Rabbi Nachum Rabinowitz relates: “I was startled for a moment when I saw Roni, a respectable and distinguished, run down the street and wave his hands to the sides. Suddenly, Roni stopped and bent down to the floor and rolled while performing impressive acrobatic activities. I approached him to ask him if everything was okay and he said, "I started exercising." And at that moment, the picture was reversed. He became normal and I was the weird one…”
Energy for the whole year
The story with Roni is just a parable to understand the joy of the Torah. You see people who are usually restrained and honorable, suddenly bouncing and dancing like young guys, during the Hakafot ceremony. And you ask yourself, is everything alright with them? How is this day different from any other day? What is the sudden itch they have to jump?
And the answer is that, just like the body, the soul needs exercise and training. It has dormant muscles of love, happiness, joy and holiness that if we do not exercise them, they will simply remain dormant and degenerate. As we dance and rejoice in this holiday with the Torah, these muscles awaken and strengthen and make the soul more energetic and happy in the coming year.
This is why on Simchat Torah, the Torah scrolls are taken out of the ark and danced with them while they are closed and covered. The emphasis in this holiday is not on reading and delving into the Torah, in which there are differences between one another, but on the soul. For the happiness and joy that the Torah has brought into our lives. And in the joy of the soul there are divisions between religious and secular. We are all Jews. We are all rejoicing and dancing together.
Dear friends, when it comes to activating the soul muscles there is no room to be ashamed or lazy. Let's join the Hakafot. We will fall, we will be carried on shoulders and wave flags - all in honor of the Torah. Because on this day, we are all - athletes at heart!
Candle lighting time (NYC):
Shmini Atzeres, Monday @ 6:26 PM.
Simchat Torah, Tuesday @ 7:23 PM, from pre-existing flame.