A student once asked their teacher why it is that we have to read the same Torah every year. After all, the words to the Torah never change. The teacher responded, while the Torah is the same every year, we are not.
The very first thing we do on Simchat Torah after we finish reading the Torah is to begin reading it again. That is because the very same passage that we read a year earlier means something different to us a year later. Everything that has or has not happened over the past year, all that we have experienced, has changed us. And Simchat Torah pushes us to think about how the past year has affected us, and our relationship with Jewish texts, Jewish community, and Jewish tradition.
No doubt that for this year’s Simchat Torah we are in a very different place than many of us were a year ago. Last year we celebrated in the sanctuary and in the social hall, this year we are on Zoom and in our parking lot. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that while we are, and this experience will be, different we are still reading and celebrating the same Torah.
It is my hope and prayer for all of us that, as we celebrate together, we can recognize and embrace the change and transformation we all experienced in a way that brings us new meaning and brings us closer to one another, our tradition, and God.
Wishing you all a Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Josh Dorsch