Simkhat Torah Teaching
danced and told by R. Diane Elliot
October 4, 2007 22 Tishrei 5768
There is a story told of the Ba’al Shem Tov: “One Simkhat Torah evening, the Ba’al Shem himself danced together with his congregation. He took the scroll of the Torah in his hand and danced with it. Then he laid the scroll aside and danced without it. At this moment, one of his disciples who was intimately acquainted with his gestures, said to his companions: ‘Now our master has laid aside the visible, dimensional teachings, and has taken the spiritual teachings unto himself.’ ” (M. Buber, Tales of the Hasidim, p. 53)
I like to think that when he laid the scroll aside, the Ba’al Shem was teaching us how to dance with an ever-evolving invisible Torah, one that lives inside each of us and changes and matures, year by year.
What would that feel like, to dance this invisible Torah into ourselves? All year long we read Torah, chant Torah, study Torah, discuss Torah, tell stories about Torah stories, carry and lift and kiss the Torah—but only once a year, on Simkhat Torah, do we really dance with the Torah!
Rebbe Nachman, great grandson of the Ba’al Shem, taught that when we dance, our feet become like hands—no longer expressing the energies of netzakh and hod, of victory and splendor, but of khesed and gevurah, of lovingkindess and strength, integrated through the heart of tiferet, in balanced harmony. Through our dance, we unblock the streams of hesed, lovingkindness and shake loose the impacted, excess din—judgments, narrow thinking, imagined limitations—that usually accumulate in our feet and legs, clogging our inner channels of receptivity. We dance to open and refine our own inner pathways, so that in this New Year of 5768, we may merit, individually and collectively, to receive a deeper level of Torah.
But what Torah are we dancing with? At the same time we are dancing the Torah, is the Torah also dancing us, clearing her own inner channels, unblocking streams of hesed, shedding layers of negativity and unkindness, revealing more clearly the brilliance of her true nature? Does Torah renew herself on Simkhat Torah as we renew ourselves through the sincere and soul-cleansing prayers of the High Holy Days? Does the Torah break a sweat along with us?
Tonight, of all nights, we have a chance to find out! We have a chance to step into the dancing shoes of the Holy Ba’al Shem Tov, to renew a joyous, passionate dance that continues throughout the year, inspiring, purifying, bringing through the truest us and the truest Torah ever! Come, come, join in the dance! Chag sameyach!