September 11, 2001 Elul 23 5762
October 10, 2001 Tishrei 23, Simchat Torah 5762
Today the world trembles:
On Rosh Hashana eve the world is in a faint and it trembles.
On Simchat Torah, during birchat Shehechionu on the Torah, the
world calms down Rebbe Sholom DovBer of Lubavitch, Simchat
Torah 5650 (Likkutei Dibburim vol. 1 p. 5)
What can be accomplished on the two days of Rosh Hashana
with tears can be achieved on Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah
with joy The RebbeYosef Yitzchak
Jews celebrate and
it is called Simchat Torah, and they adorn the Sefer Torah with
its crown Zohar III 256b
As we have been struck by the passions of violence from another
part of the world, we now have been challenged as to what our
true passions stand for. What we believe in and are ready to
What more appropriate time to be entering into the climax and
finale of the High Holiday season: Simchat Torah.
Simchat Torah this year is 30 days since September 11. Jewish
tradition teaches that 30 days shloshim - concludes
a distinct stage of grief and mourning over loss. It represents
a psychological state where we can begin to move from shock
and tears to a new cathartic stage when we can channel our powerful
emotions into positive and proactive change.
What is Simchat Torah?
Following the seven days of Sukkot and the eighth day of Shemini
Atzeret we celebrate Simchat Torah (in Israel Simchat Torah
is celebrated on the same day as Shemini Atzeret), the simcha
(joy) upon concluding the reading of the entire Torah. All
of us dance and sing the day and night away with Torah scrolls
with an unlimited joy that is greater than any other time of
Why celebrate with the Torah? Because there is no greater joy
than the celebration of having the Divine mandate and spiritual
blueprint with which to live by. Torah is a roadmap, an x-ray,
if you wish, of our soul and of the universe that allows us
the eternal power to make sense of our lives and the world around
us. Torah empowers us with tools to navigate our way through
the dark and unexpected roads of the journey called life. No
gift is greater than having direction in this world, particularly
in uncertain times. And that is the best reason to celebrate.
And celebrate we do, without restraint.
Why do we conclude and celebrate Torah at this particular point
in time and not during Shavuot when the Torah was given at Mount
Sinai? Because the true celebration of Torah is possible only
after we have been forgiven and received the Second Tablets
on Yom Kippur. On Shavuot we cannot celebrate, because the Torah
and its recipients were not yet tested. As we see, 40 days after
Moses received the First Tablets on Shavuot, the people built
the Golden Calf, which led to the breaking of the tablets. Only
after Moses prayed for 80 days; prevailed upon G-d to forgive
us and received the Second Tablets on Yom Kippur; only then
is it possibly to truly celebrate. Because now we have been
broken and learned that we can rebuild after loss. Now we know
that even flawed human beings can grow through the process and
embrace Torah and use it as a map for life. On Shavuot we appreciate
that perfect people can use Torah to live their lives. But what
about all the rest of us? After Yom Kippur all of us, including
the imperfect ones among us, can embrace Torah and live by it.
So we dance on Simchat Torah. All of us dance together, regardless
of background, education and age. And we dance with a wrapped
Sefer Torah, demonstrating a celebration that transcends intellect.
The Torah contains a very complex philosophical system and legal
structure. However on Simchat Torah we celebrate the essence
of Torah, the essential connection between us and Torah and
The connection with the system and logic of Torah
distinguishes between us, recognizing the distinctions of education,
intelligence, level of commitment and effort. The celebration
of this dimension of Torah is also defined and limited relative
to the particular level of understanding and commitment each
of us has to Torah. But the essence of Torah - the integral
bond that we have with our Divine mandate and calling - connects
us all as one, and its celebration is unlimited and absolute.
That is the celebration of Simchat Torah: a celebration and
dance of absolute and unconfined passion. We dance with our
legs and they lift our entire bodies and minds to another dimension.
Simchat Torah is both our celebration with Torah and the celebration
of Torah with us. Yes, we have the power to crown the Torah
and lift it to an entirely new level.
War has been launched by America and its allies against the
enemies of humanity, and in some ways we are left with even
more uncertainty. As we analyze the present situation our minds
seem quite inadequate. The only thing that stands us in good
stead in uncertain, insecure times like this, are our absolute
foundations. We are in need of absolute faith and belief in
our inner value system. We are in need of passion, a passion
for our cause and calling, a passion no less than the passion
of those waging war on us.
Now more than ever we are in need of the Simchat Torah dance
- a dance of unbridled passion, passion that we need today that
is beyond any limits and definitions, a dance with no constraints.
One of the most defining moments of my life that I only appreciate
today in retrospect, as it is with most true defining moments,
was back in 1966. Sukkot that year was a very wet one. Unceasing
rains saturated the Sukkot (portable shacks) in New York, which
left those sitting within, well wet, quite wet.
The Rebbe, as was his custom each year, led a farbrengen
(gathering) in the central Sukkah adjacent to the synagogue
at 770 Eastern Parkway. As a young child I walked into the Sukkah
and it was pouring inside. Not just pouring. The schach evergreens
covering the Sukkah were drenched and dripping globs on the
Rebbe and the hundreds of people participating in the farbrengen.
I dont remember how I processed it as a child, but today in
retrospect I remember that this scene had a most profound impact
on me. The Rebbe could have easily postponed the farbrengen
to a dry day. What we call a rain date. He could
have held the farbrengen indoors. After all, no meal
was being eaten, and the farbrengen could have taken
place without the saying of Lchaim. There was no real
necessary reason to be sitting in the Sukkah. Its one thing
if a meal had to be eaten, then Chabad custom is to eat even
in a wet Sukkah. But here there was no meal.
So, why did the Rebbe insist on sitting in the Sukkah for hours
on end, and causing all his Chassidim to follow suit?!
As a child the deep impression it left on me was this: Here
was a man who was absolutely dedicated to his cause. A man ready
to go all the way. A man of complete and undiluted passion.
Rain, shine, no matter every year a farbrengen was held
on this day of Sukkot, this year was not going to be different.
And instinctively, I as a child, trusted the Rebbe because I
saw a man who would not compromise. Nothing could shake him.
Life was determined not by circumstances and comforts. On the
contrary, the Rebbe and his cause defined his circumstances.
That is what we need today: Absolute passion for our cause.
There is no way that we can remain comfortable and complacent
in a war against passionate enemies. Complacency is no match
for passion, no matter how misplaced the passion.
So we have Simchat Torah when we celebrate with unbridled passion
in a dance and song that transcends out limited intellects and
Someone asked me what will stop people from returning to the
comfort of complacency and thus losing our commitment to fighting
this war. My answer: It is our work to STOP anyone from falling
back into the sleep of complacency. I, for one, am completely
committed to be relentless and not allow people to fall asleep.
To awake them as we linger into spiritual slumber.
If anything should remain forever changed after September 11th
it should be that we will no longer be complacent about our
freedoms and blessings; that we always continue to fan the ignited
flames of passion for our beliefs.
And thats why we have Simchat Torah: To awaken us to our
true passions and beliefs. And to keep us awake.
The absolute passion of joy on Simchat Torah gives us strength
for the entire year.
May we use this day well. May we embrace it and allow it to
connect us in joy to our essence. To who we really are and what
we really stand for.
As we say the 17 (the numerical value of the word tov)
verses preceding the Simchat Torah dance, let us remember their
You [G-d] have revealed yourself your true essence so that
we can perceive that Hashem is Elokim [the transcendent dimension
of G-dliness is one with the G-dliness within nature]; there
is none else besides Him.
To Him who alone performs great wonders, for His kindness
G-d will give strength to His people; G-d will bless His
people with peace.
Whenever the Ark set out, Moses would say, Arise, o G-d,
and Your enemies will be dispersed and Your foes will flee before
Your sovereignty is sovereign over all worlds. And your dominion
is throughout all generations.
And finally, the 17th verse:
For from Zion shall go forth Torah; and the word of G-d from
How prescient and relevant today are these words of Isaiah:
It shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain
of G-ds house shall be established on top of the mountains and
all the nations shall flow unto it. And many nations shall go
and say, let us go up to the mountain of G-d and we will teach
us of his ways and we will walk in his paths, for from Zion
shall go forth the Torah; and the word of G-d from Jerusalem.
And he shall judge among the nations and they shall beat their
swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks,
nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall
they learn war any more.
You can now order the tape of Rabbi Jacobsons
elaborate class on this topic.
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This life skills article is one of many services
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us here at The Meaningful Life Center are working overtime to
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We need to join together as never before to nourish
the grass roots awakening that has consumed this nation and
its gravitation to faith and G-d, and transform it into a permanent
spiritual transformation. Our calling today is to demonstrate
leadership and light up the way in which to forge ahead amidst
this tragedy, and these new, challenging times.
Our sages teach us that by intensifying our charitable acts
we open up new channels of blessings. In this spirit, may your
commitment be a source of blessings in all aspects of your life.
We look forward to working together with you in this divine
cause. Through our joint effort we can grow through this process
and build a better world a world where there is no evil
and destruction because it is filled with Divine knowledge
as the waters cover the sea.
Phillip, Jason, Neria, Shoshana, Chani, Sarah, Yael, Eli
and of all us at The Meaningful Life Center
Helping You Redefine What Truly Matters
Our hearts, condolences and prayers go out to all the families
directly affected by this calamity, and to all New Yorkers,
Americans and the entire human race against whom this atrocity
WHAT IS THE MOST POWERFUL THING YOU CAN DO
IN RESPONSE TO SEPTEMBER 11?
Join us in creating a passionate spiritual
revolution for the good.
As passions of violence have been released
on us, against humanity, our most powerful response is to counter
with a passionate revolution of purpose, with no less passion
and drive than the evil being waged against us.
This is our mission at the Meaningful Life