The final holiday of the season is called Simchat Torah, Rejoicing with the Torah. On this day we celebrate what the Torah represent in our lives, our society and the world. The Torah is G-d’s Word especially given to us to guide our minds, bodies and souls. The first Torah scroll was dictated by G-d and written by Moses. Just before his passing Moses told the nation of Israel, “he said to them, “Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. They are not just idle words for you—they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.” (Deuteronomy 32:46-47)
The Torah is first five books of the Bible also called the Books of Moses. In Hebrew the books are know by the first word in each book. The Torah is a narrative that begins with G-d creating the world, then takes us through the Exodus from Egypt, the descent into the desert, the giving of the Torah and ends just before the Israelites cross in to the Promised Land with the death of Moses. Throughout the text G-d imparts specific knowledge. He tells us how we are to observe holidays and when, tells us of our relationship with Him and give us the laws we are to live by.
From these words we have gone forth, generation after generation. The words of the Torah have been unaltered since the first written by Moses. This is guaranteed because of the way each kosher Torah scroll must be inscribed. Through the ages only a small number of people are permitted to write kosher copies of the Torah. This person is called a “Sofer” and is highly trained in all manners of Jewish law as well as Hebrew calligraphy.
Above all the training is the integrity of the scribe. A Sofer must come to writing the Torah with a pure heart. All his focus must be directed to writing the Torah for the sake of the sanctity of the Torah, each stroke of the quill with proper intention. The Sofer must make copies of the Torah that are absolutely perfect. Not even one letter can be misshapen.
Each synagogue has a kosher Torah Scroll or a Sefer Torah which is kept in an Ark. The Torah is read from aloud each week. Every Shabbat one of the 54 weekly potions, called Parashat haShavua, is read. Over the course of the year the entire Torah is read. On Simchat Torah the annual cycle ends and begins again.
On Simchat Torah, the most joyous day of the year, we embrace the Torah in our arms, as we blissfully dance and celebrate the very special gift of the Torah. As the holiday begins a selection of verses called the “Ata Horayta” are read. These relate how G-d has shown Himself to the Israelites to be the one true G-d who gave them redemption.
At the conclusion of these verses all eyes turn to the Ark. The Ark is opened and the Torah Scroll is taken out of the Ark and paraded around the bimah in seven hakafot or circuits. Once the seven hakafot are complete the party often overflows in to garden and the street. The dancing and singing continues for hours, late into the night, often through the night to the next morning.
On the next morning in final portion of Deuteronomy and the first portion of Genesis is read. This continuous circle reminds us that the Torah is never-ending. It is present and applicable in all aspects of life. The Torah is a living document, we read it in its entirety each year and even though we read the same words each year, we can continue to learn and gain new insight with each reading.