I’ve come to the conclusion we need to change the date of Simchat Torah. Our Jewish festivals must be re-envisioned as inspirational community gatherings of joyful spiritual Jewish celebration. Every single festival needs to be a time of great community involvement and meaning.
Every year, the season of reflection and renewal is culminated by the celebration of Simchat Torah (literally “the rejoicing of the Torah”).
I did not have a typical Reform Movement upbringing, and would say that the three years I lived on an island in Alaska are probably most emblematic of that.
My commute to work every morning is not typical. I drive through the Roaring Fork Valley with majestic, now snow-covered, mountains on my left and my right. The sky is often a clear, bright blue, and the sun glimmers off the powdery snow that shifts in the wind. I am the cantor at the Aspen Jewish Congregation, and I certainly feel blessed to live and work in such a beautiful place. This quote from Isaiah is particularly fitting for this part of the country, as the people here are very in touch with the nature around them - often finding their spiritual center while skiing a run or hiking in the hills.
Tu BiShvat, the birthday of the trees (or the new year of the trees) is a minor Jewish holiday.
On Simchat Torah, I watch as the Torah scroll is carefully unfurled onto a series of long connected tables – the text so much more than designs scattered on parchment.
On Simchat Torah, as we read the final portion of the Torah and immediately beginning again, what can the blessings to the Israelites teach us about our world today?
Thanks to social media and electronic devices you can check in on Foursquare and read the Mishkan T'filah prayer book on a handheld device at the same time. Yet for all the modern inventions, the Torah remains unaffected.