V’zot HaTorah, And This is the Torah, The End of the Beginning

I sit here, Shabbat just ending, the chaggim are over, and I am so overwhelmed I do not even know where to begin, how to describe what I have experienced. More so, I want to capture the feeling, the engergy, the love, the emotion, everything I felt these last 25 hours and I don’t know how. Having the end of Sukkot/Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah all take place in one day, and on top of that, the day being Shabbat has been a gift to me. I have experienced a love of Torah, awakened my senses to the love that lives inside of me for celebrating my Judaism, exalting in the Torah, the love of learning, dancing, loving and laughing.
What a gift it is to end something, to finish the Torah, and then begin it all over again. Last year, I read the torah with a lens that allowed me to see it in a new light. I pushed myself to examine the words of the Torah in ways that they were applied to me personally, to my life, my world, as well as to our youth, I learned torah last year by teaching, making it relevant. This year, I want to learn Torah out of love, compassion, finding for myself the signs of God’s love for each of his/her creations. What a gift to be able to learn again, reexamine all that I have. I was struck sitting in services with the idea of being married to Torah. In parshat Bereshit it says that God said “It is not good for man to be alone.” This line is commonly used at weddings, when one finds their besheret. And while I fully believe that this is an accurate usage of the verse, I have found a new meaning as well. In my search for love, in the quest to quench my thirst for Judaism and learning, I have in a way become married to Torah. Just as it is not good for man to be alone, without a mate, so too, it was and is not good for me to be without torah, without learning in my life. As the hatan Torah and Kalah Bereshit came to the torah today, they created an image for me in which i felt as though I was connected to the Torah in a way I never have been before, one I cannot describe.
So, you might be wondering, what did i experience to make this so meaningful? Where did I go? How does Israel celebrate a two day chag in one day? Well, I will tell you! With incredible energy and excitiment, with family and friends, with singing and dancing, with laughter and love.
I began the holiday by going with my friends to a minyan called Yakar, which meets about 20 minutes from my apartment. Yakar is an orthodox minyan that has a mechitza (separate seading for men and women), and davens with remarkable intention and melodies. I usually love the Kabbalat Shabbat service there, but there wasn’t one that met my needs last night. That is, until we began the Hakafot (dancing with the Torahs). All of the sudden the men left the room, and the women took over. We danced with the Torah for more than an hour, singing, jumping, dancing, loving. There was something so beautiful about being and a room with probably close to 200 women dancing with the Torah, not worrying about what the men think, not showing off, looking to see who is there. Just dancing with each other, holding the Torah, some for the first time. Loving the torah. And then, I held the Torah, i danced with the Torah in my arms, sang my heart out, and found myself in a place i had not found before. I was at home in an environment that I would never have thought i could be at home. And so my holiday began with dancing and singing, Seeing people i haven’t seen in years, and connecting more with my close friends here. Watching my friend J find herself uplifted and moved by the dancing, ready to engage with Judaism, engage her soul with the life she is choosing, was a blessing. The gift is that I am able to help her, guide her, watch her as she begins her journey! The evening concluded with a long but yummy dinner with the rest of my friends at Steve’s place. I was in bed by midnight, gearing up for today.
This morning I met J at 8 and we walked to Kedem for davening. Kedem is an egalitarian minyan that meets in Jerusalem every Shabbat and Chag. This minyan is unaffiliated with a movement and completly lay led. The davening began at 8am and ended around 1:30ish. Again, i found myself inspired by the davening, the songs, the dancing, the love of Torah, of each other. WE began to dance with the torah, men and women together, embracing the Torah, embracing love of learning, Judaism, life. We sang and dang and dnaced until our feet hurt and then continued on. We combined so many services into the day, and each folded beautifully into the emotions i was feeling. We rejoiced with Hallel, Danced with the Torah for Hakafot, read the Torah, ended a journey and began anew (just like me), prayed Yizkor and remembered those whose spirit guides us but no longer physically walk this earth (a blessing in disguise. I miss my grammy, Zayde, Nana and so many others who have left me, but always find ways to bring their memory into my life each day, it was wonderful to have them with me!), Prayed for the rainy season to begin (at the exact moment we prayed, the weather began to change, it’s cooler, fall is here!), and sang our hearts out with Musaf. The entired day was filled with energy, with intention, and with Love.
And now, I feel alive, invigorated, ready to take on the world, take on my year, take on myself. I will change this year, i will continue to grow. I will love this year, more than i already do, I will love my family, my friends, myself. The year moves in a circle, sometimes, it is repetative. The trick, the key is to find meaning, find differences, find the love. This is the challenge of living year to year, month to month, week to week, day to day, hour to hour…. This is what I will do!
School starts on Monday, enjoying my last day of my 5 months of summer!
“Turn it over and over, you will find everything in it!” ~Rabbi Ben Bag Bag, Perkei Avot 5:24
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