Monday, September 16, 2013

Simchat Torah… Nachas VS. True Celebration

[ BTW, a former post with pictures about the upcoming Succah (Sukkot) holiday which starts this Wednesday evening, and runs through the middle of next week, is HERE. Simchat Torah follows the day after the end of the Sukkot holiday.]
     Simchat Torah used to be one of my favorite holidays.

   For those not familiar with the holiday, I quote selected sections of Wikipedia:
   "Simchat Torah is a celebration marking the conclusion of the annual cycle of public Torah readings, and the beginning of a new cycle....The main celebration of Simchat Torah takes place in the synagogue during evening and morning services. …..In the morning, the last parashah[Torah reading] of Deuteronomy and the first parashah of Genesis are read in the synagogue. On each occasion, when the ark is opened, all the worshippers leave their seats to dance and sing with all the Torah scrolls in a joyous celebration that often lasts for several hours and more. ….In Orthodox synagogues, the dancing is mainly carried out by men and boys; very young girls may also be sent in to dance on their fathers' shoulders. Women and older girls…. look on from the other side of a mechitza (partition) in accordance with the rules of tzniut (modesty).
The morning service is also uniquely characterized by the calling up of each male member of the congregation for an aliyah, as well as a special aliyah for all the children in attendance."

    It used to be that for me, Simchat Torah meant hours in the synagogue, lovingly watching my children , and in later years, grandchildren, dance below. I enjoyed walking to synagogue with little children in tow, as they carried their special "degelim" (paper flags), or a fake stuffed "Torah scroll" of their own to prance around with.  When Ricki was a teen, I would often watch her watching the dancing below, gratefully noticing the teenage girls in the synagogue making space for her at the VERY overcrowded mechitza (separation window between the men and women's sections of the synagogue).

    But I wrote above: " Simchat Torah used to be one of my favorite holidays. "
    What happened????

Ricki died.
My husband is too ill to go to synagogue. And if he did, he certainly would not be dancing.
My youngest son, who is not religious, will NOT go to synagogue.
My married children prefer to stay in their own communities for the holiday, as is very common.

   So I have no one to watch in synagogue, and my husband and son will not want the meal hours and hours late just so that I can sit in the women's section of the synagogue. (They WOULD understand the delay for the sake of one of their older siblings with their children.)

   So suddenly Simchat Torah has become a holiday that "means" little more than a festive meal, robbed of its original connection to our Torah.
  I admit that originally I was rather upset with my children, who have not managed to set up a "rotation" system, where each year a different one would forgo being in their own community for the holiday. That would be easy, no?

   Well, maybe not. Do I REALLY know why no one is coming? There may be reasons that they do not share with me. Maybe their spouses parents would be alone if they did not go to THEM. Maybe there are other reasons that they need to be at home. And besides, would I REALLY want a son and daughter-in-law to come begrudgingly?????
   And why in G-d's name am I feeling sorry for myself? Are there not people in the hospital for the holiday? Women with NO kids to EVER watch dancing beneath the women's balcony?  Women with NO husband at all to say a Torah thought?
   And I myself not demeaning the holiday with MY attitude? Is Simchat Torah really about getting nachas (pleasure) from my kids and grandchildren, or is it about really celebrating the receiving of the Torah? Can I relish the gift of G-d's holy scrolls despite whatever tribulations G-d has thrown my way?
     I simply have to find a way to make the holiday meaningful to me, in another way.   


mikimi said...

I hear you and can relate although be reasons may be very different than yours. I cannot tell for eyre if you did ask the marrieds if they would consider a rotation but at times our children will surprise us.
I hate the holidays and being alone and feeling alone and no family. I gave many friends but it can be emotionally burdening to ask and wonder if I am invited out of pity or out of real care and wanting me at their table and home. And many if my friends have their marrieds rotating to them throughout the holiday and need to give them their due attention.
Chag Sameach?

Batya said...

I guess the pain and loss of Ricki gets stronger at certain times and this is one of them. HaMakom yenachem.
In my neighborhood women and girls go to shut-ins, the sick, elderly who can't get out to shul and sing and dance for them.
Maybe there's a young mother who can't take her youngsters to shul, and you can help her out for a short while.

Rickismom said...

Great idea Batya!

FBF Rothkopf said...

Building on Batya's suggestion: is there a young family who don't have grandparents around, that you could "adopt" for the holiday?

In our shul, which is Conservative, everyone dances around, but we all watch out for each other's kids. On Simchat Torah morning, we open one Torah scroll completely. The adults stand around in a large circle in the Social Hall, holding the edges of the scroll carefully, while the children sit inside the circle.

This year, Sofia and Sam were not with me, and Micah wanted to stand on the outside with his friends (feeling "too big" to be with the kids). But I still wanted to sit in the middle. So I took my friend's granddaughter and sat with her. My friend couldn't sit in the middle because she wouldn't physically be able to manage it. I was able to sit with her granddaughter and guide her through (the Rabbi walks around and tells us a summary of each section of the Torah - it's really cool!).

So maybe you can "adopt" some kids for the holiday, and make it about helping them learn and appreciate.