Adapted from the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe (Simchat Torah 1981)by Rabbi Israel Rubin

muchnik torah

The Torah is the epic center of our Simchat Torah celebration. We encircle it with our love, and everything revolves around it, as we celebrate the joy of a fulfilling life defined by the Divine wisdom that we received at Mount Sinai.

But how does the Torah itself look amid all this celebration?

On Simchat Torah, do we research the all-embracing wisdom of the Five Books of Moses, delve into the inspiration of the Prophets, or read the chapters of Psalms? Do we study the complex brilliance of the Talmud, read the guidance of the Shulchan Aruch codes, and learn the mysteries of the Kabbalah?

Where are the laws, the ethics and the philosophy that have molded our lives and served as a beacon of light to all of humanity for 33 centuries?

The Torah's inner content remains hidden under cover throughout all the Hakafot dancing. Ironically, on Simchat Torah the Torah seems like a closed book.

The Torah is rolled up into itself, girdled with a sash, encased in a Sephardic chest or clothed in an embroidered mantle. This is how we grasp the Torah in our arms, dancing away the night and day of Simchat Torah in synagogues across the world.

Is this the proper way to celebrate our relationship with the Torah? By embracing a velvet-draped scroll and expending calories and shoe leather on the synagogue floor? Surely the People of the Book could have devised a better way, a more intellectual mode to celebrate wisdom. Would it not be  more appropriate to observe the holiday by deeply immersing oneself in the study of Talmud or a treatise of Torah philos   ophy?


To better understand this hidden Simchat Torah message, let us first spend a moment on the timing of this holiday. We actually have two festival dates on the Jewish calendar to celebrate our Receiving of the Torah: Shavuot and Simchat Torah.

Why do we need two festival with the same theme?

This is because we received the Torah in two stages.

Shavuot marks the day when we first experienced the Revelation at Mount Sinai, where we heard the Ten Commandments, and G‑d summoned Moses to the top of the mountain to receive the Two Tablets of the Covenant. Shortly after, however, these Tablets were broken after we sinned with the Golden Calf. It is the Second Tablets, granted to us several months later on Yom Kippur, that we welcome and celebrate on Simchat Torah.

The First Tablets of Shavuot represent the 'conventional' aspect of Torah Torah as the study of G‑d's wisdom and the obedient fulfillment of His Will. On this level, a person's relationship with Torah is defined by his behavior and his talent. The more one studies, the more one knows, and the greater one's mind, the deeper one's understanding and comprehension.

If a person, however, transgresses and violates the Torah's commandments, he no longer deserves to be associated with it. The relationship is over. Worshipping an idol of gold leads to shattered Tablets and a broken covenant.


But there is also a deeper dimension to Torah that transcends the superficial conduct and understanding. This is the essence of Torah, the unconditional bond between G‑d and Jew that is not dependent upon the study and observance. No sin or transgression can weaken this bond; on the contrary, it was the breaking of the First Tablets that uncovered its power and invincibility. This is the Torah of the Second Tablets, the Torah that we now celebrate on Simchat Torah.

On Shavuot we thus spend the night studying. We read selections from the Five Books of Moses, the Prophets and the Scriptures; we study the first and last paragraphs of each of the Talmud's 60 tractates, selections from the esoteric works of Sefer Yetzira and Zohar, and Maimonides' list of the 613 mitzvot. We celebrate the manner in which Torah is realized by actual study and implementation.

But on Simchat Torah we celebrate our bond with the essence of Torah. So the Torah remains scrolled and covered, we are grasping its overall essence beyond its specific words and precepts. We dance with the Torah rather than study it, because we are relating to that dimension of Torah that embraces each and every Jew equally, regardless of knowledge and spiritual level. Dancing around the Torah in a circle, we are all equa-distant, we all relate equally to the Torah: the sweat of the scholar is no more profound than that of his illiterate brother, and the feet of the saint move no more piously than those of the boor.

We all connect equally on Simchat Torah: equal in our inability to fathom the deepest essence of the Holy Torah.


The Rebbe was Right!

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson is renowned for his profound wisdom and insight into Jewish life and observances. With his keen understanding of the human condition, the Rebbe offered advice and guidance to many thousands of people in their personal matters.

The Rebbe was also outspoken on current events and international issues. His strong views were not always popular, but events have proven the Rebbe to be ahead of his time.

Over the years, the Rebbe stressed that the land of Israel is G‑d's eternal gift to the Jews, and emphatically warned against ceding any part to the Arabs. He consistently warned that the mere discussion of such concessions whet the enemy's appetite, emboldening them to demand more and more.

Skeptics snickered that the Rebbe was out of touch with reality. "Why not give up a little here and there?! Give peace a chance!" The Rebbe was attacked for meddling in Israeli affairs, an area entrusted to experienced foreign diplomats. Certain politicians threatened that his hawkish position jeopardized Chabad's worldwide programs and services.

Unfortunately, we didn't listen. The Nobel Prize euphoria and the pomp and circumstance of Oslo and White House ceremonials deluded us into wishful thinking and naivé.

Painful as it is, we now appreciate the Rebbe's prediction and foresight.

This is not to gloat I-told-you-so, but to focus on a most relevant issue.

With the same foresight, conviction and intensity that he denounced the "peace process", the Rebbe emphatically proclaimed that we are now in the advanced stages of the "Redemption process," realizing our eternal belief in Moshiach, the light at the end of the long tunnel of Exile and Diaspora.

But the skeptics snicker that Moshiach is unrealistic, out of touch with reality and smacks of escapism. They ignorantly complain that the "concept of Redemption doesn't sound Jewish." They threaten that such outlandish ideas jeopardize Chabad's outreach programs and services.

Let us listen this time. Let's follow the Rebbe's direction to yearn and pray for the ultimate Redemption, learn about it and spiritually prepare for the promised era of true universal peace.

May the Rebbe's vision inspire and guide us in these difficult times.