we conclude the annual cycle of reading the Torah in public and start anew from Beresheet. This milestone is celebrated with much joy and festivity, and all Jews, men and women, young and old, learned and illiterate, participate. One may rightfully wonder, with what justification does the one who did not learn Torah throughout the year rejoice on Simhat Torah?
A popular explanation offered to this query is the following: A scholar who once witnessed an ignorant and non-observant Jew dancing and singing with all his strength on Simhat Torah, asked him, "Why are you rejoicing so much? Did you involve yourself with the Torah throughout the entire year?" The man in all sincerity replied, "While you are right that I was remiss in my involvement with Torah throughout the year, nevertheless if I am invited to my brother's wedding, isn't it appropriate for me to dance and sing? Thus, though my brother is really the ba'al simhah today, I am actively rejoicing with him."
As intriguing as this explanation may be, it is somewhat lacking, since after all, Simhat Torah is everyone's simhah and everyone is a ba'al simhah and not just a stranger attending a relative's affair. The processions with the Torah are called "hakafot." Superficially, the name hakafot originated from the fact that we circle around the bimah and hakafot is from the same root as the word "makif" which means "circling around." However, the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, offers a more profound explanation of the word hakafot. He says that it means, "the extension of credit" as we say in Pirkei Abot (3:16), "Vehahenvani makif - the shopkeeper extends credit." When one applies for credit and is notified that his application has been favorably accepted and his request is being granted, he is indeed very happy. Likewise, on Simhat Torah, the "shopkeeper" - Hashem - says to each and every Jew, "I give you permission to rejoice with My Torah though your credit for Torah study and observance for the past year may not be exactly up to par. Dance today on credit, because I trust that you will make good during the coming year." When Hashem personally extends the Jew credit, the joy is overwhelming. Shabbat Shalom.
- Rabbi Reuven Semah
"You shall rejoice before Hashem, your G-d, you, your son, your daughter...in the place Hashem has chosen" (Debarim 16:11)
As we approach the holiday of Succot, we begin to feel an extra measure of happiness in the air. How wonderful it is to serve Hashem in a state of joy, for after all, we have so much to be thankful for. The beautiful Succah, the fresh Lulab and Etrog, the great meals, and the climax of happiness of Simhat Torah, to hug and dance with the Torah, our lifeline to Hashem.
The verse quoted above states that you shall rejoice before Hashem with your son and daughter, in the place of Hashem. Today, the place of Hashem is the synagogue. The Torah is teaching us: When do we have complete joy? When we come to the House of Hashem with our children. However, if a person comes to shul without the children, the happiness is not complete. Similarly, if the children come to shul without the parents, if they only come to recite kadish after the parent is gone from this world, this is the opposite of happiness.
Our community is blessed with the attitude that the shul is the anchor of our relationship with Hashem and the Torah. We have always emphasized that attendance to the shul is the most important activity of our day. This explains why our community has always built the most beautiful and comfortable facilities. The more physically appealing the shul is, the more people will use it. A priority for our shul, Magen Abraham, for the new year, will be to increase the attendance of the existing minyans, and to form new ones at various times, especially during the week, mornings and evenings. If the parents attend shul more regularly, this will be a great help to fulfill the verse that says, "You shall rejoice, you and your children together, in the House of Hashem." Shabbat Shalom.
Answer to Succot Pop Quiz: Twenty amot (about thirty feet).
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