One of the most joyous holidays in the Hebrew calendar is Simchat Torah (“Rejoicing of the Torah”). This celebration, with all of the joy and excitement of the holiday, contains rituals that date back thousands of years.
A long line of tables had been set up in advance to accommodate the entire length of the Torah scroll from the beginning to the end. Rabbi Chizner came in, holding the Torah and, with the help of Cantor Deborah Jacobson and some of the congregants, began to carefully unroll the Torah along the tables, starting at Genesis “In the Beginning—-” and ending with the final words in Deuteronomy, “for all the awesome power that Moses displayed before all Israel.”
This yearly cycle of reading the last portion in Deuteronomy and immediately reading the first portion in Genesis are historic and symbolic. Jews around the world are performing this exact ritual on this day of Simchat Torah.
After the reading of the Torah by Cantor Jacobson, and explanations by Rabbi Chizner, the congregation moved into the Sanctuary. Everyone received a small paper flag, Torahs were taken from the ark after appropriate blessings and the ritual called “hakafot” began. With Cantor Jacobson leading the singing, the march began around the Sanctuary, with three Torah scrolls on the shoulders of members strong enough to carry them, followed by the children and all others, each holding their little flags and singing. The children of the Temple Judea’s Religious School, along with their parents and other members of the Temple, were wide-eyed with delight.
—Submitted by Temple Judea