October 9, 2020
This weekend we celebrate the conclusion of reading the fifth and final book of Torah while simultaneously celebrating the opportunity to start reading the first book again. This strange tradition of reading the final words of our sacred scroll only to rewind it and instantaneously begin reading from the start seems illogical and contradictory to the idea of bringing a year’s worth of weekly Torah portions to a close. However, it wasn’t until I was introduced to a wonderful insight, when the holiday of Simhat Torah took on a whole new meaning.
Did you know that the last letter of the Torah is the Hebrew letter lamed? The letter that ends the word “Israel”. And did you know that the first letter of the Torah is the Hebrew letter bet, the letter that starts the word Bereisheet, the genesis of the Torah? What is wonderfully coincidental is that the letters lamed-bet spell the Hebrew word lev, which translates as “heart.”
This seemingly incidental anecdote, of joining the end of the Torah with the beginning forms the foundation of this weekend’s celebration of Simhat Torah, the celebration of the “heart” of the Torah. This weekend’s festivities are not only about the conclusion and restarting of our Torah readings, rather, it is also very much about the act of coming together and rejoicing in the merging of these two parts.
As a former math teacher, I cannot help but be drawn to the image of the infinity sign, the Lemniscate symbol. The image of the two loops crossing in one central point and infinitely continuing back and forth. The idea that we never conclude or “end” our reading of the Torah is the true celebration of this holiday.
So too is the Jewish Federation’s responsibility to the Jewish community of San Antonio. Every year we lead an Annual Campaign to raise funds to meet the needs of the Jewish agencies across our community. Just like the Torah portions remain the same so does the Annual Campaign’s message of supporting our Jewish families in need, our lonely elders seeking company, our children wanting social, athletic, artistic, and academic experiences with their peers, and families looking for their Jewish community.
The San Antonio Annual Campaign helps fund Jewish community programs to support:
- Education for JCC preschoolers, TASA day school students, and Hillel college students;
- Mental health resources for JFS clients;
- Teen programming through BBYO and our local synagogues;
- Senior services and eldercare in partnership with SAJSS;
- Fighting local anti-Semitism through the JCRC and educating the Southern Texas community on Holocaust education at the HMMSA;
- Healthcare advocacy for families in need through Ohr Lanu;
- Emergency loan acquisitions at the Hebrew Free Loan Association of San Antonio;
- And much, much more!
So please, this weekend, as we celebrate Simhat Torah and we acknowledge all the amazing things happening across our wonderful San Antonio Jewish community, please consider how you can do your part and contribute to the Annual Campaign. The Jewish community needs your help, participation, and generous support so that we can in turn continue to support the amazing agencies keeping our Jewish community going.
I wish everyone a chag sameach, and remind you that the Jewish Federation is