Simchas Torah…All Year Long

During Sukkos, I got into a conversation with an acquaintance about the numerous festive events going on in my neighborhood throughout the holiday. The streets of our area are thronged every night by crowds of Jews heading straight to their Rebbes’ courts, and Jews flocking from one Simchas Beis Hasho’eva to another to get their evening dose of joy. To paraphrase the sages’ words about the festivities in the Beis Hamikdash, “If you’ve never seen it, you’ve really missed out.” (You’re invited for next year…and hopefully by then they will really be in the Beis Hamikdash.)

As we spoke, I added, “Of course, the high point is Hakafos Shniyos, in a way, because then we get another chance to dance all night.” In our particular corner of the world of Breslov, we also dance all night on Rebbe Nachman’s yohrtzeit, which is “chai Tishrei“–the eighteenth of the month.

This acquaintance said that she had never heard of anyone doing that. Hakafos she knew about; but a second set when it isn’t even yom tov anymore, that last all night??

I told her that the Arizal had the custom of dancing all night after Simchas Torah. “I heard that he used to go from shul to shul in Tzfat to make sure that he was able to continue his hakfafos until the morning.”

“But why?” she asked.

And that got me thinking… We didn’t sleep all night on Hoshanah Rabbah, and we didn’t sleep too much on Shemini Atzeres, and then we didn’t sleep at all again the night after Simchas Torah—why, indeed? But there’s a really good answer.

I smiled, “To draw the joy of the Torah into the entire year.”

So how do we draw the joy of the Torah into the entire year? What is the joy of the Torah, anyway? In Breslov we have a catchphrase: “A gantz yohr freilach—Happy all year long.” Most Jews know that there are times of year when joy is the order of the day—Purim, Simchas Torah, the festivals in general, Shabbos—but Rebbe Nachman taught that joy must be actively built all year round. And now that we’re coming down off of the crest of the high holidays, I know that I have to take care not to see this time as being little more than a minute to breathe after all of the mad rush of the yomim tovim. This time is precious; it’s the time to catch hold of all of the good influences of this first month (and the year really starts off with a bang, doesn’t it?) and begin to draw them deeper and deeper into myself instead of letting them dissipate out into the void. It’s time to work on being “a gantz yohr freilach”–happy with the joy of teshuvah, of Torah, of straightening out my relationship with Hashem and moving on fresh.

The joy of the Torah… My two year old was at a hachnasas sefer Torah (when a new Torah scroll is jubilantly accompanied beneath a chuppah to its new home in a shul) early this week, and all week long he has been building up these interesting structures of blocks and singing snippets of the songs he danced to as the procession went out, in a blaze of music, light and a few hundred little boys carrying torches. (Is it my imagination, or only in Israel do the police not stop you from putting actual flaming torches in the hands of seven-year-olds?)

Apparently, to date, this has been one of the most thrilling, moving and monumental experiences of his short life. And all I can say when I see him is, “Hashem, help me to feel only half of what he feels the next time I see a hachnasas sefer Torah procession pass!” I want to always be fresh, just like a little child, and sensitive to the beauty of Yiddishkeit—of my Judaism—and never have grown beyond simple joy in having been given the undeserved gift of the words of Torah that are more precious than gold, than pearls and rubies. G-d chose, for His own inscrutable reasons, to give me—me!—a portion in His revealed mind and will. How great to be a member of this club, and to quote a very great teacher in the world of Breslov, all I had to do to join was be born to a Jewish mother! (We do have special dispensations for those who can lay claim to having most excellent lineage—those sons and daughters of Sarah Imeinu who come back to us as true converts, of course.)

I was privileged to spend last night at the wedding of the child of our dear friends, and that’s another Simchas Torah as Rebbe Nachman explains in Sichos HaRan. The chuppah, the music, the bride and the groom representing the Torah and the Jewish people (as well as the Jewish people and Hashem). I felt like another sweet breath of the high holidays blowing me right along.

We go from Simchas Torah into Bereishis—we start over again, we start clean and new and get to do it right this time around, G-d willing. A new year, a new world. And we go straight from Tishrei into Marcheshvan, when our lips are still merachshevan or fluttering with the constant prayers of the high holidays.

That’s actually why I usually travel to Uman now (and I will be going next week, G-d willing). I want to hold on tight to my Tishrei, my Rebbe’s Rosh Hashanah, so that it will carry me through the rest of the year.

Wishing everyone “a gezunte vinter”–a healthy winter. And “a gantz yohr freilach!” (And if you want to join me next week in Uman, just drop me a line. We could probably still fit you in!)

Author: Yehudis Golshevsky

Mrs. Yehudis Golshevsky is a graduate of Yavne Teacher’s Seminary in Cleveland and SUNY Buffalo. She is a Breslov Chassidiste who lives with her very patient and forgiving family in Jerusalem and has taught Breslov Chassidus (and many other subjects) and worked in Torah publishing for nearly twenty years. Recent projects include the new Holocaust history textbook, “Witness to History;” Erez Moshe Doron’s commentary on The Exchanged Children; content and curricula for Project Derech of Toronto; translations of Rabbi Berland’s lessons and prayers for shuvubonim.org; editing of the stories for Daf Digest and Mishnah Berurah Digest; and editing of the weekly translations of Rav Itche Meir Morgenstern’s shiurim for Toras Chochom. In her spare time, she does battle with foreign bureaucracy and general pin-headedness in Ukraine so that she can have the privilege of bringing other women to Uman and other kivrei tzaddikim. She also likes to joke around—just ask her students.

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11 Comments

  1. What a wonderful, uplifing way to go into Cheshvan. I for sure needed to hear this this week. Thank you for the inspiration.

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    • It’s a privilege to be useful, so that’s the best response I could every hope for.

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  2. Thanks for sharing your inspiration!!!
    I’m really looking forward to the post-Uman post!!!

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  3. Thank you for the heartfelt post, dear sister. Made me miss Yerushalayim even more!! Is this one of the reasons why we celebrate SImchas Torah the 2nd day of Shemini Atzeres?

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    • There are Chabadnikim who say that the Arizal danced the second night in order to be one with the Jews of chutz la’aretz. But then we have the question of what is going on spiritually on the second day of Yom Tov in general. There must be something happening, otherwise why would the Arizal celebrate to such an extent if the reason was to bond with the Jews outside the Land, if the second day is only a “technicality”? The Zohar Hakadosh states that it takes a second day for the light of the festival to penetrate the spiritual veils outside of Eretz Yisrael. We know that even physical light travels at a particular pace, not instantaneously through space. I think that this is a mashal for the fact that spiritual light also has “distances” to cross.
      I don’t remember ever calling the ninth day “the second day of Shemini Atzeres;” I think it’s always only Simchas Torah outside of Israel. So the Simchas Torah comes down later, and the Arizal joined, and for us it’s still all about drawing the good influence into the next period of time.

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  4. Thank you for inspiring me to bring the light of tishrei into cheshvan. I was way too excited to return to the routine of everyday life after Sukkos, at risk of losing all we gained last month. Hashem should help me to hold on!!

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    • It’s really a temptation, because there’s something so good about going back to order and “real life.” May Hashem help us to always hold on!

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  5. Yehudis:

    Amazing, thank you so much for this, to hold onto the joy, what a bracha to daven for. I was thinking that this time last year we were in Uman. I’ll miss you and being there. Will send you a real email soon!

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    • Waiting for it…but wait a week until I get back from Uman! Missing you too, and also wish you could join us.

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  6. I love this idea – thank you! Especially with the added image of merachshevan or the fluttering with the constant prayers of the holidays. I’m trying to hold on and allow the openings and awarenesses that came to me through the chagim to have their time to germinate and dig in rather than racing into the mundane. It’s not easy – actually it feels kind of jumbly inside – but that’s good. Keep dancing, I say!!! and please keep writing – I love your posts and find them insightful and helpful. Thanks.

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    • Thank you so much for the chizuk! We’ll be in touch when I get back, G-d willing.

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