Torah thought forFriday 21 Tishrei 5784 October 6 2023

Simchat Torah

Translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK

The Mitzvah to Rejoice on Simchat Torah

We are approaching the Festival of Simchat Torah in which all of Am Yisrael are accustomed to rejoice, dance and sing in honour of the Torah HaKedoshah. As Rabbbeinu Hayyim Vital z”l  (1543-1620) wrote in the work Sha’ar HaKavanot, that the minhag is to encircle the Sefer Torah, to dance and clap in front of the Sefer Torah on the Yom Tov of Simchat Torah. It is a good and true minhag.

Even though on Shabbatot and Yamim Tovim we are forbidden to clap (unless it is done differently), nevertheless, on Simchat Torah they were lenient in order to honour the Torah HaKedoshah.

Rabbeinu Hayyim Vital added, “I saw my teacher the Arizal, who was meticulous to encircle the Sefer Torah, and to dance and sing with all his strength before the Sefer Torah! And it is well documented that when Rabbeinu the Arizal returned home from the Bet HaKenesset, he would enter every Bet Kenesset along his route, and would rejoice and honour the Torah HaKedoshah.

In Maran’s zt”l Bet HaKenesset, when he was young, he was so joyous on Simchat Torah to the extent that he would take off his “frack” (long jacket), due to the extent of Simchah Torah, and be animated, dancing for a significant length of time. Also Maran’s zt”l father, who was called by everyone “Rebbi Yaakov G’leh”, and was called so due to the piyyut which the Babylonians sing on Simchat Torah, “g’leh g’leh ziv hodi”, for he was so happy on this day, and made others happy too, to the extent that they said that he was rewarded to a son who enlightened the world with his Torah.

Also when Maran zt”l was very old, he would sing himself many unique songs for Simchat Torah and many well-known talmidei chachamim would dance before him. Such as HaGaon Rebbi David Attia Shlit”a (Rabbeinu Ezra Attia’s z”l son), who would dance like a young lad due to the enormity of his joy and honour of the Torah. Likewise, Rebbi Yitzchak Abba Shaul Shlit”a, the brother of HaGaon Rebbeinu Ben Tzion Abba Shaul zt”l (may Hashem Yitbarach prolong their days with goodness). The joy was genuine, Simchat Torah of men who know the value of Torah. Happy was the eye that witness all of this.

The joy that we experience on Simchat Torah, is akin to the joy that we will experience in the future. For they rejoiced in the Beit HaMikdash during Sukkot, as our chachamim said (Sukkot 51b), “a person who did not witness the joy of the Simchat Beit HaShoeivah - Water Drawing Ceremony [offering], had never seen joy in his lifetime”. Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l explained that surely in our times every person has many joyous moments throughout their life, when they marry their sons and daughters. If so, what was so unique about the joy in those days? He answered that the joy of the Water Drawing was exceptionally special, for it was a spiritual joy, from which people drew ruach ha’kodesh – Divine inspiration, as they said in the Talmud Yerushalmi (beginning of Sukkah). We also rejoice for meriting to receive a true Torah and that He implanted eternal life in us.

Therefore everyone should wake up on this sublime  day and from now on to be very meticulous in reading “Sh’nayim Mikra V’echad Targum -  “Twice the Parashah in Hebrew and once in Aramaic”, every single week [which is a mitzvah from our chachamim, see Shulchan Aruch, OH 285]. With the help of Hashem may we merit to the complete joy with the coming of Mashiach Tzidkeinu. Then we will merit to eternal joy when all our needs will be met and our prayers answered from the Yamim Noraim that have passed. For everyone will become one group, bound together, to fulfil Hashem’s Will with a complete heart. “And every creature will know that You created them, and everything that was fashioned will know that You fashioned them, and all that have breadth [lit. a soul] in their nostrils will proclaim, ‘Hashem G-d of Yisrael is King and His Kingship has dominion over all’.” Amen ken yehi ratzon!

May you all merit to many pleasant and good years!