This year, 5777 aka 2016, was the first year in a long, long time that I did not attend evening hakafot for Simhat Torah. I am sad about this, but I did not feel well much of that day, and was concerned that if I came down with a full-blown cold or fever, I would not be able to chant the daytime haftorah for which I had signed up. My younger daughter also did not feel well, so my husband, daughters and I just sat at home and went to sleep early.

I remember a few significant erev Simhat Torah dates in my life. The first was when I was 4 or 5 years old, and it was the very first Simhat Torah I can recall at all. I wore a houndstooth checked jacket which I adored, along with nice black shoes. I recall marching around in the street which was a rare exciting treat; this was at East 21st Street at Albemarle Road in Flatbush, Brooklyn. (And if you have read my essays regularly, you may realize this was Shaare Torah, a synagogue which has since merged with the East Midwood Jewish Center, and that building in Flatbush became a Baptist Church.) I remember getting a paper flag to wave, and it was so much fun. But when I got home I took off my beloved jacket and saw a big blister on my right elbow. I was so squeamish as my mother took care of the wound, puncturing it and bandaging it.

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Come to think of it, I hurt my right elbow on erev Simhat Torah many years later. Five or six years ago on Simhat Torah, I got pulled into a vigorous dance circle and my elbow was yanked roughly. It hurt for weeks afterward, so I went for acupuncture sessions to cure it. This treatment worked, but over the past few years occasionally I have wrenched that elbow and hurt it again. In fact I did so a few weeks ago, trying to reach an item in the back seat of my car.


Another noteworthy erev Simhat Torah in my life took place when I was 13 or 14, back when the East Midwood Jewish Center used to hold hakafot and dancing in the street in front of the synagogue, which is Ocean Avenue, a major road. Someone handed me a Torah scroll to carry around, or perhaps I asked politely and an adult handed it to me. I marched around for a minute or two and then an older man (can't recall who) grabbed it from me and scolded me. I don't recall if he scolded me because I was female, a teen, or both. Whoever it was, did he realize that in his fury he might have dropped that Torah? Whose fault would it have been? Hmm!

And last year, I went to a central Brooklyn location for hakafot. It took place at the Grand Army Plaza, just north of Prospect Park and across the street from the Central Library. Hundreds of people had gathered there to dance, sing, chant and even hear some musicians who played (I recall trumpet, drums and a guitar or two). That was a lot of fun.

Well, I hope I am in fine physical health next year because I sure as heck would not want to miss out again on the fun and joy of erev Simhat Torah.


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