“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.
Coming a month and a half before the spring equinox and two months before Passover, Tu BiShvat provides a glimmer of springtime at a time when winter can often be at its cruelest.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.