Simchat Torah by Rabbi Moshe Goodman, Kollel Ohr Shlomo, Hebron בס"ד
Discover the Holy Presence in the Holy Land
Rejoicing with the Torah
“Please, Hashem, answer us on the day we call out to You… be joyous and be glad on Simchat Torah!” The Kabbalists teach that this period of holidays reaches its peak with the joy of the Torah, our covenant and unity with Hashem, causing us to be truly close to God on this day, and indeed “the King will answer us on the day we call” (Tehillim 20). They teach that during the Ten Days of Repentance we go through a type of spiritual “surgery” purifying us towards this unity, the days of Sukkot are like the days of the huppa/sukkah of this unity/”wedding,” and Simhat Torah is the unity itself! May we be blessed to continue this Divine unity throughout the year, internalizing the Torah to become one with us always! The poskim root the “mitzvah” of joyously commemorating the completion of a Torah text to Abayeis statement in the Talmud: “when I saw a Torah scholar complete a tractate I would make a holiday for the Torah Sages” (Shabbat 119a).
Why is the completion of a matter in Torah so connected to joy? First, joy is attached to Torah study in general, as it says “the laws of Hashem are straight, gladdening of heart.” Second, it is important to note that the concept of “completion” plays quite a dominant role in Judaism. For example, there is an obligation to prefer reciting a blessing on a “complete” and whole piece of bread, fruit, etc. first, even if of lower quality, over a sliced piece of bread, fruit, etc., even if they are of better quality. We can explain the concept of “completion” by the concept of unity, saying that only something that is complete and whole has the quality of oneness and unity, as a matter that is missing something, no matter how small, is still not “one” with the part it is missing.
In this way, the sefer Shaar Hachatzer explains the drama (both in the verses and in Midrashic literature) with regard to the burial of Yaakov in Maarat HaMachpela, saying that the completion of claiming the Maarat HaMachpela for the Jewish People was the burial of Yaakov, “the Patriarch of completion.” One of the reasons Yaakov is called the “Patriarch of completion” is because his offspring were completely accepted as the Jewish People (unlike Avraham who bore Yishmael, and Yitzchak who bore Esav).
The feeling of completion and unity is an essential component for the true achievement of joy. Therefore, when Israel completes the fifty-three portions of the Torah on Shemini Atzeret it is no wonder that this day is nevertheless well-known as the day of joy upon the completion of the Torah, “Simchat Torah.”
Indeed, the Zohar points to these 53 portions as being numerically equivalent to the word “gan,” which is reminiscent of both the last and first portions of the Torah. The last portion is the fifty-third portion, and the first portion Bereshit teaches us about what happened in “Gan Eden,” the Garden of Eden, and about its aftermath. Furthermore, we can say that one can reach such bliss and joy in the study of the Torah, by which one experiences a type of “Gan Eden” in one’s lifetime. In Hebron, the Entrance to the Garden of Eden, all these ideas come together, as Hebron means hibbur, unity conveying the messaging of completion, and also hints to the Torah, as we are taught: “Hebron – this is Torah, for one who occupies himself with it is called a chaver-Torah scholar.”
“One day, I took my kids in the car to pick up my younger child at the daycare as usual. However, today unlike any other day all my children suddenly decided to leave the car one after the other, instead of staying in the car to wait as they do every day. Just a moment later, a large vehicle unintentionally smashed into my car destroying it entirely. If anyone had been in the car they would have been crushed.”