What would you think of a group of Shakespearean scholars suddenly jumping up and dancing with the book of Macbeth or Hamlet? And what about a team of philosophers skipping and swaying with Aristotle’s Ethicsor Metaphysics? Or stomping their feet and hopping up and down withHomer’s Illiad or Odyssey?
How would you react to any community designating a day to dance and sing with any work of literature?
Clearly such behavior would be considered very strange, if not outright mad! Seeing such a sight would make you think that there must be something very wrong with the people involved.
And yet this is exactly what Jews do on Simchat Torah – they clutch Torah scrolls close to their bodies and dance the night away to the point of frenzy and ecstasy!
What is it about the Torah that we Jews love so much? Why is our relationship with the Torah so unique and different in its passion – even compared to other passionate religions relationship with their texts?
In a fascinating talk to a group of European Cardinals – who came to find out the secret power of Jewish scholarship – a rabbi asked: “What is unique about the number 304,805? And how about 5,888”? Then he proceeded to explain to them the specialness of these numbers, how they capture the uniqueness of the Torah, and why we dance with the Torah on Simchat Torah.
As Arabs rage in the streets because they feel their religion has been blasphemed, Simchat Torah offers us a fascinating contrast in the way we Jews react to our faith being persecuted, humiliated and attacked for over 2000 years. While they rage, we dance.
This is a two-part sermon:
Part I: Why Do We Love the Torah?
Part II: We Dance While They Rage