Dancing as One on Simchat Torah

Question

Dear Rabbi, why is there a practice to dance in a circle in the Synagogue on the holiday called Simchat Torah?

3 weeks

Answers

  1. One of Judaism’s great gifts to mankind is the verse in the Torah — “And you will love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18) When we love each other and we are genuinely happy for our friends’ successes, this causes a greater perception of God in the world. When we do the reverse — when we see ourselves in a dog-eat-dog world — we take a step down towards the canine world. We lose that Godly radiance which shows that He made us in His image.

    On Simchat Torah we complete the annual reading of the Torah. As soon as we finish the last verse, we start again at the beginning. Without a break. We read the Torah in a continuous cycle because the circle is a symbol of eternity. It goes on forever. It is eternal, just as the One who gave us the Torah is Eternal.

    The circle symbolizes eternity. It starts nowhere and it finishes nowhere. The circle is also a symbol of equality. Every point in the circle is equidistant from its center.

    There is an ancient Jewish custom to dance for hours around the bima (lectern) on Simchat Torah — the festival on which we celebrate the completion of the yearly Torah cycle. This circle of dancing symbolizes the eternity of the Torah and its Author.

    The mystics tell us that in the next world the righteous will make a circle around God. And they will dance around and around Him just like we do around the bima on Simchat Torah. There will be many different kinds of Jews represented there: Jews from Iran and Jews from Indianapolis. There will be Jews of all colors and from all walks of life. There will be those who, while keeping faith with unbroken tradition, strongly differ in the emphasis in their service of the Creator. There will be Chassidim and Litvaks, Ashkenazim and Sephardim. As they dance in that circle they will all realize that you can be 180º away from your neighbor and yet you can still be equidistant from the center, from God.

    The Gateways family wishes everyone a “Chag Sameach” — a happy and joyous festival. May our dancing serve to connect us closer to each other and to our Creator.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team