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		                                    Word Of Torah		                                </span>

Word of Torah

Shabbat Chol HaMo-eid Sukkot
Written by Rabbi Emily E. Segal

Though Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur have concluded, we are still in the midst of this season in our Jewish calendar when holidays are coming, one after another, nonstop.  We are currently in the midst of our festival holiday of Sukkot, and as a congregation, we are celebrating Atzeret-Simchat Torah together this Friday evening (in anticipation of its actual occurrence from Sunday evening until Monday evening).  Referring to Atzeret-Simchat Torah, Deuteronomy 16:14 declares, “You shall rejoice on your festival.”  This means that we are commanded to rejoice!  But can we truly rejoice on command?  Can we truly fulfill a commandment telling us to experience joy and gladness?  When things are going well for us, when we are enjoying life and when we and those we love are secure and healthy and supported, perhaps rejoicing at a designated, commanded time is simple.  But if we are experiencing difficulty or hardship, if we or those we love are struggling, if we are grieving… what can we possibly make of the command to rejoice?

The Vilna Gaon taught that this commandment was the most difficult commandment to fulfill in the entire Torah.  In On Man’s Prayer, Ellie Wiesel explains the words of the Vilna Gaon, “Those Jews who, in the course of their journey to the end of hope, managed to dance on Simchat Torah, those Jews who studied Talmud by heart while carrying stones on their back, those Jews who went on whispering Hymns of Shabbat while performing hard labor . . . V’samachta B’chagecha [‘you shall rejoice on your festival’] was one commandment that was impossible to observe—yet they observed it.”

The Vilna Gaon reminds us, and Elie Wiesel reminds us, in life – particularly as Jews given our mythical and historical identity – we cannot wait for things to be perfect, or even simpler or happier or more contented – before we rejoice.  There will never be a lasting perfect moment, when all of our challenges are behind us, when we should finally dance and sing and smile.  The moment to rejoice is now.  And if we are experiencing a time of difficulty – even if we are “walking through the valley of the shadow of death” (Ps. 23), in this command to rejoice our tradition reminds us that in life our grief and our joy are woven together, intertwined in the fabric of our lives and of our tradition.

So – no matter where this moment finds you – come rejoice with us on Friday evening for Simchat Torah.  Get up and dance with the Torahs, enjoy the music of Shir Bliss, and kvell as you listen to the sweet voices of our our newest Hebrew School students singing Shema at their consecration.  Be present in the joy of community and of this holiday.

Moadim L’Simcha – and Chag Sameach,
Rabbi Emily E. Segal

Mon, October 21 2019 22 Tishrei 5780