web analytics
July 29, 2015 / 13 Av, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

A Night Of Joy


Judaism is meticulous about the manner in which it celebrates Festivals.

We eat matzah on Pesach because it recalls the suddenness of the Exodus that happened so quickly there was no time for the dough to rise. On Sukkot, we leave our homes and establish residence in a sukkah to remember, “In sukkot did I house the children of Israel when I took them out of Egypt.”

A question can be raised with regard to Simchat Torah – the holiday of rejoicing with the Torah. The purpose of the day is to give expression to the profound feelings of joy in the study and observance of Torah. The timing of this holiday, however, seems strange. We observe it on Shemini Atzeret, the eighth day of Sukkot.

It would seem that Simchat Torah ought to be connected to Shavuot; the theme of this holiday, after all, is the giving of the Torah. The purpose of the Exodus was to fashion a unique nation that would govern its private and public affairs according to the commandments and philosophy of the Torah. Our love of Torah is so great that we anticipate the day of Revelation by counting the forty-nine days from Pesach to Shavuot. Why, then, don’t we sing and dance and rejoice with the Torah on Shavuot?

Judaism insists on honesty and frowns on displays of shallow emotionalism. How often do we feel so happy we just want to burst out in song and dance? We need something personal and compelling, like a major simcha, to arouse powerful feelings of joy.

Is it reasonable to expect us to get so excited over a book containing commandments, prohibitions and exhortations that we want to sing and dance with it for hours and hours? Indeed it is – but these emotions must be cultivated over a long period of time.

The goal of Torah observance is not mere obedience but joyful exuberance with the lifestyle of kedushah (holiness). The Rambam says (Laws of Lulav 8:18), “The rejoicing one experiences in the performance of mitzvot and love of God who commanded them is a great service. Whoever holds himself back from this simcha is fit to be punished as the Torah says, “Because they failed to serve Hashem with joy and a good heart .”

The joy of which the Rambam speaks does not come quickly or easily. It requires effort, devotion and the ability to withdraw from superficial pleasures. You must put your heart and soul into the study of Torah in order to appreciate its great beauty and fall in love with it.

Shavuot marks the beginning of our relationship with Torah. This is the time when our ancestors demonstrated their faithfulness by saying, “We will do and we will listen.” We knew Torah is the greatest treasure. But it does not magically transform us. It takes a great deal of dedicated effort to achieve the emotional joy and satisfaction the Torah promises.

On Shavuot we renew that commitment. Many observe the beautiful custom of learning through the night to demonstrate their willingness to part with the pleasure of sleep in order to gain more Torah knowledge.

Let’s consider the deeper significance of this practice. The mitzvah of Talmud Torah is not bound by time or place. We read in the Shema, “And you shall teach them to your children and discuss them when you sit in your house and when you travel on the road, when you lie down and when you arise.” Although there is never a time when one is exempt from study, the night assumes a special significance in the performance of this mitzvah.

The Rambam says (Hilchot Talmud Torah 3:13): “Even though it is a mitzvah to learn by day and by night a person only learns the bulk of his wisdom by night. Therefore, one who seeks to merit the Crown of Torah should guard all his nights and not waste any one of them with sleep, eating and drinking, talking and the like, but only with the study of Torah and matters of wisdom.”

But if study is properly done, what difference does it make when it takes place? I would suggest an explanation for this tantalizing Rambam. The daytime hours are universally regarded as the time for “work.” One naturally feels a responsibility to be engaged in some gainful employment during the day. Night, however, is the time people associate with self-gratification. You’ve put in a long day and now it’s time to unwind and have fun.

It’s easier to learn by day when your work ethic is operative and you feel you must do something constructive with your time. Learning by day represents the service of obligation and responsibility. Learning at night represents the service of love. When we stay up and learn on the night of Shavuot we express our realization that Torah is not a burden but, rather, the greatest joy.

We now understand why Simchat Torah is not observed on Shavuot. The relationship has just begun and there is much work to do. Singing and dancing will come later. We rejoice on Shemini Atzeret because that is when we complete the annual Torah reading cycle. We thereby affirm that one who is faithful and constant in his studies will uncover the beauty of Torah.

Our relationship to Torah is framed by profound commitment to the hard work of studying and performing the commandments as well as a realization that the ultimate goal of our service to Hashem is a feeling of sublime joy. May we merit attaining it.

Chag Shavuot Sameach.

About the Author: Reuven Mann is the of the Young Israel of Phoenix, Arizona. Rabbi Mann can be contacted at rebmann21@aol.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “A Night Of Joy”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Obama on Iran Deal
Is Obama a State Sponsor of Terrorism?
Latest Indepth Stories
Obama on Iran Deal

If the Iran deal passes, Obama’s WH becomes world’s leading financier of terrorism against Americans

Open Tent

{Originally posted to the author’s website, FirstOne Through} Some passionate and eloquent liberals have bemoaned the state of inclusiveness among Jews today. Leon Wieseltier, editor of the New Republic penned an angry piece “J Street’s Rejection Is a Scandal” about the exclusion in 2014 of J Street from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. […]

Hamas on the Temple Mount - Jul 3, 2015

Magnanimity by Moshe Dayan, allowing Muslim control of the Temple Mount, led to today’s situation.

Community-Jewels-logo

It was modeled upon a similar fund that had been set up by Sephardic Jews in Venice. But Amsterdam’s Dotar was initially more ambitious in scope.

Rav Aharon Margalit is a bestselling author – his book, As Long As I Live, has been translated into four languages – and a standing-room only lecturer. Both religious and non-religious audiences flock to hear him. What makes him so extraordinary? Rav Margalit is a Chasidic Jew who experienced incredible challenges from a very young […]

J Street is the vanguard (Jewish face)in support of Obama’s Vienna Accords Nuclear Deal with Iran

“I hold the woman’s place over that of men in every fundamental aspect of public and private life.”

The US-UNRWA accord is another example of this White House, hostile to Israel, disregarding truth.

On the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, Tisha B’av, a reflection on the dangerous deal with Iran

The Kotel gained significance around 1550. Previously, many Jews prayed on the Temple Mount itself.

All Jews MUST stand together to oppose boycotts against Israel. So why does NIF & JCF support BDS?

This year it is hard to concentrate on anything but Iran building nuclear weapons to destroy Israel

Bibi failed the moment he transferred Israel’s Iran problem to the international arena.

I was entranced by Kaddish, a song of sorrow of the whole of Israel for the 1000s of years of exile

Like the Avos, we are invested with the mission to inspire humanity to become nobler and greater

Iran accords are worse than Munich; even Chamberlain would be shocked at what is transpiring again.

More Articles from Rabbi Reuven Mann
Tissot_Jacob_Sees_Esau_Coming_to_Meet_Him

Yaakov encountering Esav is the classic source in dealing with anti-Semites littering our history

Judaism is meticulous about the manner in which it celebrates Festivals.

We eat matzah on Pesach because it recalls the suddenness of the Exodus that happened so quickly there was no time for the dough to rise. On Sukkot, we leave our homes and establish residence in a sukkah to remember, “In sukkot did I house the children of Israel when I took them out of Egypt.”

This week we celebrate the anniversary of America’s independence, an event of great magnitude in the history of mans’ struggle for freedom. At a time like this we should be humble and realize that we are the beneficiaries of the dedication and sacrifice of countless others who came before us and built up and defended America.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/a-night-of-joy/2010/05/18/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: