Simchat Torah will be celebrated by Jews around the world this upcoming week. On that day, we complete and begin anew the annual Torah reading cycle. This joyous milestone is celebrated primarily by singing and dancing while the Torah is kept aloft.
Much has been written about the power and nature of singing. Much less about dancing. The question is, what is dance?
Dance, like language, is a powerful mode of expression. Despite the potency of the written word, words can fall woefully short in evoking our deepest emotions. When words are insufficient, we sing. When language aspires to the transcendent, when it seeks to break all boundaries, it modulates into song. But song can be inadequate in supplying expression to the recesses of our being. In such an instance, when the soul longs and yearns, when it aspires to transpire, the body sways. This is dance: the flesh singing; the flesh praying; the silent roar of the soul.
Long before Simchat Torah was celebrated, the Jewish soul desired to dance for God; dance for His Torah. Born from this longing to dance for God was Simchat Torah.
Simcha Torah’s charm is that it is a self-declared holiday taken upon by the Jewish people voluntarily. Unlike other holidays, its creation comes not by the dictate of the Torah authority nor by Rabbinic decree. Conceived by the Jewish spirit and adopted by the Jewish nation, Simchat Torah is a day of profound expression of our love for God through dance.
Accordingly, the proper formulation of events is not because there is Simchat Torah we dance. But because we dance, there is Simchat Torah.
So we spend the day dancing, just like King David danced upon bringing the Ark to Jerusalem; like our forebears who danced in the courtyard of the Temple at the Simchat Beit HaSho’evah. And just like on the day of a wedding, the groom dances for his bride, we will dance for the Torah. It is the day we renew our marriage contract with God, declaring thunderously He is “our life and the length of our days”. We cast our destiny with Him, in an eternal, unbreakable bond, where not even death do us part.
Below is a poem I wrote to share what dancing means for Jews on Simchas Torah. Incidentally, the poem is precisely 26 lines:
I stomp the ground
Move front and back
And spin around
As my soul in thirst feels a lack
I sliver, quiver, sway and sway
As my soul seeks to break from its cage
My body sizzles as it’s swept away
Steps and steps as my emotions rage
I seek to defy
This earthly gravitational pull
I reach for the sky
As this world is only Your footstool
I skip and spring
Yearning, I leap and run
As my flesh cries and sings
Burning for you like the burning sun
Expose my depths no matter the circumstance
Enveloped in a mesmerizing, energizing trance
Swirled in love by this fountain of romance
Lifted, my senses heightened and enhanced
Melting into this infinite expanse
My feet praying, I prance and prance
My being speaking, I take a stance
“All is You and there is no chance”
I advance and advance
Simcha Torah – I dance and dance