There is a custom on Yom Kippur to ask the Sefer Torah for mechilah for not giving it enough respect (by not learning enough etc.).
In the spirit of this minhag, when we get a hakafah on Simchas Torah, we should reflect on how the Sefer Torah feels about us. As we hug and dance with it, does it look at us in a bemused sort of way, as if to say, “Who are you? I don’t recognize you. I haven’t seen you much this year”?
If we have fallen short, does that mean we shouldn’t dance with the Torah? Of course not. What it does mean, however, is that when we hold onto the Torah, it should be with a renewed commitment to spend more time with it during the coming year.
When people drop a sefer, they usually kiss it. Rav Pam, zt”l, used to say that even better is to open the sefer and learn something from it. In a similar vein, when dancing and chanting, “Toras Hashem temima, meshivas nafesh – The Torah of Hashem is perfect, rejuvenating our soul,” we shouldn’t just sing with gusto and dance. We should also think about how we can upgrade our Torah output for the coming year.
A great idea is to make a commitment to be maavir sedra for which, the Gemara says, we will be rewarded with prolonged life and quality days. Another idea is to consider starting Daf Yomi with the rest of the world on January 3. As a good friend of mine said, we all should ask ourselves, “How many good seven-and-a-half years do I have left?”
Committing to a course that has as its goal the completion of the entire Shas – uniting with the rest of the world as per the recommendation of such greats as Rav Meir Shapiro, the Tchorkover Rebbe, Rav Chaim Ozer and the Chofetz Chaim – should fill us with heady excitement on Simchas Torah.
Another idea while we frolic with the crowd is to accept upon ourselves learning mussar – ethical works like Mesilas Yesharim, Chovos HaLevavos, Orchos Tzadikim, or more contemporary works such as the sefarim of Rav Avigdor Miller, zt”l. We are told that if a person only has a half an hour to learn Torah every day, he should learn mussar. Then he’ll discover that he really has more time to learn!
Studying mussar is also a wonderful activity to do together with one’s spouse. I personally witnessed Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, studying mussar with his rebbetzin.
In the merit of our renewed commitment to learning, may Hashem bless us with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.