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Simchas Torah

There is a famous joke about an am ha’aretz (one unlearned in Torah) who came to shul on Simchas Torah and danced with the Torah with all of his might. The Rabbi approached him and asked, “How come you celebrate with the Torah so much? You don’t even learn it at all the whole year ‘round?”

The fellow replied, “Rabbi, with all due respect, I would like to ask you a question in return. On Yom Kippur, when I confessed my sins, there was one on the list about taking bribery. Why did I have to say that? Am I in a position to take bribes? Who takes bribes? Rabbis and judges who are corrupt. It stands to reason then,” the man concluded, “that if I have to confess for your sins on Yom Kippur, then I can dance with your Torah on Simchas Torah!”

A Rebby of mine, Rabbi Varshavchik zt”l, would often tell a different version to this story, one which he liked very much. The layman replied, “So what if it’s my brother’s wedding? I share in his joy too!” In other words, even one who doesn’t learn should admire his brothers who do and should join them in their day of rejoicing.

But actually, neither version is correct. The truth is that everyone dances with the Torah, just as everyone is called up to the Torah on Simchas Torah, because every single Jew has his own individual part in the Torah. Some spend all of their time learning the Torah; some support institutions of Torah; and everyone has to observe its mitzvahs.

One’s obligation during the Days of Awe is to find his place in the Torah, and when he does, he can, and should, come to shul on Simchas Torah and celebrate with all of his might, thanking Hashem for allowing him to be part of an institution which was created even before this world was.

But in order to fulfill one’s duty properly, he must learn at least some Torah daily; just as one who purchases a complicated gadget must read the instructions in order to know how to use it correctly. Therefore, it is incumbent upon every single Jew, no matter what his personal situation is, to set aside some fixed time, every single day, to learn at least some Torah. And during this time, he should not be available for anything else except learning (except in emergencies, G-d forbid, which, by definition, should be very rare). No social obligations, no business obligations – nothing – should disturb him during this special time of day. Although difficult at first, after practicing this for a short while, he’ll be surprised at how much easier it becomes. And, little by little, he’ll be able to add more and more time to what will soon become his favorite time of the day.

May Hashem bless us with a love for His Holy Torah, and may we find our place in it and always rejoice in it, in this world and the world-to-come.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel