Meir Panim’s Tiberias Free Restaurant not only provides warm meals, but the opportunity to socialize as well.
We call it “Simchas Torah.”
It is the culmination of our entire holiday cycle. Pesach and Shavuos, then Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkos all lead up to one enormous day of simcha.
Why do we associate simcha with Torah? And why is it the culmination of everything?
Other nations try to achieve simcha. Some people live for football games, or vacations, or wealth, or community activism, trying to make the world a better place. This is how I grew up. I lived in the non-observant world and spent my first thirty years trying to figure out how to be happy.
I tried many paths.
I was interested in conservation. My father wanted me to be the United States Secretary of the Interior, and I wouldn’t have minded. My wife and I spent two summers working for the National Park Service, one atop a mountain 8,934 feet above sea level. I was also involved in political activism, as well as newspaper publishing, advanced studies in literature, and many other fields.
On Shabbos Chol HaMoed Sukkos, we read Koheles, which tells us (chapter 1), “I ventured to stimulate myself with wine – while my heart is involved with wisdom – and to grasp folly.… I built myself houses; I planted vineyards; I made … gardens and orchards…. I amassed … silver and gold…. I provided myself with various musical instruments…. Then I turned my attention to appraising wisdom ….”
Koheles (7:23) also tells us, “I thought I could become wise, but it is beyond me….” and (1:14), “I have seen all the deeds done beneath the sun and behold, it is all futile.”
And the following (chapter 12), which shakes me up every year:
So remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and those years arrive of which you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them.’ Before the sun, the light, the moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain; in the day when the guards of the house [the hands and feet in old age – Ibn Ezra] will tremble…the powerful men [the legs – Rashi] will stoop and the grinders [the teeth – Rashi] are idle because they are few, and the gazers through windows [the eyes – Tractate Shabbos 151b] are dimmed; when the doors in the street are shut … and desire fails…. Before the silver cord snaps and the golden bowl is shattered and the pitcher is broken at the fountain and the wheel is smashed at the pit. Thus the dust returns to the ground, as it was, and the spirit returns to G-d Who gave it…. Futility of futilities, said Koheles, all is futile!
Do you want to sober up? This will do it.
I’m not so old, but I feel my body slowing down. I don’t have the strength I did when I was twenty or thirty and my reactions are not as fast. I don’t jump up from my seat as quickly as I used to, or run down the stairs as fast. A friend who is over thirty told me he can’t lose weight the way he used to. Over thirty!
We gather during this season to celebrate a world of blessings God has given us. Our gratitude is limitless, because we are still alive to experience this incredible life. With all the tzouris, we are still alive. We work; we eat; we try to create a family and bring value to the world. And we live with eternal hope.
What is simcha?
There is only one simcha, and that is Torah.
There is nothing like Torah. The Children of Israel exist against all logic. How did we survive two thousand years of torture and pogrom and exile and slavery and Holocaust? How did we, the weakest and smallest and most hated nation, survive the centuries since our beloved Temple was destroyed by those who hate us?
Because we cling with strength of iron to the Eternal God. And our umbilical cord is Torah. This is the source of our life, the one and only wellspring of simcha, because through it we know that we are connected forever to the ultimate and eternal Source of life.
There is no futility in torah.
There is no end in torah.
The simcha is to know our existence is eternal. Then everything has a purpose.
Thus, at the culmination of our Yomim Tovim and the beginning of a New Year, we submerge ourselves in the one happiness that exists in this life, the Greatest Gift anyone could ever receive – the gift of Unity with the Master of the World, His Holy Torah which He has given to us with total chesed.
Through our simcha with this Torah, we will soon transform the world into a place of unity and peace, a place of Kiddush Hashem, with the coming of Moshiach ben Dovid and the rebuilding of the Eternal Bais HaMikdash, may we see it this year.
About the Author: Roy Neuberger's latest book, "2020 Vision" (Feldheim), is available in English, Hebrew, Spanish, French and Russian with a Georgian edition in preparation. An e-edition is available at www.feldheim.com. Roy is also the author of "From Central Park to Sinai: How I Found My Jewish Soul" (available in English, Hebrew and Russian, Georgian edition in preparation) and "Worldstorm." Roy and his wife speak publicly on topics related to his books and articles. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or through his websites www.tosinai.com and www.2020visionthebook.com. Roy and his wife speak publicly on topics related to his books and articles. He can be contacted at email@example.com or through his websites www.tosinai.com and www.2020visionthebook.com.
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The Obama Administration plan is very simple, assuming that everything goes smoothly–which of course it will not.
You don’t see my kind of loss in America as much as you do here, in Israel.
Gideon Levy ignores the fact that Germany, Switzerland, the U.K. and the U.S. were by far the biggest traders with the apartheid regime, choosing instead to focus on Israel.
The more severe scenario of a nuclear Iran is that the Iranians will not even need to go to war.
For states, as for individuals, fear and reality go together naturally.
I first met Mandela in Geneva in 1990 as part of a delegation of American Jewish leaders.
How much wealth exists in the American Orthodox community?
They didn’t have to ask twice – I was there.
Despite the interim agreement between Iran and several world powers, which provides for a softening of sanctions in return for a curtailment of elements of the Iranian nuclear development program, many members of Congress have resisted calls from the White House to defer legislation that would impose increased sanctions on Iran should a satisfactory final agreement not be reached or the Iranians fail to adhere to the temporary deal.
The Jewish Press raised some eyebrows with its endorsement of Bill de Blasio in the New York City mayoral election. After all, the editorial positions we’ve taken over the years are not particularly compatible with Mr. de Blasio’s liberal track record.
Filling two vacuums at once – one of Orthodox women taking a more public role and a second of Modern Orthodox Jews demonstrating the merits of religious Jewish practice – Allison Josephs has transformed her sweet and engaging webisodes and blog into a larger force. Jew in the City is now a franchise.
Yossi Klein Halevi’s Like Dreamers (Harper) explores the lives of seven Israeli paratroopers in the Six-Day War who, his subtitle suggests, “Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation.” It offers a fascinating variation on the theme of Israel at a fateful crossroads, in search of itself, following the wondrously unifying moment at the Western Wall in June 1967 when Jewish national sovereignty in Jerusalem was restored for the first time in nineteen centuries.
“Logically” speaking, after the millennia of hatred and destruction directed against us, there should not be one Jew in the world today who still keeps the Torah.
They were lining up for gas masks in Israel.
Apparently, at the very time of year we are supposed to be full of simcha, Hashem wants us to be aware of the possibility of danger. Indeed, during the Yom Tov of Sukkos, we read cataclysmic haftaras dealing with the ultimate war, the Milchemes Gog Umagog. Where does that war take place? In the Holy Land, of course, where the eyes of the world are always focused.
At the mikveh they were discussing Egypt.
So many things seem to be unraveling. It’s not just Egypt but the entire Middle East. No, it’s not just the Middle East; it’s the entire world.
What is the relationship between Pesach and Shavuos?
Rabbi Naftali Jaeger, rosh yeshiva of Sh’or Yoshuv, relates in the name of the Ishbitzer Rebbe a striking metaphor:
“In those days, when King Achashveirosh sat on his royal throne which was in Shushan the capital, in the third year of his reign, he made a feast for all his officials and servants, the army of Persia and Medea; the nobles and officials of the provinces being present, when he displayed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the honor of his splendorous majesty for many days, a hundred and eighty days.
“Israel has bad public relations.”
This is the perennial cry. “Israel must improve its image to convince the world of the justness of its cause.”
Let’s face it: this is not going to be an ordinary year.
We are praying very seriously this year because we are praying for our lives. Yes, I know: every year we pray for our lives. But how many feel it? This year, whether we want to or not, I think we are beginning to feel it.
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