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Simchat Torah – The Space Between Scrolls 5784

Written by Rabbi Shulamait Ambalu

You can find the first proper reference to Simchat Torah as we have it today in the 16th century Shulchan Aruch. In just one pithy paragraph, you can hear different voices disagree over this newly emerging festival.

Once upon a time, all of this was new. But for me, each year there is something profoundly new, in the extraordinary space that exists between ending and beginning. The last word of Torah is Yisrael, not the country, but the people. Israel the place is hugely present in this portion, just over the border, at the foot of the mountain. It is the last thing that Moses will see, it is the Promised Land.

The first word of the Torah is bereishit. The beginning of creation, a universal origin. Moses’ death, the Torah’s ending, is not in fact an ending. It turns out to be the beginning; the story carries on, through conquest and exile, and return. No one can know where the story will end.

But for now, there is this space, between one scroll and the next, between Yisrael as a people and Israel the place, as the profoundest of destinations, a goal from the beginning…

That space between scrolls is a spiritual border, a hinterland. An opening for questions. What will 5784 bring? How will this year bring us closer to our destination, and a new beginning?

Chag Sameach and Shabbat shalom

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