We conclude our Sukkot festivities with Simchat Torah, celebrating the conclusion of the Torah-reading cycle. This is a day of immense joy and ecstasy, one which evokes a powerful sense of fulfillment amongst the Jewish people.
Rav Nathan Hirsch shared with me a beautiful piece from Rav Tzadok HaKohen which completely elevated my mindset as I approach this day of jubilance.
Rav Tzadok discussed the essential duality of Judaism represented through Torah and tefillah, stressing the important roles each of them assumes. They both represent the two pillars of our relationship with Hashem and without one, the other cannot stand.
The Kabbalah explains the paradoxical reality exists in that Hashem is transcendent of everything finite and physical in our world, yet immanent in our reality and our lives. Rabbi David Aaron explains that Hashem created time, space, and matter, and is thereby above time, space, and matter, completely free of those limitations; that very freedom allows for His divine essence to simultaneously be beyond our lives and be felt anywhere.
Simply put, Hashem’s divinity is manifested in this world, present and felt in every crack and crevice, but He is also beyond this world, transcendent in an untouchable, endless manner.
Now, we can return to the thought of Rav Tzadok. Torah, he explained, is all-encompassing in our lives. From the minutiae of the order we put on our shoes to the brachot we make on our foods, halakha has found a way to materialize spirituality into every aspect of our lives. This gives our lives an enormous sense of fulfillment as we have channeled ourselves into our divine selves, bringing Hashem into every action we take.
That being said, this sole lens of Torah limits ourselves to the face, so to speak, of Hashem’s immanence in the world, diluting our Godly experience.
Tefillah, however, recognizes the lacking in our lives, the demand of ourselves to experience more of Hashem. Praising, thanking, or requesting change ourselves to encounter more. Here, we are elevating ourselves to come closer and closer to His oneness (Tzidkas Hatzaddik 211).
Torah and tefillah complement each other to construct the proper framework in which we relate to Hashem. We would be completely remiss to live one aspect and ignore the other; the complexity of Hashem’s divine immanence and transcendence allows us to find Him in our lives, yet reminds us that He is beyond you, me, and everyone else. His ultimate oneness encompasses both of these aspects; Rav Tzadok reminds us not to forget that.
When we rejoice over another year of finishing our reading of the Torah, the bubbling excitement and inspiration bring us closer to Hashem’s immanence in the world; we bask in His loving embrace, remembering our true selves as divine souls able to bring goodness into the world. When we open our siddur, preparing to daven to Hashem, we remind ourselves of His endless spring of divinity, hoping to raise ourselves and taste a mere droplet of His divinity.
Simchat Torah is the perfect time to pursue both modes of divine connection. Hashem is here, there, everywhere, and beyond. We must enter into Simchat Torah seeing His immanence through Torah and seeking His transcendence through tefillah.