a gay black woman's discovery of her jewish self

The Joy of Torah

Posted on: September 29, 2010

Simchat Torah, or the Joy of the Torah, is the last Holiday in this time of year I’ve dubbed-Jewish Holiday Season.  The season that started with Rosh Hashanah concludes with Simchat Torah, when Jews celebrate the completion of another year’s reading of the Torah.  Every book that I’ve read about Simchat Torah describes a joyous occasion in which the congregations sings, dances, and chants.  The Torah scrolls are paraded around the synagogue and there are several alliyahs from young, old, women and men.  One book in particular, Essential Judaism by George Robinson, describes dancing in the streets from the Hasidic neighborhoods of Brooklyn to the streets of Israel.  It is stressed, however, not to drink in excess as one does on Purim.  Did I mention that Purim is one of my favorite Jewish Holidays?  I’m not sure if it happens every year but this year Simchat Torah is on the same day as the end of Sukkot, the 7 day Festival of Booths.  If you live anywhere in NYC I’m sure you’ve wondered what all of the strange “shacks” outside of apartments and homes were.  There’s a giant sukkah in Union Square and an identical one in Bryant Park.  Since I am not yet a Jew, I didn’t feel comfortable eating in one this year.  We shall have to see what happens next year.

Yesterday I went to one of my favorite kosher grocers, Pomegranate, for a chicken to cook for dinner.  The store was bustling with activity.  I wondered why it was so busy.  Sukkot is coming to an end, true, but for a Tuesday afternoon the energy in the grocery store can only be described as electric.  There were men and women every where I turned.  Entire families shopping making the normally spacious store over crowded, loud, and chaotic.  When I got to Liquors Galore, a kosher store that sells, well, liquors galore and kosher wines from Israel the vibe was the same.  Instead of my normal leisurely browsing of the many strange bottles from Galilee and Judea I was elbowing my way down the aisles and trying my best not to yell at the pushy women that seemed to have no real knowledge of wine other than its need to be purchased.

As I made my way down Avenue J, or Avenue Jew as I like to call it, I noticed challah in the windows of my favorite bakery whose name I cannot recall or pronounce.  Challah on a Tuesday means there’s a holiday around the corner.  An e-mail from my conversion instructor confirmed that it was indeed a Challahday.

So here we are.  I’m going to synagogue at 5 to meet my rabbi to enjoy the Joy of the Torah.  I’m excited to learn about a new Holiday and experience it first hand.  I love the community that celebrating Jewish Holidays brings.  It’s true that every Christian celebrates Christmas on the same day, they celebrate Easter on the same day but Jews around the world in a many languages will be reading the same verses of the Torah tonight.  The candle lighting times will be different, of course, depending on where in the world you are yet, it’s amazing to think that while I’m sitting in a synagogue tonight in New York somewhere in New Jersey another Jew is doing the same thing.  In Indiana there’s another community doing the same thing.  Even in my home state of Ohio the very same time we light our candles, they will be lighting theirs.  It’s a powerful thing to be a part of and it’s one of the many reasons I’m excited to be a Jew.

2 Responses to "The Joy of Torah"

wow, i just found your blog. Good luck and welcome to the tribe! You might like my book –the Dictionary of Jewish Words (it’s on Amazon and in stores, published by the venerable Jewish Publication Society) it’s easy to understand definitions of all things Jewish –holidays, foods, Israel, customs, traditions, communal life and more. Check out my blog too, i’d love to join your blogroll-
thewordmavens.wordpress.com

Hi There,
Thanks so much for the kind words. I will definitely check out your blog and add yours to my blogroll post haste! My book shelves are over-flowing with all things Jewish and one more book is always welcomed! I’m excited to see if Amazon has some in stock for me!
Shabbat Shalom,
Erika

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