Who wears the Crown in Judaism?
A few weeks ago, the Queen of England died and many mourned the monarchy. Have you ever thought about who wears the crown in Judaism? The Torah. When the Jewish monarchy ended, we began to decorate the Torah scrolls with crowns. Two thousand years before the American Revolution against an English King, the Jewish people had a democratic revolution. After the Destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, we pursued meritocracy and threw out the idea of rule by a royal family. Since then, the Torah wears the crown.
The uniquely Jewish idea though, is that the Torah and its crowns are literally in the hands of everyone, including the common people. Jews were the only people in antiquity to insist on universal literacy for all, including the children from the poorest social classes. Everyone was encouraged to read publicly from the Torah. This has become our rite of passage to become a Bat or Bar Mitzvah. The Torah is meant to be physically carried by everyone; men and women, adults and child. In our Jewish culture, the crown of leadership is not set aside for a ruling elite, but is accessible to all who desire to “hold it fast.” As it says in Proverbs 3:18, “Etz Chayim He” “The Torah is a Tree of Life to all who hold fast to it, and all of its supporters are happy!”
When was the last time you danced with a Torah? This Simchat Torah custom was virtually impossible during the long pandemic years. Tonight, the joy of Simchat Torah returns to our congregation with gusto. We will dance and sing and unfold the entire Torah for all to see and hold, and feel close. Our Simchat Torah dances are in circles called Hakafot. These circuits represent the circle of life and the cycles of reading and rereading the Torah in an annual cycle of renewal and rediscovery. Ben Bag-Bag (in the Talmud) said about the Torah, “Turn it over, and turn it over again, for everything can be found in it. Even when you are old do not depart from it, for there is no treasure more excellent than it!”
Come tonight and bring a friend, or a family, who may never have been to our congregation before. Let’s spread the love of Torah.
“Its ways are ways of pleasantness and all it paths lead to peace.” (Proverbs 3:17).
I would love to dance with you and your family and share a “L”Chayim”
Happy Simchat Torah, Hag Simchat Torah Sameach,
Rabbi David Wilfond