Return To Eden

Just when you thought that we were finished with the holiday season, there is more. Tonight we celebrate Shmini Atzeret and then on Thursday night we start Simchat Torah. In Israel these two holidays are celebrated on the same day. In many ways Shmini Atzeret is a completion of the Sukkot holiday. But what is Simchat Torah? When I was young I understood it simply to be the day that we celebrate the completion of the liturgical reading of the Torah. Would it not make more sense to celebrate the reading about the creation of the world on Rosh HaShanah? Of even on Shavuot the time we received the Torah? Why do we start reading the Torah on Simchat Torah?

Sukkot is a time in which we surround ourselves with nature and bask in our dependence on God. Even before we get to all of the rich symbols of Sukkot we see that the experience is challenging us to live in an Eden-like environment. I think that Simchat Torah is less about finishing reading the Torah then a perfectly timed re-reading of the Torah. Coming on the heels of Sukkot, a holiday full of rituals in which we can easily comply, we read the story of Adam and Eve again. This time, maybe we will have learned the lesson.  Instead of starting off the year with the negative reinforcement of getting kicked out of Eden, we start the year off right dwelling in the Sukkah.  In this light we see that Shmini Atzeret is a very holy time in which we leave Eden on our own terms. We are not kicked out, instead we leave the Sukkah determined to make the world a better place.

For many of us the camp we grew up in is as close to the Garden of Eden as we can imagine. While we might not be able to go back camp, we can surely imagine a return on our own terms during Simchat Torah in the story of creation. We should all be blessed with a year of learning lessons the first or second time around, giving people we love positive encouragement to succeed, and finding our own ways to make the world a better place.

It seems fitting on Simchat Torah, in which we recall the Garden of Eden, we think about the Global Day of Jewish Learning. Last year the Global Day of Jewish Learning was conceived to mark the completion of Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz’s monumental translation on the Talmud. The inaugural event was a huge success reaching every corner of the Jewish world with 600 events in 400 communities in 48 countries. If you are interested in reconnecting to this moment when we were all together in the camp version of Eden think about getting your camp community together during the off season to hold or join a Global Day of Jewish Learning event on November 13th. Check out their website and be in touch with us if we can help.

-From FJC Blog

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