Sara Dvora Howson, current student, Alisa Flatow International Program
I was somewhat apprehensive. Outside of Israel, the actual Yom Tov of Shemeni Atzeret appears to the untrained eye as almost a prelude to the fervent expression of our love of Hashem’s Torah in the almost ‘separate’ holiday of Simchat Torah.
Would it be possible to build the incredible people culminating in the fervent love of his Torah in just one day?
The answer is – at Nishmat – absolutely.
The highlight of the night was the women’s hakafot in the Nishmat Beit Midrash. Rabbanit Henkin began the night by giving a Dvar Torah about respect of the Sefer Torah and the series of evolving customs throughout Jewish history that eventually emerged as Simchat Torah – including a rather interesting custom among Eastern European children to use the day as an opportunity to tear down and burn neighbouring Sukkot! (which the Rabbanit recommended we not try at home :p )
Finally, we rose and began singing around the Aron Kodesh. The Sifrei Torah were removed. All the girls formed a circle dancing around those honoured with holding the Torah.
Dancing and singing in gratitude and joy for the opportunity to learn Hashem’s Torah, here in the beautiful Beit Midrash, in Eretz Yisroel, was a little astonishing. As we were dancing, I could almost feel the hours spent right here, in chavruta, struggling to understand and grasp, to stretch our minds. In that moment all the flipping through dictionaries, all the frustration and all the beautiful moments of understanding became part of our Torah. And that made this my celebration of Simchat Torah truly beautiful. It didn’t need to be two days.