Simchas Torah – Cherish the Children
By: Chaya Sora Jungreis-Gertzulin
Simchas Torah. A day of joyous celebration upon the completion of reading the weekly parshah, and in knowing that Torah study continues on.
Upon finishing the final passage of Devarim/Deuteronomy, the entire congregation rises and proclaims: “Chazak, Chazak, V’nischazeik – Be Strong, Be Strong and Let us be strengthened”.
Three times Chazak; three levels of strength. Physical, spiritual and intellectual, all for the purpose of continued Torah study.
The Rema, Rabbi Moshe Isserles (1530-1572) teaches that the custom of saying “Chazak” can be derived from the Book of Yehoshua, Joshua.
HaShem encourages Joshua by telling him, “Be strong and resolute (chazak ve’ematz) to observe faithfully all the teachings of My servant Moshe. Let not this book of Torah cease from your lips, but recite it day and night, so that you may observe faithfully all that is written in it.” (Joshua/Yehoshua 1:8-9).
We live in a society that celebrates graduations, be it nursery school or graduate school. From cards and balloons, to cakes and parties, the message is “Congrats Grad”. Done with one stage of education, on to the next.
Torah study is different. A Jew never “graduates”. A Jew is never done. Torah study is a life-long journey. One never completes or tires of Torah learning. As soon as we complete one cycle, we start anew from the very beginning.
Torah study doesn’t require new “back-to-school” books. The very same Chumash is our source of study, year after year. Herein lies the mystical magic of Torah. Each time we study the parshah, we glean new understandings and gain timeless lessons and insights.
The Midrash in Bamidbar/Numbers tells us “Ayin panim l’Torah – Seventy faces to the Torah”. There are countless valuable lessons we can learn from Torah study.
Torah has the additional power of bridging the generations. Grandparents, parents and children can study together. Torah is both ageless and timeless. I look forward to helping my grandchildren with their Torah study homework. I cherish the time spent together, and even learn something new myself. It’s amazing that the same Chumash is taught in first grade, in twelfth grade, and in adult study classes. A holy book of life lessons for all ages.
Just as parents and children study Torah together, on Simchas Torah they celebrate and honor Torah together.
What a beautiful sight to behold. The Torah scrolls are removed from the ark, and the shul members take turns dancing the hakofos (circuits) around the bimah (the platform from which the Torah is read), lovingly holding them in their arms.
The magic of Simchas Torah. I love watching the little ones, their faces beaming as they join the adults in celebration. They too are part of hakofos, waving their flags and clutching their mini-Torahs.
As part of our Shacharis (morning) prayers, we recite Birchas HaTorah, Blessings of the Torah. Its words come alive on Simchas Torah. “…And may we and our descendants, and our descendants’ descendants…. know Your Name and study Your Torah…”
I recall a Midrash in Shir HaShirim, The Song of Songs, which relates that when the Jewish people stood at Mount Sinai to receive the Torah, HaShem asked for a guarantee that they would keep it. They replied, “Our ancestors will be our guarantors.” When this was unacceptable, they offered, “Our prophets will be our guarantors.” This, too, HaShem did not accept. When they said “Our children will be our guarantors”, HaShem replied, “Indeed these are good guarantors. For their sake I will give it to you”
Eli Wiesel writes in “A Jew Today” of a Simchas Torah in the darkest of dark, the bleakest of bleak, a Nazi concentration camp. Even there, amidst all the pain and suffering, our people strived to find joy and have hope on Simchas Torah.
“Since there was no Sefer Torah, how could they organize the traditional procession with the sacred scrolls? As they were trying to solve the problem, an old man noticed a young boy standing there looking and dreaming. ‘Do you remember what you learned in cheder (Yeshiva)?’ asked the man. ‘Yes, I do’ replied the boy. ‘Really?’ said the man. ‘You remember Shema Yisroel?’
‘I remember much more’ said the boy. ‘Shema Yisroel is enough’ said the man, and he lifted the boy, clasped him in his arms, and began dancing with him, as though he were the Torah. And all joined in. They sang, danced and cried. They wept, but they danced with fervor.”
We are a nation that cherishes the children. A nation that understands that for the generations to continue, we must perpetuate Torah study.
On Simchas Torah morning, there is a special aliyah called “Kol HaNearim – All the Children”. A taalis is spread out – chuppah-like – over all the children as they stand together to receive a collective aliyah. From the youngest age, we impart upon our children the importance of Torah study and of being a shalsheles, a link in the chain. A Torah chain that links us all the way back thousands of years to our forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov. A chain that connects us to Sinai, a chain that ties us to our bubbas and zeides, our grandmothers and grandfathers from generations past.
As the children stand together under the taalis, they experience the power of unity, and the and the message of being an “Am Echad – A United Nation”.
We dance seven hakofos with the Torah, expressing the desire that our love and commitment to Torah should be with us all seven days of the week. Seven hakofos also recalls the merits of our three Patriarchs and four Matriarchs. May their blessings be with us always. Seven also symbolizes the seven Heavens, and our yearning that the heartfelt joy we experience on Simchas Torah transcend all seven Heavens, and reach the throne of HaShem.
In the merit of our celebrating the light of the Torah on Simchas Torah may we soon seen the ultimate geulah and yeshuah, redemption and salvation for Am Yisroel.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach!
Chaya Sora can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was written L’zecher Nishmas / In Memory Of HaRav Meshulem ben HaRav Osher Anshil HaLevi, zt”l and Rebbetzin Esther bas HaRav Avraham HaLevi, zt”l