Saturday, October 10, 2009

Simchat Torah

This time of year is packed full of holidays for us. It starts the New Year, followed by the celebration of the Harvest (a holiday called Sukkot - you build an open-top hut and are supposed to dine outside under the stars and enjoy the harvest). Tonight was the start of another special holiday called "Simchat Torah," which means rejoicing of the Torah. "Torah" is the Hebrew word for the bible, which includes the 5 books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. The Torah is a scroll - two sticks wrapped with a very long piece of parchment with the bible handwritten in Hebrew. It is what many Christians refer to as the "Old Testament." The holiday marks the completion of reading of the Torah from start to finish, and starting all over again. In synagogue, the final chapter of Deuteronomy is read, and then the first chapter of Genesis is started.

This is considered one of the two most festive holidays during the year. Tonight, we went to the synagogue to celebrate. It is tradition to bring all the different Torahs out of the ark (the place where they are stored) and march them around the synagogue while singing and dancing. We circle the Torahs around the room 7 times (called 7 hakafot, the Hebrew word that means circles). There is a prayer that is sung while each circle happens, and then everyone breaks out with additional singing and dancing for 5-10 minutes before the next circle. Everyone can take a turn holding the Torahs, and there are usually little mini-Torahs for children to carry (and stuffed toy Torahs).

My nieces happened to be in town staying with my parents, so all of us went to synagogue together. We had a stuffed Torah (think stuffed animal, but a Torah), and they all took turns carrying it around. DH carried Micah in the baby bjorn, and we danced and sang and my nieces ran around. They had flags to wave, and they were handing out candy, and there were shots of vodka and gin for the adults. Kids were running all over the place laughing and playing and dancing and twirling, and it truly was a wonderful evening!

Last year at this time, I was pregnant with Micah. I had just been placed on bedrest, and was unable to go to synagogue to join the festivities. It was so much fun to bring Micah with us this year! He was grinning from ear to ear, he held a flag in his hand the whole night and flapped it up and down, and he was "singing" along with everyone. He loves to make singing noises and he would intermittently squeal with delight. I was amazed he had such a good time - it was after his bedtime, but we got him to take a very late nap today and he seemed to do just fine.

So, chag sameach! (That means happy holiday!) This holiday is the conclusion of our Fall holiday, Chanukah!

1 comment:

Prather Family said...

What a nice description of your traditions. I bet it was so much nicer to share it with Micah this year.