It is an incredibly powerful way to open the festivities of Simchat Torah. Quoting the verse from Va’etchanan,4:35 we dramatically declare
אַתָּה֙ הרְאֵ֣תָ לָדַ֔עַת כִּ֥י יְהֹוָ֖ה ה֣וּא הָאֱלֹהִ֑ים אֵ֥ין ע֖וֹד מִלְּבַדּֽוֹ׃
You have clearly seen that The Lord alone is God; there is none else.
Dr. J.H Hertz in his commentary on the Torah explains the context of this declaration by Moses to the people of Israel. He is referring to the moment of the giving of the Torah at Sinai. Hertz elucidates; “The experience of God’s unique power was first-hand with them, and not delivered from speculation of hearsay. Yehuda Halevi bases on this circumstance the supreme credibility of the Revelation at Sinai: it took place before an entire people.”
Evoking the Sinai moment is a formidable way to initiate the joyous celebration of Simchat Torah, yet, this statement capturing the distinctive and unequaled qualities of God, would surely be all the more fitting to open Rosh Hashanah where we must develop the presence of mind to address and beseech the King of kings who created the world and humanity over these days of judgment.
The term אַתָּה֙ הרְאֵ֣תָ לָדַ֔עַת is curious, difficult to fully capture; ‘you who have been given the ability to see and therefore know…How are we to understand this form of de’ah, knowledge? Maimonides in the opening of הלכות יסודי התורה the Laws appertaining to the Foundations of the Torah teaches 1:1;
יְסוֹד הַיְסוֹדוֹת וְעַמּוּד הַחָכְמוֹת לֵידַע שֶׁיֵּשׁ שָׁם מָצוּי רִאשׁוֹן. וְהוּא מַמְצִיא כָּל נִמְצָא. וְכָל הַנִּמְצָאִים מִשָּׁמַיִם וָאָרֶץ וּמַה שֶּׁבֵּינֵיהֶם לֹא נִמְצְאוּ אֶלָּא מֵאֲמִתַּת הִמָּצְאוֹ
The foundation of all foundations and the pillar of wisdom is to know that there is a Primary Being who brought into being all existence. All the beings of the heavens, the earth, and what is between them came into existence only from the truth of His being.
Rabbi Soloveitchik in ‘On Repentance’ argues that this “knowledge” can be achieved by being in awe of natural wonders, the sun set, a rainbow, sunrise, and so many more spectacles that ought to inspire what AJ Heschel beautifully termed ‘radical amazement’ He underscores his argument by highlighting the staggering ways we express and acknowledge this “knowledge” both through specific blessings that are made when seeing such wonders and in our prayers;
יוֹצֵר אוֹר וּבוֹרֵא חֽשֶׁךְ עֹשֶׂה שָׁלוֹם וּבוֹרֵא אֶת־הַכֹּל…
…Former of light, Creator of darkness, Maker of peace, Creator of all things.
בּוֹרֵא יוֹם וָלָֽיְלָה גּוֹלֵל אוֹר מִפְּ֒נֵי חֽשֶׁךְ וְחֽשֶׁךְ מִפְּ֒נֵי אוֹר…
He creates day and night, He rolls the light away from before darkness, and darkness from before light…
These profoundly crucial insights only strengthen the sense of bewilderment as to why they do not occur earlier. Surely this stunning teaching from Moses of Ata Hareita… is the befitting way to enter into The Days of Awe, why the late show at Simchat Torah?
Yes, the ability to have the perception to Know God, occurs through the awe inspiring phenomena at Sinai, but that realization also becomes apparent through our active engagement with and study of the Torah itself. Perhaps it is this awareness and invitation that we wish to emphasize as we embrace and dance with the Torah.