On Monday evening, we will come together to celebrate Simchat Torah which literally means “the joy of Torah.” We will conclude the Book of Deuteronomy and begin yet again reading from the Book of Genesis.
I would point out that the last word of the Torah is “Israel,” while the first Hebrew word expresses “in the beginning.” So do we not only tell the story of the Creation of our world, but we begin yet again learning of our spiritual ancestors and the values and ideals that they sought to perpetuate throughout the generations.
For “traditionalists,” every word and every letter of the Torah has significance, and a Torah that is missing even one letter is deemed “unkosher.” So did our sages teach that each of us represents a letter of the Torah, and that each of us is indispensable to the well-being of the Jewish people. Yes, our sages were trying to emphasize the preciousness of each life, and how each of us contributes to the vitality of our moral tradition, and we might add “the vitality of our congregation.”
So we know the last word and first word of Torah, but what about the first and last letters? We end with the letter LAMED and begin with the letter BET. Together they form the Hebrew word LEV which means “heart.” Yes, the primary message of Torah is that we strive to live life with all our heart, and that in so doing, we bring kindness, morality and love to our world.
While we celebrate with our children on Simchat Torah, this is certainly not a holiday limited to children. This is a holiday for Jewish adults also, as we are better able to appreciate the reality that the people of “Israel” and our spiritual heritage are at the heart of who we are and our hopes for our world. I hope you will join with us as we celebrate and affirm the great “gift” that is our Jewish heritage. Yes, each of us represents a precious letter of the Torah.