Shabbat Shalom with a Heart-Healthy Dose of Torah-Chol Hamoed

As I look around the world, and as I read the news, I cannot help but wonder what we are thinking. We thirst for power as though we can own it all, forever. Somehow people forget that life is only temporal and that anything we possess is even less so. No kingdom or government has lasted forever, and no revolution ever waged without tremendous cost. When we do the work of destroying the world, there are no “do-overs” when we realize that we did not get the result we wanted or that it came at too high a price. Unlike popular video games, no “reset” button exists that allows us to try again.

Our tradition teaches that while we cannot undo what we have done, we do have everyday opportunities to turn our behaviors and learn how not to repeat the trauma we may have caused. Each year, we get to reinvest ourselves in living productive lives that help do more to heal the world than to dismantle it. Learning from history, I have greater life perspective. Evolving through history, I have broader world experiences from which to draw life lessons. While it is a normal custom to read books once and discard them, we continue to evolve. Our tradition requires us to reread texts so that we can bring new eyes and realizations to the stories. The stories thus become timeless. The Torah cycle renews yearly, and the reading of Talmud recycles every seven plus years. Ben BagBag (an ancient sage) taught that we must turn our tradition over and over again. We must always strive to uncover some new truth; learn beyond what we thought we knew. We must commit to an even higher ethical standard than we had accepted for ourselves during the previous year/cycle. It is for this reason that we meet the holiday “Simkhat Torah” with joy and hope.

Simkhat Torah ends the High Holy Day period, bringing an end to Sukkot, the Festival of Booths. The holiday is built around some powerful, though, implicit, ideologies. Judaism still awaits a Messiah. Our tradition teaches that there is only one pre-requisite for the Messiah – world peace. World peace is not a time when guns are not blazing or bombings detonating. World peace is a period where all life on earth respects each other’s dignity. The prophets describe it as the circumstance where the lion can sleep with the lamb, and where every human can sit under his vine and fig tree unafraid. Tradition teaches us that it will be during this holiday of Sukkot that the Messiah/Messianic Age will become real. At the point where the world is at peace, our sages teach us that there will be no further need for scripture. That said, the day we really figure out how to fulfill the Biblical prophecies of love, dignity, and … peace, we will not have to restart the cycle of reading. However, for now, we are poised to start it again. My prayer for this year roots in my hope that we will pay more attention to each other and move forward in fulfilling the prophecy calling for peace. The day I give up hoping that our tradition makes a difference; the day I give up believing that the miracles of peace are within our power to make real, I lose faith. As a man who lives on faith, I do not see that happening. The day I give up reading Torah, there is no hope.

So, rejoice as we dance we will dance with the Torah Scrolls on Simkhat Torah. Whatever your faith tradition, celebrate this whole endeavor. Simkhat Torah demonstrates the faith in a tomorrow is filled with opportunity to celebrate the call for renewal and peace … for all of us. The Torah is a “Tree of Life.” I can come out and admit here and now, “I am a tree hugger.” Let’s do more this year … to do more this year! Khag Samaeakh – happy holiday & Shabbat Shalom.