Simchat Torah - the Festival du Jour for us Red Sea Pedestrians - always carries a bittersweet undertone. At least, so it seems to me.
It is the last float in a lengthy parade of holidays that begins with Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur - the High Holy Days - and segues into the joyous fall festivals of Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret, and Simchat Torah. It’s an awful lot of holidays packed into three weeks... and to make things even more confusing, the last two are observed on the same day in Israel but on two consecutive days elsewhere.
On Simchat Torah we complete the annual cycle of Pentateuchal readings, closing out the book of Deuteronomy with the story of Moses dying atop Mount Nebo after having had a far-off glimpse of the Promised Land he would never have a chance to set foot in... and then immediately starting over again with the first lines of Genesis, the story of Creation. It is beautiful, this juxtaposition of death and birth, of grief and joy, of endings and beginnings. Yet now the holidays are over, and soon the brightly colored leaves of early Fall will be replaced by the dreary chill and the bare trees of late November.
And I am a year older. Am I a year better, or wiser?
Nevertheless, it’s a happy day. Silly, even. The most degenerate among my crowd of Georgia bloggers would be amused no end by the sight of me standing by the shulchan (reading) table wearing a top hat... or of Houston Steve decked out in my Warrior Dash buffalo horns... or of Papa Lou, a diminutive 87-year old gentleman, sporting a baby bonnet. And did I mention the rolling bar cart, from which frequent nips of Jack Daniel’s and Seagram’s fine products were taken amidst the proceedings? And the all-pervasive air of foolishness?
The word “festive,” after all, comes from the word “festival,” right?
It is inappropriate to take pictures during a major holiday, just as it is on the Sabbath, so (alas) there is no photographic evidence to hand. Surely Papa Lou is grateful.