After three weeks of the Hebrew month of Tishrei, filled with major Jewish Holidays, we have finally arrived at the last, the joyous holiday of Simchat Torah. On this holiday we celebrate both the completion of the annual cycle of Torah readings and the beginning, once again, of reading the Torah from the very first verse, Genesis/Bereshit, Chapter 1, verse 1. The title quote above is taken from Ethics of Our Fathers, a tractate in the Mishnah, a major Rabbinic text compiled in the second century of the Common Era. The section from the teachings of Rabbi Ben Bag Bag continues: “Turn the Torah over and over, for everything is in it! Look into it, and grow old and worn with it, and never move away from it, for you will find no bitter portion in it (5:26).”
On this Shabbat, we read from V’zot Hab’rakhah/And this is the Blessing, the very last portion of Deuteronomy. Moses blesses each tribe as he bids farewell to the children of Israel. This portion ends with a description of the death of Moses our Teacher. “Never again did there arise in Israel a prophet like Moses—whom the Lord singled out face to face (Deuteronomy 34:10). As the last words of the Torah are chanted with energy, the congregation rises and proclaims: “Hazak, Hazak, V’nithazek!/Be strong, be strong, and let us be strong to begin again!”
We began the reading of the Torah last October 2019. We have read through five books, learning about our most basic and essential beliefs, the role of G-d in every aspect of our lives, the creation of the world, the flood, the forefathers and foremothers, Moses and the Exodus, the giving of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, the 40 years of wanderings in the desert, the beginnings of our holidays, the conquest of the Promised Land, and the ultimate death of Moses our Teacher, the greatest prophet in Jewish history. Along the way, we learned genealogy, history, architecture, the sacrificial practices, laws of behavior, laws of property, and on and on.
The Torah is our most precious possession! We believe that G-d Almighty gave the Torah to Moses in order to give it to us! The Jewish people have always revered the Torah as our most precious testament to G-d’s love for us.
The Rabbis taught us to treasure every letter of the Torah! Every Torah scroll has been written by a Sofer/scribe who has kept meticulous attention to every letter, word, verse of the Torah. The traditional belief is that each letter has been revealed to us by Almighty G-d. Therefore, the scribe preserves every minute detail of the Torah scroll.
The Torah scroll contains 246 Amudim/columns. We know this by looking at the page count in the Tikkun, the volume that we use to prepare a Torah reading. In the Tikkun, there is one page for every column in the Torah: 246 pages equals 246 columns.
Here are some details drawn from “The New Concordance of the Bible,” published in Jerusalem, 1987:
In the Torah there are: 304,805 letters; 79,847 words; 5,845 sentences; 187 chapters; and, of course, five books.
On Simchat Torah, we rejoice that we have once again completed reading the Five Books and that we are beginning again from Genesis. Normally we sing and dance as we carry all the Torah scrolls that are in the Ark around the sanctuary. At KI, one Torah scroll is completely unrolled and held aloft by congregants in the Main Sanctuary.
This year, our KI celebration and the Simchat Torah services all over the world must be modified because of the pandemic. We shall definitely start our reading and Torah study again from the very beginning. We should all pray that our next Simchat Torah celebration in 2021 will be celebrated fully, with abundant joy, happiness, in good health.
All the members of the Tilman family join me in wishing our KI extended family Shabbat Shalom and Hag Sameah.