Simchat Torah: A Time to Dance

Question

Dear Rabbi, why do we dance with the Torah and our children on Simchat Torah?

3 weeks

Answers

  1. Our dancing on Simchat Torah is more than dancing. It is a way of breaking barriers between us and God. This is the meaning of hakafot, when we dance with the Torah Scrolls ‘round and ‘round the bima (lectern). According to Kabbalistic teaching, we circle seven times because this is a way of breaking barriers and destroying walls. Thus, the walls of Jericho fell after being encircled for seven days. This is one of the reasons a bride circles her groom seven times – to break the barriers that people inevitably have between them.

    On Simchat Torah we are using the Torah to break barriers between us and the Shechina, the Divine Presence. The Vilna Gaon used to say that the Shechina itself rests on the bimah on Simchat Torah. Simchat Torah is an echo of that future time when the righteous will circle the Shechina, pointing and singing, “This is the One we hoped for.” For this reason the Vilna Gaon would not allow anyone on the bimah during Simchat Torah. It is the place of the Shechina.

    Finally, when we do the hakafot we are making a type of vow to God. Someone once complained to a Rabbi that he had not been honored with the privilege of holding a Torah during the dancing. The Rabbi told him that when one holds the Torah on Simchat Torah in a hakafah, he is making the strongest vow a person can make, a vow on a Torah Scroll. The vow is that he will live his life according to the principles of the Torah. But a person is a living Torah Scroll, and so we should think the same way about carrying our children in a hakafah. We are pledging to raise them according to the principles of the Torah.

    This is the power of the hakafot, and the power of Simchat Torah. The great mashgiach of Mir, Reb Yeruchem Leibovitz, once said that he didn’t know which was more powerful spiritually: the praying on Yom Kippur or the dancing on Simchat Torah. Both have the power to break barriers between us and God. Through love, joy and unity we can redeem ourselves and the world.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team