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Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah -   When is G-d Close?

10/09/2020 04:10:30 PM


Shemini Atzeret: Shabbat

  • The end of the Tishrei Holidays
  • When we begin to pray for rain/start of the growing season
  • Yizkor is said, so Yahrtzeit Candles are lit.
  • The image of the holiday is that it's G-d's leave-taking after spending the month of Tishrei with his people and the world.
  • Visit the Sukkah but don't say the blessing.

Simchat Torah: Sunday

  • Celebrated only in the Diaspora: in Israel, it's celebrated on the same day as Shemini Atzeret...
  • We complete the Torah reading cycle and...
  • Start over again.
  • We honor the Bride and Groom of the Torah. Mazal Tov to President Mindy Kahn and Tech Guru Extraordinaire Neal Sturm!
  • Everyone gets an Aliyah!
  • We dance with the Torah, celebrating its central place in Jewish life.


When do you feel close to G-d?
But I'm not sure I even believe in G-d...
Okay, but when do you feel close to G-d?
Well, when I'm struck by the wonders of nature, or feel tears of compassion, or hug my spouse or children, or mourn... I feel something... a connection to something deep inside.
During these High Holidays, G-d's presence, our Torah teaches, is not only accessible at those moments of heightened consciousness and experience, but all the time. "The Sovereign is afield," says the Midrash. Like Alexa or Siri but much, much more so.

And now, that time comes to an end. Shemini Atzeret is the after party of the High Holidays, when G-d as it were asks us, like the Jackson Browne song (borrowed from Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs) to "Stay just a little bit longer."
And Simchat Torah? G-d takes leave of us but leaves a love letter for us to read and pore over until we are together again... that love letter is the Holy Torah and on Simchat Torah, we celebrate the love that goes on.
Judaism, among the three monotheistic religions is remarkably chill about what we believe or not. G-d is not something that is believed in but a Presence that is experienced: sometimes distant as a metaphor and sometimes as immediate as a lightning bolt. But as a thought experiment, maybe look at these statements and ask yourself what you mean when you say G-d?
-Being close to G-d is a sense of awareness of wonder, awe, and appreciation of the mystery of being alive.
-Being close to G-d is something you are aware of only afterwards. Being close to G-d is being fully alive, losing a sense of separate self and self-consciousness but being fully immersed in the moment.
-Being close to G-d is what you experience when you are able to do something that makes a real difference.
-Being close to G-d is another way of saying feeling connected to another person, or your family or your community or your people.
-Being close to G-d is an enigma: there are rare moments in life that you keep remembering as being the big moments -- not necessarily the life milestones but moments that somehow shine. Maybe those moments are somehow connected to what being close to G-d is.


The Oldest Love Affair...
Great article about Simchat Torah by Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe
Sukkot and Simchat Torah: Why Your Family Needs to Celebrate!
Dr. Yvette Miller's take on what makes these holidays essential



Rabbi Sacks: the Book that Became a Bride
To Rabbi Sacks, Simchat Torah is the essence of Judaism
The Rain of Blessings with Chief Rabbi of the British Empire, Jonathan Mirvis
I have to admit, I put this one in here because of his cool British accent. But it's a nice
Davar as well- a bit Kabbalistic but that's always good!

Wed, April 14 2021 2 Iyyar 5781