Sunday, November 06, 2005

Simchat Torah

Simchat Torah, like every other holiday here in Israel, was even greater than it usually is in Montreal. Since it is impossible to communicate the ruach that we were feeling in yeshiva during the hakafot (dancing on simchat torah), I will instead tell you a few things that happened in yeshiva during the chag.

On the first night, we ate before the hakafot. Right when we finished eating, Rav Nevenzhal, the talmid chacham who is the Rav of the Old City, came into the room. We all stood up for him as a sign of respect. I was sitting in the back of the room, next to the entrance but far away from the table of rabbis. As soon as he got into the room, Rav Nevenzhal sat down right next to me, in the back of the room. You can imagine my surprise. I didn't know what to do! I had a talmid chacham sitting right next to me for dinner, how am I supposed to react. After the whole event, my friends even started laughing at my reaction because I looked so shocked. Now, to understand why I was shocked, you first need to understand how big of a talmid chacham Rav Nevenzhal is, and to understand why he sat in the back, you need to understand how anav, modest, this man is. Rav Elon, seeing this, went to get Rav Nevenzhal and get him to sit on the Rabbis table. Rav Nevenzhal didn't want to. He didn't want the honor. Then, we all started dancing around Rav Nevenzhal and Rav Elon, 2 guedolei hador who were meeting each other. Rav Elon used the dancing as an opportunity to drag Rav Nevenzhal towards the Rabbis tables. They were dancing and dancing, 2 guedolei hador dancing together. Finally, after we danced Rav Nevenzhal to his real place, Rav Elon showed Rav Nevenzhal on which chair to sit. Rav Nevenzhal then showed Rav Elon on which chair he should sit. Rav Elon nodded and then Rav Nevenzhal sat down but Rav Elon continued dancing around him while we, all the yeshiva bachurs, were also still dancing. Rav Nevenzhal shot back up and told Rav Elon that if he wouldn't sit down, he wouldn't be able to sit down. This is the epitomy of modesty. Finally, they both sat down after setting the tone for all of our simchat torah.

The next day, we danced all around the old city of Jerusalem. We went from synagogue to synagogue and visited the entire old city, including the New Jewish Quarter, singing and dancing and having real simcha. After Mincha, Rav Elon explained what Simchat Torah is. He said, on each holiday, we have a way to connect to G-d, a certain mitsvah. On Rosh Hashana, we have the shofar. On Yom Kippur, we have the fast. On Succot, we have the Lulav. On Pessah, we have the Matsah. Even on Shavuot, when the beit hamikdash will be rebuilt this year b'h, we will be giving the bikurim. On Shemini Atseret, we do not have anything. Rav Taragin, another Rav in our yeshiva, once explained that Shemini Atseret is like the end of a wedding. When people go to a wedding, no one stays until the end. Only the close friends stay until the end and even when the wedding is finished, they continue singing. Why? Because they love their friend which is getting married. Here, we are also staying after all the holidays of the month of Tishrei in order to show G-d that we really love him. Many people told me there are too many holidays in Tishrei: that’s exactly the mentality Shemini atseret is here to combat. Finally, Rav Elon explained that since there are no mitsvot on shemini atseret, we get to express in our own way. Its interesting that the gueonim decided that it is on shemini atseret that we have simchat torah (Lets not forget that the REAL way to celebrate holidays is like in Israel, where both holidays are on the same days and not like in chutz laarets, where the hioliday is not authentic and we see a separation). Our way of celebrating is with the torah.

I am leaving to Poland tomorrow. I am going for one week. I therefore won't be posting anything during this week. However, I will be keeping a small diary. When I get back, I will make a post of different quotes from my diary and if I find any posts in my diary worth it, I will type them out and post them on my blog throughout the year.

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