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The book... that became... a bride - Simchat Torah 5772

If you want to understand Jews and Judaism, think of Simchat Torah. It's the only festival that is the pure creation of the Jewish people. All the others were either written in the Torah or came about through historical events, like Purim and Hanukkah. Not so Simchat Torah, which isn't mentioned in the Torah, not even in the Talmud. It appeared for the first time in the early middle ages. Now you might have thought that with all their dispersion and persecution Jews would have created a fast, but they didn't. They created a day of pure joy. And joy in what? In the Torah, a book of law. Imagine a group of English or American judges or law professors, so seized with the beauty of their subject that they dance around the supreme court holding books of legislation in their arms. You're right. It couldn't happen. On 14 October 1663 the great diarist Samuel Pepys visited a synagogue in London. It happened to be Simchat Torah. He couldn't believe what he was seeing. People dancing around in a house of God? He'd never seen anything like it. The majesty and impartiality of law you can find elsewhere, but Simchat Torah, the joy of the law -- for that you need to go to shul. If you want to understand Jews and Judaism, think of Simchat Torah and we realise that Judaism is really a love story: the story of the love of a people for a book, the book with which we dance with on Simchat Torah as if it were a bride. (Thank you to the Hebrew Academy, San Diego for use of the Simchat Torah dancing video.)

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