By: Rabbi Yochanan Zweig
“The Torah that Moshe commanded us is a heritage to the Congregation of Jacob”(33:4)
Simchas Torah is a day in which we celebrate the Torah. Why did Chazal see fit to designate a separate day for Simchas Torah? Would not Shavuos, the day we received the Torah, be a more appropriate time for this celebration?
The Talmud instructs a father that as soon as his child is able to speak, he should teach him. “Torah tzivah lanu Moshe morasha Kehilas Yaakov”–”The Torah that Moshe commanded us is a heritage to the Congregation of Jacob.” Why is this the verse selected when there are earlier verses in the Torah which convey a similar message, such as “vezos Hatorah asher sam Moshe lifnei Bnei Yisroel”–”This is the Torah that Moshe placed before Bnei Yisroel”3?
The last four parshios in the Torah record the events that transpired on the day of Moshe’s death. A major event which ensues is the new covenant in Parshas Nitzavim. The concept of “kol Yisrael araeivim zeh bazeh”–”each Jew is a guarantor for his fellow Jew” in regard to mitzvos and aveiros, is introduced as a result of our responsibility to the covenant. The general concept of a guarantor is discussed by the Talmud. The Talmud teaches that one who accepts upon himself to repay a loan should the borrower default, is required by Torah law to honor his commitment to pay.
The commentaries raise the following difficulty: Legally, for a person to be liable to perform a service, there must be consideration, such as money. What is the instrument which obligates a guarantor to honor his commitment? The Ritva answers that although the guarantor does not receive money, nevertheless he receives the satisfaction that the lender is relying upon his credibility to issue the loan. This benefit serves as the instrument for the transaction in lieu of money. In light of this explanation, the following difficulty arises: Why are Bnei Yisroel bound to their commitment to be guarantors? What benefit that they do not already have, are they receiving?
To begin answering the aforementioned questions, we must analyze another concept which was introduced on the day of Moshe’s death. This is the concept of “lo bashamayim hee”–”Torah is no longer in the Heavens.” This means that as long as Moshe was alive, he consulted with Hashem concerning all difficult Torah legislation. Since Hashem was the final arbiter for Torah legislation while Moshe was alive, Torah was still in the Heavens. However, on the day of Moshe’s death, Bnei Yisroel was given unilateral authority over all Torah legislation. This is what is meant by “The Torah is no longer in the Heavens.” This new authorization which Bnei Yisroel received was the instrument which obligates them to honor their commitment to be guarantors.
At Sinai, when Bnei Yisroel received the Torah, Chazal describe the relationship formed as that of bride and groom. Hashem was the groom and Bnei Yisroel was the bride. On the day that Moshe died, a new relationship was formed; Bnei Yisroel were the groom and the Torah was the bride. This is alluded to in the verse, “Torah tzivah lanu Moshe morasha Kehilas Yaakov”. In the word “morasha” Chazal see an allusion to the word “me’orasa”–”betrothed”, i.e. the Torah that Moshe commanded us is also betrothed to us.9 The notions that the Torah is not in the Heavens and that Torah became Bnei Yisroel’s bride are one and the same. The Talmud instructs a father to begin teaching his son Torah with the verse which reflects this new relationship.
Shavuos celebrates Bnei Yisroel becoming a bride to Hashem, while Simchas Torah celebrates Bnei Yisroel becoming betrothed to the Torah. This is reflected in the customs of the day. In most Jewish communities, a representative is chosen to be the “chassan Torah”, the groom to the Torah. Additionally, we dance with the Torah as a groom dances with his bride.
1.See Ramoh Ohrech Chaim 669 for source to Simchas Torah 2.See Tosefes Bracha, Zos Haberacha 3.Vaeschanan 4:44 4.See Rashi 29:28 5.Bava Basra 173b 6.Kidushin 7a 7.30:12 8.See Rashi VeZos Haberacha 33:2 9.Sanhedrin 59a