Renewal During the Holidays

October 6, 2023 / 21 Tishrei 5784

While preparing for this week’s column recognizing the celebration of Simhat Torah, the holiday dedicated to “Rejoicing in the Torah,” I came across a passing anecdote that suggested Simhat Torah is to Sukkot as Yom Kippur is to Rosh Hashanah

At first, I dismissed the reference while searching for the seed I could use to grow this week’s message. However, it wasn’t until I stopped and reflected on the comparison that I began to realize this was the seed that needed to be nurtured further.

Rosh Hashanah sets the stage for Yom Kippur. Rosh Hashanah initiates the period of the “Ten Days of Repentance,” during which we have an opportunity to reflect on our actions and make amends before Yom Kippur arrives. The themes of judgment, self-examination, and renewal are central to both holidays.

On the other hand, Simhat Torah signifies the culmination of the Sukkot festival. Sukkot is our time of joy and celebration marking our temporary dwelling structures commemorating the historical journey from slavery to the Promised Land. And Simchat Torah is the celebration of the Torah, our spiritual guide that sustained the Jewish people during that journey. The themes of joy, gratitude, and renewal are central to both holidays.

But it is the opportunity for “renewal” that emerges from both holiday pairings that sets us on the path for hope, confidence, and a fresh start. We come out of this holiday season with the ability to forgive others more readily. We are primed for a sense of unity and togetherness. We have had the opportunity to reflect and recommit ourselves to our driving values. We can build trust because we trust our own judgment a little more. And we are primed for new beginnings.

In a previous column, I highlighted the belief that Simhat Torah was, in fact, the “heart” of the Torah. Although it seemingly represented the end because it was the holiday when we concluded the reading of the weekly Torah portions, in reality, our ability to conclude something so sacred and immediately scroll back to start again was the true essence of how we live our lives. The “heart” of living is when we learn from an experience and are able to move forward with this newfound knowledge and wisdom in order to be a better person, better friend, and better partner.

As we celebrate Simhat Torah this weekend, may it serve as a reminder that the process of renewal is a shared experience, and it encourages us to take active steps to repair relationships and foster a stronger sense of unity and belonging within the community. Because we are…


Shabbat shalom and chag sameach!