The Times of Israel published my new article “Simchat Torah, Reasons to Be Joyful”
Simchat Torah marks the conclusion of the Tishrei holiday cycle with a celebration of joy in the Torah. But is it possible to feel a happy atmosphere when the world is facing such a conspicuous pandemic? Indeed, the current situation gives us an opportunity to recognize the cause of our predicaments—our egoistic inclination of self-concern—and to transform them into the right direction of love and connection. What is the real meaning of rejoicing with the Torah? Where is this joy rooted? To understand the deeper meaning behind this celebration we should first understand what the deeper meaning behind the Torah itself is.
The Torah is the “light that reforms” [Midrash Rabah, Eicha, “Introduction,” Paragraph 2]. It refers to the force that develops and sustains all living organisms. The light is a desire to give, and its creation, particularly us, is a desire to receive. The joy we feel during Simchat Torah symbolizes our discovery of this light, i.e., the attainment of its characteristic quality of giving onto our innate desire to receive. Such attainment is feeling a much more expansive reality than the one we feel when we only receive.
Although we are a desire to receive, completely opposite to the light’s giving quality, we don’t feel the full intensity of this oppositeness, its “evil” (“the inclination of a man’s heart is evil from his youth” [Genesis, 8:21]). What we do feel is that the more we develop, the more problems and pains emerge. The purpose of the unfolding crises in every field of life we’re experiencing today is to make us seek out why they are happening and how they can be resolved.
Moreover, today’s globally interdependent condition, particularly evident due to the pandemic, shows us that the more we develop without working together to resolve the many personal, social, ecological, and financial issues pressing on us and looking at them as a common state that demands mutual responsibility, then we’re bound to tumble into deeper chasms.
The global crisis today is occurring in order to bring us to the discovery of our nature—the desire to receive pleasure for self-benefit alone—as the cause of our problems. We need to learn how to redirect our desires in order to fix these problems at their core. As it is written, “I have created the evil inclination,” and “I have created for it the Torah as a spice” [Babylonian Talmud, Masechet Kidushin, 30b] because “the light in it reforms them” [Midrash Rabah, Eicha, “Introduction,” Paragraph 2.].
In other words, our egoistic desires were created with a means of redirecting them into a form of giving, the Torah, and by doing so correcting them, thereby adding fulfillment and pleasure to our lives, a spice. The question then is: How? How can we work with this light? How can we invite it into our lives, let it work on us, and allow it to bring about positive changes? The answer lies in our connection.
When we gather with people who also wish to overcome their egoistic inclination and exert a positive influence in the world, we get ready to receive the Torah. By doing so, we set the foundation for a society that is capable of switching the current chaotic direction the world is treading to a positive and balanced one.
We can rejoice then in our recognition of the real cause of all our problems—our egoistic nature—and in our having the means at our disposal to redirect this nature to a good direction of connection, love, and giving. That is already a major step toward the reformation the Torah speaks about.
Happy holiday to all!