An article by a rabbi for the High Holidays is expected to be about Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. But at Chabad you can always expect the unexpected, so I will ignore those holidays and instead I will focus on what is actually the most important holiday of this entire month—Simchat Torah.
Huh? Did I just read that right? Did Rabbi Zalmanov just say that Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are not as important as Simchat Torah?!
First, let me say something about myself: as a Chabad rabbi I always prefer joy over solemnity. I certainly rather officiating at a wedding than at a funeral; and when it comes to holidays I find more meaning in those that are all about rejoicing than about somberness.
Of course Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are vital components of our observances this month, but they are only the beginning.
You see, the entire month of Tishrei, and in fact the month of Elul leading up to it too, is like a ladder. We climb this ladder each day as we work on enhancing our relationship with G-d. It is a time of year that we are given an opportunity to start over and pledge to lead better Jewish lives. And this comes to a head on Simchat Torah, the final holiday of the month.
An interesting analogy is that of a parent and child. In order to succeed as a parent, there needs to be an element of firmness and discipline. A child must know that there are rules that will be enforced. But that isn’t what the parent-child relationship is all about. Ask any parent what they want most for their children, and almost everyone will reply that they want their children to be happy.
Yes, we discipline, but that’s not what makes our relationship. The best moments of our lives are when our children laugh and smile.
The same goes for our relationship with G-d. We start the month of holidays off with the solemnity of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, but what G-d really wants is for us to celebrate. Our true relationship with G-d is expressed when we dance with the Torah scrolls on Simchat Torah.
Being the last holiday of the month tells us that it is the greatest; the holidays that come before it are all a prelude to this ultimate celebration. It is the holiday that we celebrate having reached the top rung of ladder. We express our joy by letting go of our inhibitions, rejoicing in our successfully making it to this point.
This is a pure joy that cannot be interrupted by anything negative, because it is all about our essential connection to G-d, which can never be severed. Regardless of how a Jew lives his or her life, at the core we are all the same, and we can all celebrate together.
At Chabad Simchat Torah is always a good time, for both children and adults. We dance, eat, have some l’chaim, and there may even be some surprises. If you’ve made it through the High Holidays, and even if you didn’t, it is only right that you enjoy Simchat Torah.