Sivan Rahav-Meir
Sivan Rahav-MeirEyal ben Ayish

"After the holidays" - an Israeli expression for the period after Simchat Torah - has finally arrived. "After the corona" has not. This was a crazy Tishrei –challenging, depressing, amazing.

Tishrei began with small scale slichot prayers, continued with Rosh Hashanah shofar blowing from apartment balconies and in public parks, progressed through Yom Kippur services held early in the morning so that fasting outdoor worshippers could escape the heat, and culminated in a Sukkot holiday held without guests or celebrations. Hoshana Rabbah, the last night of Sukkot, was marked by remote Torah learning that broke all records for the number of participants.

And Simchat Torah, when people are the most packed together? Families in isolation did hakafot in their living rooms, while young children who peeked into synagogues could not understand why there was no candy, no "action," and why prayer services had so few worshippers - who were dancing where they stood and not with each other.

And as the holiday ended with the (traditional in Israel ) second set of hakafot, hundreds of trucks were dispatched to cities, towns, and villages throughout the country with a singer and a keyboardist or simply a sound system. When people heard the music they went out to their balconies to dance accompanied by children in pajamas, while old folks in wheelchairs waved with glee.

The only ones who danced at the empty Kotel plaza were residents of the Old City's Jewish Quarter. The head of the Ramat Gan Yeshiva, Rabbi Yehoshua Shapira, danced alone Motsaei Shabbat in a study hall that in a typical year fills with hundreds of dancers. Instead, thousands watched the rabbi from home and danced along with him.

And what now? In Hasidic books it is written that there are certain medicines which are taken only once a year, with a strong dose, that are sufficient for the entire year. Such is the month of Tishrei. We received a powerful dose of faith, strength, joy, hope, responsibility, creativity, prayer, family, solidarity. May it all remain with us throughout the year.

And I want to quote an article written in Hebrew by my husband, Yedidia Meir:

"Something very festive starts this week and it would be a shame to miss it, especially at the beginning of such a challenging year. Immediately following Simchat Torah, we will open the most basic learning cycle in Judaism.

"With all due respect (and there is much respect!) for the daf yomi (daily page of Gemara), the daily Mishnah, the daily halakha (Torah law), and the daily Rambam (Mishneh Torah), this week the first installment of the most fundamental cycle begins with the Torah portion of Bereishit. The weekly Torah portion is divided into seven parts, one for each day of the week, and it is customary to learn them with Rashis’ commentary.

"Over the past 11 years, we celebrated Simchat Torah in the middle of the week, which did not really allow time to properly promote daily Torah study since we had to cram seven days of Torah study into just a few days. So we started off on the wrong foot, had to catch up and, before we knew it, the second Torah portion of Noah had already arrived.

"But now after 11 years, it has finally happened: a full week to give Bereishit its due. We have seven days to devote to it, one part for each day of the week. We can study alone or with a partner. We can study with the kids, by telephone with our parents, with grandma and grandpa, or with a friend in isolation. During this period in particular, we desperately need these few minutes of stability and daily sanity -- an inspiring routine. There is nothing to lose and much to gain by at least trying to begin this daily Torah study."

• Translation by Yehoshua Siskin