Simchat Torah!

Rabbi Philip Weintraub
Congregation B’nai Israel
Tuesday Oct 2018
Today is a special day. It is a day of celebration, of joy, of dancing, of singing, of Torah! Today we are privileged to honor Esta, Wendy, Ina, and Bob. Cumulatively, they have given thousands of hours to CBI. They have raised funds, read Torah, studied and taught Torah to adults, made thousands of meals, taught hundreds of children, supported Israel and Hadassah in innumerable ways. While today is not a bar mitzvah, I would remind those with us that their achievements do not end today. Their commitment to CBI and the Jewish people is unwavering and will continue for many, many, many years to come.
In reading Torah and Haftorah today we go forward and backwards in time. In the Torah, we finish Deuteronomy and immediately roll back to the beginning. In the Haftorah, we move forward--to the book of Joshua. After an entire year spent preparing to make it into the Promised Land, we continue our journey there. We move in two directions in time. We stay where we are AND we move forward. Sounds a lot like our lives. We are always trying to move forward, yet sometimes we find ourselves in the same places again and again. My hope is that as we circle, we spiral. We move up and up and up.

On October 1, 1965, during the Ten days of Repentance, between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the Byrds’ released a song, distinguished by the fact that it has the oldest lyrics ever used in a #1 pop hit. While based on the King James Version, those lyrics are familiar to most of us. Arranged by Pete Seeger, they sang

To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep
To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

Those words really come from the book of Kohelet, the book of Ecclesiastes, attributed to the wisest of kings, King Solomon, although scholars date it to the late 3/4th centuries before the common era.

The message of the words is timeless. It is one that we think we do not forget, and yet, and yet, we do.

As we approach each of those times, we often forget the other. At births, we think only of hope for the future. At deaths, we get immersed in grief. When we perform an action, do we think of its consequences?

On the one hand, that is a wonderful thing. We are truly being aware of our situation. We are really experience life—its highs and its lows.

But we must be careful not to get stuck in either! We have to make sure that we continue our lives and discover our next adventures.

Here is where Simchat Torah fits in. By taking the time to celebrate and reflect, we experience the present without abandoning the past or future.

As we finish the reading of Deuteronomy, we immediately begin again with Bereshit. At the same time, we also read Joshua—the next step in the Israelites’ adventure. Through the two together we imagine our past and future, allowing the possibility of a fulfilled life.

The same is true for our wonderful honorees. We see them here again and again--AND they are always moving us forward. Their continued help ensures that our community doesn’t just return to the same place. We are not only at Bereshit. We are in Yehoshua, we are moving into the Land of Israel. We are moving forward. We are celebrating Simchat Torah and one another. Chag Sameach!