Taking It to the Streets

Nov 24, 2014

by Rabbi Binyomin Adilman

On Simchas Torah and for Hakofos Shnios (the night after Simchas Torah) the minhag in Klal Yisroel is to dance and rejoice with the Torah – even in the streets. In Darche Noam this is our minhag as well. On Simchas Torah morning we take the Sifrei Torah out and rejoice on Rechov Beit HaKerem: rabbonim, yeshiva students and neighbors all together.

Given the extreme respect we have for everything connected with the Torah, this seems inappropriate. On the king’s birthday it is proper for all of his subjects to go to the palace, to behold the king sitting in all his splendor and glory on the throne, and perhaps rejoice with song and dance in his presence; all for his honor. Similarly, on Simchas Torah we should really open the Aron Kodesh, sing and dance in honor of the Torah, but leave the Sifrei Torah in their place. Why do we remove the Torah scrolls from their holy abode, carry them around and around with exuberant dancing and singing, and even take them out into the streets?

The sefer Mayan Hamoed explains our minhag with a parable.

An Arab merchant had twin daughters who grew up inseparable; they were the greatest of friends in heart and soul. However, the time came for them to marry. One of the girls married the sheik of a remote desert domain. The second married a prosperous merchant in the big city. The daughter who married the sheik was married according to local custom, dressed from head to toe in layers of expensive silk and linen, adorned with bracelets and necklaces and a jewel-studded tiara, then led to her husband’s home accompanied by musicians and dancing. The daughter who married the merchant was treated according to the European custom and received only an engagement ring, a wedding ring, a bracelet and a necklace. Her husband regarded her with respect. He sought out her opinion and valued her advice. The entire household was managed according to her directives. They lived in harmony and enjoyed a life of partnership and togetherness.

One day the merchant’s wife told her husband that she desired to visit her sister in her desert home. He agreed and arranged for her immediate departure. Messengers preceded the merchant’s wife and she was received with great honor when she arrived. Attendants escorted her to her sister, who sat like a queen on her chair dressed in an exquisite gown and adorned with dazzling jewelry. With great awe she exclaimed, “How do I envy you, my sister. You are indeed a queen ruling in her palace!”

A pained looked came over her face, as she answered wearily, “Dear sister, do not envy me. How grievous is my fate. I sit here as if shackled to my corner. I must always be hidden from people and their prying spiteful eyes; I am not allowed to go out and I have almost no contact with my husband. He values neither my opinions nor me. What good is my wealth and privilege when I cannot even come and go as I please! I would gladly give this all up for a few moments of affection, respect and freedom!”

The Sefer Torah, dressed in silk and linen, adorned with gold and silver, bells and pomegranates remains most of the time in the Aron Kodesh. If we turn our back on the Torah and its mitzvohs and live our lives ignoring its wisdom, then of what real worth are the ornate Aron Kodesh, and the Shuls with their marbled interiors, magnificent stained glass and cushy furniture.

Therefore, on Simchas Torah we take out the Sifrei Torah, dance and sing with them in the Shuls and out in the street to proclaim that the Torah is our queen, inside and outside. We are prepared to give our lives to protect its honor and we will live our lives only according to its wisdom and guidance. “Minhag Yisrael Torah hee” – this minhag is our simcha and indeed, it is Torah.

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