Tonight we observe and celebrate Simchat Torah. We will complete our reading of the book of Deuteronomy, and begin yet again with the opening verses of the Book of Genesis. The thought causes me to sense the rapid passage of time. How could yet another year have passed? And how well did I “use” this past year? Those questions come to mind as I anticipate reading again about Noah, Abraham, Rachel, Joseph, Moses and the other personalities of the Torah.
What is Torah? Some would say that it is God’s revealed message to us. That Torah is the way of life that God “commands” us to live, even as Torah also includes accounts of our ancestors quest to live that life. As we consider their stories, their quests and strivings, we find ourselves often confronting similar challenges.
And what if the Torah is not “God’s revealed message?” What if Torah (written by sages) is our understanding of what God expects of us if our lives are to be good and worthy, and if our world is to be peaceful? For me, I read the Torah asking “what moral message is here for me? What timeless lesson can I conclude from the forbidden fruit of the Garden of Eden, or Abraham challenging God as he stands up for the innocent people of Sodom and Gomorrah? What lessons can I learn from Jacob as he dreams of a ladder that leads to worthiness and blessing?”
Each year we begin the Torah anew. We read the same stories, and relearn the same commandments. But each year the Torah speaks new and compelling messages to us as our lives change and as we confront new questions and challenges.
I hope you will join us tonight as we celebrate together, young and those who are not so young. Come on a Saturday morning to our Torah Study session at 9:15. You will find a welcoming group of people who enrich each other. And…”no experience necessary!”
The Torah conveys to us that “our task is to cause the divine in the world to emerge from our deeds.”