Always in Simcha
By Avi Lazerson
Now that the Simchat Torah holiday has passed and we have celebrated it to the best of our abilities, we begin the progression into the dark, cold winter months. As opposed to the warm summer which sees growth, beauty, and pleasant days, the winter is similar to hibernation or death. The trees are bare, the summer fruits are gone, the days are short, darkness prevails, and ill heath becomes common.
Simchat Torah is the last of the major holidays. In the times of the Bible, there were no other holidays until Passover a full six months later. We now have Chanukah and Purim, which are Rabbinic in origin, and serve to brighten up the winter darkness.
Simchat Torah is considered by many to be the holiday from which we draw from the Torah the simcha and joy that will accompany us through the year until the next Simchat Torah. Yet we find even after dancing straight through the Simchat Torah celebrations many people are still depressed, some plain unhappy and others are just down right miserable. How can that be? Don't we bring joy into our lives when we dance and sing on Simchat Torah?
This can be understood through a story.
A king had a daughter that he wished to marry to a "good" and proper suitor. After much searching and investigation, he decided that a particular suitor was acceptable. The king was ready to announce that he had agreed to this man marrying his daughter.
However, the king was not a hundred percent positive that this man was the correct suitor, since it was well known that the person that marries the princes would become instantly rich and powerful. Therefore there were many charlatans who tried to fool the king in to thinking that they desired the princess when in reality all they wanted was the wealth, honor and fame the marriage would bring.
The king wanted to know if the suitor that he selected was indeed truly in love with his daughter and desired her for herself and would take good care of her. Or was he really desirous of the riches and honor that would accompany anyone who marries the princess?
So the king sent spies to see how the suitor would react when he was informed that he was chosen to marry the princess. If the man's happiness manifested itself in telling his friends about the many charms and beauty of the princess and how wonderful she was, then the king would know that he was the correct man. However, if this man boasted of the wealth, honor and position that he was soon to inherit, it would be a sure sign that the man's interest was more in his own personal betterment than in the welfare of the king's daughter.
The same is true for us. If our happiness on Simchat Torah is due to the festive dancing and singing or of being with good friends and eating good food, then our happiness is not because of the Torah. Simchat Torah then becomes just a day to have a "good time". Instead of drawing up simcha for the entire year, we have merely self indulged.
On the other hand, if we are happy because we have involved ourselves in the reading of the Torah, we have studied it and invested much of our energies in trying to fathom its secrets, then for us, the happiness of Simchat Torah is that we have finished one cycle of the Torah and are now starting another. This simcha is truly the happiness that comes from dedicating part of one's life to the study of the Torah.
True, this second person will also dance and sing, eat and drink with friends but his simcha is not based on the "good time" of Simchat Torah but on the essence of the day. This is the person that G-d rewards with a year of happiness.
from the November 2005 Edition of the Jewish Magazine