Simchat Torah 5780. God at the Center

October 19, 2019



We are approaching Simchat Torah when we celebrate the Torah's completion, and its start! We dance with the Torah in joy.


The transition between Sukkot and Simchat Torah is interesting.


For seven days of Sukkot, we encircle the Sefer Torah.

On Simchat Torah we take the Sifrei Torah and do seven circles around an empty center!


"We can appreciate encircling a mizbeach (the Temple altar) or a Sefer Torah, thereby acknowledging their centrality and holiness in Jewish life. But what is the significance of the Sifrei Torah encircling an empty center?


The answer is that the center is not empty. God is symbolically there. There is no place bereft of His presence. The encircling Sifrei Torah pay homage to their Divine author, acknowledging that the purpose of the Torah is to direct us to God.


We go around the Sefer Torah all of Sukkot acknowledging its central importance in Jewish life. …The Halakhah insists that God be experienced out of the disciplined life which is hallowed and cleansed through the purifying influence of mitzvot.


And so, for seven days we commit ourselves to Torah and Halakha in our lives and only then on Simhat Torah does the Torah itself incline us towards that awesome Presence in the center of the circle." (From Abraham R. Besdin's "Man of Faith in the Modern World" adapted from lectures of Rabbi Soloveitchik pgs 151-155)


Please discuss:

  • Is Simchat Torah about celebrating TORAH or celebrating GOD?

  • How do YOU feel God in your Jewish life?

  • When have you had a religious experience? A feeling of God? Do you feel God in performance of Halakha? In prayer? In dancing? In Torah study?

  • Do you agree with Rav Soloveitchik that God must first be experienced through the medium of Torah? Why is that so?

Rav Soloveitchik is suspicious of undirected spirituality, and he feels that the real Jewish route to God is through the laws and logic of Torah.

  • Do you agree?

Hag Sameach!



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