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Simchat Torah (5769)

The question is asked by Rabbis; why do we make the Simchat Torah, literally the Holiday of Rejoicing with the Torah, at the end of Succot. Why don't we make it immediately after Shavuot when we commemorate G-d giving us the Torah?

The question is even stronger when we consider that on this Holiday we don't evenlearn the Torah. In fact we don't even remove it's covering; rather we take it from the ark and dance with it as it is, wrapped in it's mantle.

If so, we could just as well be dancing with a potato. The uniqueness and greatness of the Torah is the wisdom and instructions therein; the Torah must be learned, understood, pondered. That is what separates Judaism from the other religions…right?

So why don't we at least open the Torah scroll andlearn it on this day of Torah rejoicing?

What is rejoicing anyway? And why is it so important? Maybe it's best if we just treated the Torah with the solemn reverence it deserves instead of dancing with it?

To understand this here is a story I heard from Rabbi Levi Vilmovski about his father Reb Zusia.

In World War Two, Reb Zusia was a 'partisan' which means he was a free-lance fighter against the Germans.

He didn't like to talk about it because the Nazis killed his mother and sister before his very eyes and every memory he had of the war brought that heart-breaking scene back. But one story he did tell.

He had a friend by the name of Moshe. They were brothers in arms that had only one purpose in life; kill as many Nazis and blow up as many of their arsenals, trains and barracks as possible.

Needless to say they were always on the edge of starvation and exhaustion. The only thing that kept them going was their desire for victory and revenge.

Being partisans definitely had its advantages; they could attack when, where and how they wanted. But they faced impossible odds and they weren't always on the winning end.

One time as they were crossing an empty field they were spotted by Nazi planes that began to strafe them from the air. Bullets and bombs were dancing all around them and the only chance they had to survive was to make it to a marsh where the thick overgrowth would hide them.

They made it just in time. But the planes must have alerted infantry because in no time the place was crawling with soldiers. For days Zusia and Moshe had to crouch down in swamp water up to their necks so as not to be noticed or smelled by the dogs of the Germans.

Reb Zusia said that on the second day his friend Moshe whispered that he couldn't go on. He was finished. He had no more strength or even will to live. He began to go under.

But Reb Zusia whispered back to him. "Moshe! Moshe!! Hold on!! We're going to get out of here and GIVE IT TO THEM!! Moshe we're going to CONQUER THEM ALL!!"

If he would have told him to just hold on, just survive, it wouldn't have helped. What enlivened him was the certainty of victory. And it worked! After three days the Germans gave them up for dead and left.

But there was more.

A few months afterward Moshe fell sick with Typhoid fever, a disease that almost no one survived. His temperature rose, he couldn't eat he began to lose consciousness. It looked like the end. It was even forbidden to get close to him for fear of getting infected.

But Reb Zusia managed to sneak into the hospital and find his bed. He sat next to him and whispered into his ear.

"Moshe! Moshe! Hold on!! I need you! You're going to get out of here and we'll GIVE IT TO THEM!! Moshe we're going to CONQUER THEM ALL!!"

And again it worked. Moshe lived to see the defeat of the enemy, move to Israel and even get married and raise a family.

This is the secret of joy. Survival doesn't require joy. But victory does.

And this joy is found in the Torah.

The Torah is the will and wisdom of the Creator but we must not think that its purpose is to insulate and protect the Jews from the world; to merely learn it's wisdom and survive.

Rather the Torah gives us power to face all obstacles and, with the help of G-d, conquer and TRANSFORM the darkness and misery that surrounds us to meaning, blessing and joy.

In fact that is exactly what it has been doing since it was given over 3,300 years ago; preparing the world for Moshiach who will bring peace, plenty and happiness to all mankind.

This comes not from the ideas, understanding or the wisdom of the Torah but from the G-DLINESS of the Torah; completely ABOVE all understanding.

This is why we don't LEARN the Torah but rather dance with it on Simchat Torah. Because our purpose is to transform and not just survive the world.

And the reason we don't make the holiday after Shavuot is because after Shavuot the Jews sinned with the Golden Calf and the Tablets were broken.

They did not really receive the Torah, the second Tablets, until 120 days after Shavuot - on Yom Kippur.

But the reason they sinned with the Golden Calf was because they thought Moses was dead (Ex. 32:1).

They didn't know that Tzadikim never really die. If they did they wouldn't have lost their joy and served idols.

They would have heard the message of the Torah, like the message of Reb Zusia "We're going to CONQUER THEM ALL!!"

And this is the message of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and the message of Moshiach:

We must never allow the world to conquer us or even suffice with mere survival. The Joy Torah and of Simchat Torah will give us the ability to make the world a dwelling for the Creator (as it was in the Holy Temple) and the power to transform all creation to heaven on earth.

May we all rejoice this Simchat Torah with the revelation of....

Moshiach NOW!!

Copyright © 1999-2018 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.

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