Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Today was Simchat Torah, AKA the “Rejoicing of the Law” - the day we complete the annual Torah reading cycle by finishing the final chapters of Deuteronomy...and, almost without a pause, launching into the first verses of Genesis.

I’ve written about it before.

Today, I showed up at shul late, just in time for the Torah reading. But that’s the fun part, anyway.

Too bad we can’t take photographs, it being a holiday. Because photographs would provide hours of cackly amusement.

Picture it: On the right side of the Reader’s Table stands Lou, a spry eighty-one-year-old and one of the Learned Elders of the congregation. He’s wearing a frilly baby bonnet in lieu of his normal yarmulke.

In the center stands our senior rabbi, sporting a gimme cap and a mullet wig. Zonker would be proud. Instead of the silver yad he normally uses to point to the words in the Torah scroll, he has a two-foot-long stick with a plastic hand on the end of it. Looks like a back-scratcher, it does.

On the left - why, it’s none other than Elisson, with his genuine Cowboy Hat, doing his best imitation of Gabbai Hayes. (No, don’t ask me to explain it if you don’t get it.) I grab the rabbi’s pointer and threaten to use it as a nostril cleaner. Hilarity ensues.

Exceptionally this day, the first three readings are repeated over and over, until everyone who wishes to be called up to say the Torah blessings has had a chance to do so. Everyone... including couples and little kids. And afterwards, for those who wish a celebratory shot of Adult Beverage, the necessary supplies are right at hand.

Me, I have a few tastes of the Glenlivet Nadurra, a 16-year-old cask strength single malt. It definitely puts the Simcha - rejoicing - in Simchat Torah.

We move on to the final verses of Deuteronomy, which detail the passing of Moses. Bittersweet, for sure... to come this close to seeing your dream fulfilled, and then to have to look at the Promised Land from across the river, knowing that you will never set foot in it yourself. It’s a powerful image for all of us... for who among us has not had deeply-held, yet unfulfilled, desires?

And then it’s time to begin anew, to start the cycle over. To tell the story of Creation in words of poetry that, after thousands of years, still resonate with the music of the Divine.

Our Holiday Season, having begun at sundown September 29 with Rosh Hashanah, has come to a close. But for each of us, Jewish or not, it’s the beginning of a new year full of new beginnings. May your new beginnings be sweet.

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