A marvelous way to begin: Finding true joy in Simhat Torah

The first reading is the underpinning of the notion of creatio ex nihilo, God creating the world out of nothing.

By MICHAEL COHEN
October 8, 2017 17:53
3 minute read.
RABBI MICHAEL M. COHEN teaching his ‘Bible as a Key to Environmental Thought’ class at the Arava Ins

RABBI MICHAEL M. COHEN teaching his ‘Bible as a Key to Environmental Thought’ class at the Arava Institute.. (photo credit: REBEKAH SANCHEZ CRUZ)

Moses did not celebrate Simhat Torah, nor did King David or King Solomon. In the Mishna, we do read references about Shabbat, weekday and festival readings of the Torah, but no mention of Simhat Torah. The completion of the annual reading of the Torah, around Sukkot, after the beginning of the Jewish year, and not at the end of the Jewish year during Elul, carries with it an echo when Moses instructed the Torah to be read on Sukkot during the Sabbatical year, and when Ezra also read the Torah during Sukkot. At some point the Torah evolved to be completed right after Sukkot on Shmini Atzeret, which we learn from the Babylonian Talmud, Megila 31a.

Rabbi Shlomo Brody points out, “by completing the cycle after Sukkot, as opposed to before Rosh Hashana, these communities were able to place Deuteronomy’s major speeches of admonition before major holidays.

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