This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Simchat Torah (5763)
In just a few days we will celebrate Simchat (rejoicing with) Torah. Jews all over the world will be taking all the Torah Scrolls out of the synagogue arks and joyously dancing with them the entire night and most of the next day.
There are two known questions about this holiday.
First, why do we celebrate it WHEN we do? We should be celebrating it around the time of the giving of the Torah; the holiday of Shavuot about five months earlier.
And why do we celebrate it HOW we do? Torah is a very intellectual book we should rather open it and learn it on this special night rather than dancing with it when it is closed and wrapped in its covering.
We can understand this by asking a third question.
On Simchat Torah we read the last section of the Torah called 'Zot HaBracha'. The last words in this section, (i.e. the last words in the Torah) praise Moses.
"There was never a prophet like Moses etc. that did such great awesome miracles before the eyes of all the Jewish people."
Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki) the foremost explainer of the Torah explains that the 'great miracles' the Torah is speaking of here is …. that MOSES BROKE THE TABLETS!!! And that G-d agreed with him."
What was so great or miraculous about that? Why is this the finale of the Torah? Why did G-d agree?
To understand all this here is a story.
In the city of Ruzin lived a great Tzadik (G-dly Jew) called Rabbi Yisroel. So great was his holiness that to this very day he is nicknamed "The Holy Ruziner" by all Chassidic Judaism.
Ruzin was a large city and like all large cities there were many different types of people and many types of Jews.
For instance one Jew was called Menasha. He was the worst of the worst as far as the Jewish community was concerned. Whenever possible he would make trouble for any Jew he could and his favorite cruelty was to be a Mosair; or in simple English…. a squealer.
He would even pay drunks from the barroom to testify against Jews and when there were no drunks that were willing, he would testify himself. Menasha was a real traitor to his people.
But on the other hand there was Beryl the simple shoemaker; he loved all G-d's creations.
He was friendly with all the gentiles even more so all the Jews and more yet his Chassidic compatriots. But nothing compared to his love for the Rebbe.
In fact at times his desire to just see the Rebbe was so great that in the middle of the night he would run to the Rebbe's home or to his room in the Synagogue, stand outside his door and cry for hours, just so the Rebbe would open the door and he could get a glimpse of the Rebbe for a second.
Well, it so happened that one year Beryl had an attack of longing an hour before Yom Kippur.
This alone was bad enough but what made it even worse was that it Rebbe's custom to seclude himself several days before Yom Kippur and no one was allowed to disturb him for any reason….. even for matters of life and death. Requests would be slid under the Rebbe's door but no more than that.
Beryl's wife tried to convince him not to go and his friends tried to discourage him but it didn't help. He ran to the Rebbe's office and began yelling outside the Rebbe's door. "Rebbe Rebbe Beryl needs to see you!!" The Chassidim tried to grab him and drag him out of the place but he fell to the ground, grabbed onto a table and refused to budge.
Suddenly the doorknob of the Rebbe's office turned. The Chassidim ran for shelter. 0nly crazy Beryl didn't run away. He just lay there, eyes wide open staring at the door, waiting for the Rebbe to peek out.
The Rebbe opened the door wide, looked warmly at Dov Ber and said.
"Beryleh, Beryleh you really love me don't you?! Your love for me cannot be contained or measured. Right?
"Well, Beryleh, you should know that as great as your love is for me …. I have ten times as much love for ….. Menasha the Mosar!
"And I am just a creation. Just think about how much HASHEM loves Menasha!! Infinitely more!!!"
And with that the Rebbe closed the door.
This answers our questions.
True the Torah was given on Shavuot, but those were the Ten Commandments that Moses broke forty days later at the sin of the Golden Calf …. the Jews never received them.
What we celebrate on Simchat Torah is the SECOND Tablets. And the Second Tablets were received on Yom Kippur. (Moses went up three times in a row on Mt. Sinai: first to receive the First Tablets, the second time to obtain forgiveness for the Jews and the last time to receive the Second Tablets all together120 days from Shavuot) and the first opportunity we have to rejoice is immediately after the holiday of Succot less than two weeks later.
These Second Tablets are a sign of Moses' and G-d's unconditional love for the Jewish people: Although the Golden Calf was possibly the worst sin in the history of man (the Jew personally HEARD G-d say don't serve idols, nevertheless served them) nevertheless G-d forgave them and gave the Second Tablets.
And that is why we dance with the Torah when it is wrapped up.
Because although every word and every detail of every commandment is holy and of utmost importance, here we are celebrating the ENTIRE Torah.
Or, as it says in the Zohar, "G-d, the Torah and the Jews are ONE."
And that was the greatness of Moses. He knew that without EVERY Jew the Torah is incomplete. (As Rabbi Akiva said "Love your fellow Jew is the entire TORAH")
And it brought him to do the greatest miracle (i.e. changing of nature) of all time; the TRUE culmination of the Torah. He broke the Tablets… the entire Torah that he had worked so hard to obtain … to save the Jewish people.
The Zohar tells us that in every generation there must be a Moses. And the Chabad Chassidim say it was (and still is) the Lubavitcher Rebbe
He, like Moses, sacrificed everything; spent literally billions of dollars and sent thousands of Chabad Rabbis away from Yeshivas and spread them throughout the world, in order to save the entire Jewish people.
As I once heard in a story from Rabbi Yosef Jacobson that his father, the editor of a well known Jewish newspaper 'Der Algemainer Journal' once asked the famous Rabbi Yosef Ber Soloveichek (the head Rabbi and founder of Yeshiva University) after he had attended one of the Lubavitcher Rebbe's discourses (he and the Rebbe were long time friends and he came as a friendly visit in honor of the Rebbe's birthday) what were his impressions?.
He answered. "In the days of the Temple, the Cohen Godol (High Priest) was the greatest and most holy man in Israel. But nevertheless he could only mention the ineffable name of G-d AFTER he came out of the Holy of Holies. The reason is …. that in the Holy of Holies he would pray for ALL the Jewish people. And that gave him an incomparable rise in holiness.
"That is what I felt. The true greatness of the Rebbe is not that he knows the entire Torah, which he does; the Rebbe's greatness is that he is like a Cohen Godol that is occupied constantly in saving ALL the Jewish people and uniting them with the Torah."
And that is why we dance on Simchat Torah; because G-d, the Torah and the Jewish people are ONE.
Have a happy, joyous, meaningful holiday with Moshiach NOW!!
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