This is my love letter to a month of active participation, in preparation for a holiday that equally thrills and overwhelms me: Simchat Torah.
Tishrei: The first month of the Jewish year, which encompasses four diverse and unique holidays: Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year; Yom Kippur, a day of atonement; Sukkot, a holiday which symbolizes G-d’s protection and love for mankind; Simchat Torah, a fun-loving, dance till you drop holiday where we celebrate the end of the Torah reading cycle.
Simchat Torah is the pinnacle of the month. We made it this far, and now, it’s time to celebrate. The thing I love about this holiday is that it hands you uncensored happiness on a silver platter. The word Simcha means joy. We are meant to be happy with the Torah, to dance our hearts out all throughout the night. We’re literally being handed an opportunity to experience joy—to experience active participation through the stomping of our feet and clapping of our hands.
We come to the end of a full-speed ahead, holy-action packed month. In four days, we’ll wrap it up, tie it up in a neat little bow and move on with our lives. Back to the grind.
But what if we don’t? What if we come out of these experiences feeling different? The high holidays meant to ground us, and provide us with tools for the year ahead. As cliche as it sounds, we are meant to come away from this month feeling somewhat transformed. The time itself offers us opportunities and the tools to manifest this reality, but it’s up to us to bite the bait.
(I’d like to take this opportunity to share that I totally did not bite the bait this year, and am only waking up now to the realization that the holidays are over in four days, and so I feel I must catch the energy by the coat tails before it’s gone for good).
We’ve been immersed in ritual, time bound symbolism. Tishrei reminds us that we cannot be completely passive when it comes to our lives. A life worth living is one that involves active participation and active response.
Active participation is the key to a wonderful life. Don’t just go to shul to daven on Rosh Hashana. Really daven—pour your heart into it. Don’t just enter the Sukkah—be in the Sukkah. Feel the hug from Hashem. Embrace the symbols and rituals.
Yes, it’s time consuming; yes, it’s difficult to explain and justify an entire month off in September (!) but how else do you intend to spend the one, precious life you’ve been given? Active participation. Active response.
Sometimes, we need reminders: A day of prayer, a day of fasting; a lulav, a Sukkah, a dance with the Torah; time with family, unbound by the drives of day to day life. It’s glorious—this is the way life should be.
Now is the time to set the pace and intention for the upcoming year. My intention? I will play an active role in my life. Not just during Simchas Torah; not when it’s easy and the tools are not as readily available to me—when there’s no Sukkah to embrace me or no honey to dip my challah in. When life is life, I will still play a role.
It’s not just me, right? The world has taken notice. This season has enveloped the world in action. Speaking up. Sharing Truths. Actively taking hold of our lives. Opening our hearts to the experience of living. It’s in the air. Grab it and don’t let go. Life is handing all of us an opportunity to respond—to dance, to cry, to express—actively. I hope you find the tools you need to actively engage with your life.
Let’s close this chapter of Tishrei with dancin’ shoes, open hearts, minds, and hands. Full on, open ended, wild, loving joy. Active participation, active response.