Dancing in the Streets
Why is the holiday of Simchat Torah so happy?
The reading of the Torah is both completed and begun again on Shemini Atzeret (in Israel on the eighth day, and in the Diaspora on the ninth day). This occasion is known as Simchat Torah, the “Joy of the Torah.” Jewish sources trace the concept of rejoicing upon finishing the Torah back to the celebration made by King Solomon when God granted his request for wisdom.Simchat Torah is a day of tremendous happiness. Completing the reading of the Torah and beginning it again is an occasion marked by dancing, singing, feasting and many beautiful customs.
An atmosphere of intense joy fills the synagogue, and in many places the dancing continues for hours. Children often carry miniature, toy Torah scrolls and dance with flags inscribed with phrases about the Torah. Refreshments are usually made available in the synagogue during the celebration.
The incredible joy that is felt on Simchat Torah is a testimony to the love that the Jewish people have for the Torah. A great Chassidic rabbi pointed out that greater joy is expressed on Simchat Torah than on Shavuot, even though Shavuot is the festival that marks the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. He explained that on Shavuot we were passive recipients of God’s gift of the Torah, but on Simchat Torah, we celebrate the fact that we are active partners with God in the Torah. We read and study the Torah, and through the wisdom of our Sages, and the customs of our communities, implement it on our daily lives. Simchat Torah reflects the Jewish peoples’ love for the Torah, their involvement in the Torah and their devotion to God, Giver of the Torah.