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.
I like the symmetry of the concept of return.
I like the idea that, no matter how linear we think we are, or time is, or God is, we tend to find a way back. Even God recognizes this view: Why else create t’shuvah (repentance) before ever creating the heavens and the earth?
One of the great paradoxes of being an American Reform Jew who chose to make aliyah (move to Israel) is that the whole concept of majority and minority is turned on its head. One the one hand, as a Jew, I am culturally and ethnically now part of the majority.
“Rejoicing in the Torah” doesn’t require us to find joy in every verse. It doesn’t mean that we concur with every choice made by the people in it.
We read the entire Torah over a year, beginning the cycle on the same week as Simchat Torah. The Torah is divided into 54 portions – or parashiyot – and, generally, one portion is read each week on Shabbat.