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    Who is rejoicing?

    simchat torah 2The name Simchat Torah is ambiguous. The conventional translation helps very little.

    To say “The Rejoicing of the Torah” tells us two things, but not what we really need to know. It tells us that this is a day of rejoicing; it tells us that the rejoicing involves the Torah.

    But what it fails to make clear is who is actually doing the rejoicing. Is the Torah rejoicing in us, or are we rejoicing in the Torah?

    If you ask me which option I support, the answer is, “Both!”

    I thought of using marriage as a comparison. Who rejoices when a couple get married – the bride or the groom? Surely the answer is that they both rejoice; they rejoice in each other.

    Yes, I know the song, based in fact on Talmudic sources, Ketzad m’rakk’dim lif’nei ha-kallah – “How should we dance before the bride?” But I don’t think this was ever meant to suggest that the bride rejoices more than the groom.

    Another passage: Psalm 19:6, which speaks of the sun gleaming like a groom emerging from his chuppah. But this surely does not imply that the bride gleams less than the groom.

    There is no Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark, as people used to say; there is no marriage without both a bride and a groom, and there is no Simchat Torah without both the Torah and the Jewish people rejoicing in each other.

    Let’s make sure this Simchat Torah that we and the Torah feel happy with one another, and that the joy continues throughout the year ahead.

    Chag Same’ach!

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