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    Adding a new festival

    In a traditional faith like Judaism it is understandable that new commandments are not to be introduced, so how can the Jewish people have brought into being a new festival like Simchat Torah which has no roots in the Bible?

    Yehudah HaLevi’s answer is that the prohibition applies to individuals, not to the sages of Israel.

    When the sages institute something new, it is in order to strengthen the existing structures of Judaism. Thus their “Seven Commandments of the Rabbis” include kindling Shabbat lights with the purpose of strengthening the hold of Shabbat. They include chanting Hallel on festive days, which enhances the joy of the occasion.

    Simchat Torah enriches the Jewish love affair with the Torah, especially by means of the regular reading of the Chumash.

    Making the Torah reading an annual obligation not only stresses that the whole of the Torah is sacred, but emphasises the authority of the Babylonian custom of reading the Torah over the course of one year (as opposed to Eretz Yisra’el where they took three years).

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