Halacha for Sunday 21 Tishrei 5780 October 20 2019

Simchat Torah

The Rambam (end of Chapter 8 of Hilchot Lulav) states: “Even though it is a Mitzvah to rejoice on all the festivals, there was an additional celebration in the Temple on the festival of Sukkot, as the Torah commands: ‘And you shall rejoice before Hashem, your G-d, for seven days.’ What was the nature of this celebration? The flute would be sounded and songs played on the harp, lute, and cymbals. [In addition,] each person would play on the instrument which he knew. Those who could sing, would sing. They would dance and clap their hands, letting loose and whistling, each individual in the manner which he knew. Words of song and praise were recited. The entire people - the men and the women - would come to see and hear. Whoever holds himself proud, giving himself honor, and acts haughtily in such situations is a sinner and a fool. Concerning this, Solomon warned ‘Do not seek glory before the King.’ [In contrast,] anyone who lowers himself and thinks lightly of his person in these situations is [truly] a great person, worthy of honor, who serves G-d out of love. Thus, David, King of Israel, declared: ‘I will hold myself even more lightly esteemed than this and be humble in my eyes,’ because there is no greatness or honor other than celebrating before Hashem, as the verse states: ‘King David was dancing wildly and whistling before God.’”

The Rambam derives the above Halacha from King David’s behavior when the Holy Ark was being carried to Jerusalem at which time he danced wildly before it. When King David returned home, his wife, Michal, daughter of King Shaul, told him, “My forefathers would never behave in such a manner and not even a small portion of their arms or legs would ever become uncovered in public. They were more honorable than you.” King David replied, “Your father’s household were concerned about their own honor and they disregarded the honor of Heaven. I disregard my own honor and am concerned about the honor of Heaven! Was I dancing before a king of flesh and blood? I was dancing wildly before the King of all kings!”

Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l understood from here that one should put forth great effort to dance and rejoice on Simchat Torah. Indeed, in his youth, Maran zt”l would remove his frock coat (rabbinical garb) and dance joyously and vigorously in honor of the Torah. This was likewise the behavior of his esteemed father, Rabbi Yaakov zt”l, on Simchat Torah. People actually exclaimed that Rabbi Yaakov merited a son like Maran zt”l because of how he would rejoice on Simchat Torah. Hagaon Rabbi David Attieh Shlit”a (son of the venerated Rosh Yeshivat of Porat Yosef, Hagaon Rabbi Ezra zt”l)and several other great Torah scholar would dance before Maran zt”l on Simchat Torah as though dancing before the Torah itself. This sight was reminiscent of how the Sages of the Mishnah described the festivities in the Bet Hamikdash during the Sukkot holiday.

Our Sages stated: “One who has not seen the festivities in the Bet Hamikdash during the Sukkot holiday has never seen a true joyous occasion.” However, this seems difficult since there are many joyous occasions in one’s life, for instance, one’s own wedding or the marriage of a child! What is it then that made the festivities in the Bet Hamikdash on Sukkot so special? Rather, the joy in the Bet Hamikdash was a spiritual joy from whence people drew Ru’ach Ha’Kodesh (see Yerushalmi, Sukkah, Chapter 5). On Simchat Torah, we are likewise rejoicing about the fact that Hashem has given us an Eternal Torah. May we merit drawing a spirit of sanctity and purity from this special joy, Amen!

Tizku Le’Shanim Rabbot Ne’imot Ve’Tovot!

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