Why rejoice at the end and not at the beginning?

Why is the holiday "Simchat Torah" celebrated when we complete the reading of the Torah, and not when we begin the new cycle?

Rabbi Shlomo Sobol ,

Rabbi Shlomo Sobol
Rabbi Shlomo Sobol
INN: Daniel Malichi

Why rejoice at the end and not at the beginning?

It is an ancient custom of Israel to do hakafot of singing and dancing on Simchat Torah. Why do we wait for the completion of the Torah in order to celebrate, and why do we celebrate with closed Torah scrolls? And what will be this year?

When one receives a gift, they feel the most joy as soon as they receive it. Once they have used and become accustomed to it, naturally the joy diminishes. This is why according to Halakha we should say the bracha of שהחיינו at the time of a major purchase or at the time of its first use.

If so, the question arises: why, in the celebration of the Torah is the opposite true? Why is the holiday "Simchat Torah" celebrated when we complete the reading of the Torah, and not when we begin the new cycle of the Torah on Shabbat Bereishit or even on Shavuot?

The answer is that although with physical things the main joy is at the beginning and then it fades, but with spirituality as time goes on and reveals the power and importance of the acquisition, one’s joy only grows. An example of this is a wedding. A couple experiences great joy at their wedding, but the hope is that by the time they celebrate their first anniversary their joy will only increase, because they are constantly discovering more and more good in their spouse.

This is even more true of the Torah. When the people of Israel received the Torah on Har Sinai and when a Jew begins to study Torah here and now, it may be difficult at first to see the greatness of the Torah, and it may seem like a mere book of laws. But when one delves into the Torah and understands that the word of G-d is revealed in the Torah and the commandments, then they are able to see the divine light in it, and realize that the way to cling to G-d is through the study of the Torah, and their joy only increases. Therefore, the main joy is at the completion of the Torah.

But the truth is that it is impossible to complete the Torah. When we understand the infinite divine light of the Torah, we realize that as we learn, we are constantly discovering more and more depths in it. Therefore, it is the custom to read the beginning of Parshas Bereishit on Simchat Torah, even though we read Parshas Bereishit on the Shabbat after Simchat Torah. This is in order to show that there is no end to the study of the Torah.

This great truth that the Divine Torah is the way through which one connects to the L-rd of the world, is true for each and every Jew wherever they are. Intrinsically there is no difference between one Jew and another in their connection to the Torah, so on Simchat Torah we all dance in a circle. Just as in a circle the distance between each point in the circumference and the center of the circle is equal, so the soul of every Jew is equally connected to the Torah, and there is no one who is better than another. This is also the reason why we celebrate with a closed Torah scroll, and not with actual Torah study; to show that on Simchat Torah we celebrate the spiritual connection that every Jew has with Torah, no matter his abilities or level of Torah learning.

This year, too, when Simchat Torah celebrations will be reduced to a bare minimum, the spiritual connection between the people of Israel and the Torah is there and is eternal even if it cannot be expressed with actual hand-to-hand dancing. Moreover, perhaps this year, this special connection will be even more evident, because when something cannot be physically expressed, the soul longs even more to give it voice. So this year, when we long for the hafakot that we are accustomed to, we pray that we will return, with the help of G-d, in the coming years to dance with the Torah with even more devotion and connection to G-d.

Rabbi Shlomo Sobol is the head of the Barkai Rabbinical Organization and the rabbi of the Shaarei Yonah Menachem Modi'in community.