The Jewish Circle of Life

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Our 2013 Simchat Torah Celebration – Photo by Josh Prezant

This Sunday night, as part of our Simchat Torah celebration which begins at 6:30PM, we dance with our Torah scrolls. At the conclusion of the dancing, we take one of the scrolls and completely unwrap it so that it surrounds the sanctuary. Many of you will help hold up the parchment of the Torah as others, including lots of our kids, will gather inside the unwrapped scroll. The entire ancient Jewish story will be completely visible to us all – from the Garden of Eden to Mount Sinai to our ancestors’ journey through the desert and on to Israel. We’ll read the last few lines and the first few lines of Torah – officially starting the biblical reading cycle all over again as we have done for centuries.

While many ask why we read the Torah all over again year after year, when you join us Sunday night, you’ll discover first hand that Torah really has no beginning and no end. Torah is a circle, an infinite loop that shares new lessons and insights every time we allow ourselves to connect to the storytelling process that has been part of our people’s history for generations.

At 6:00PM Sunday night, before our Simchat Torah celebration begins, many will gather for Yizkor and think about those who are no longer physically with us. We’ll lean on each other as we remember and weep. But, our grief will be limited. Immediately following the 30-minute Yizkor service, the sanctuary will be flooded with children getting ready to sing and dance with the Torahs as part of the Simchat Torah celebration. This transition from sadness to joy epitomizes the circle of life that is celebrated as we unwrap the Torah.

Whether it be moving from a memorial service to a joyful festival, from one story in the Torah to the next or from the end of our ancient story to the beginning once again, Judaism teaches us that life doesn’t stop. It’s a never-ending process that carries us all along for the ride. Along the way, we welcome new souls and miss those who pass on. We learn from our experiences and we use what we’ve learned to teach the younger generations. And as life carries us along, our Judaism, our heritage, our rituals and our legends are there to give us meaning, unite us and inspire us. Yes, we reread the same stories and repeat the same rituals that define our faith. But, hopefully, in time, we begin to notice that when we find ourselves rereading stories and repeating rituals, the circle of life gives us insight, wisdom and clarity that we didn’t have the last time we engaged with our Torah and tradition.

Sunday night, we start all over again. Seamlessly, we finish reading the Torah and immediately begin rereading it, starting with Creation and the Garden of Eden. The Jewish story continues. Life continues. On the surface, things might seem repetitive. It’s the same Garden of Eden that we visited last year. But, we’re all different than we were when we visited last year. Join us as we come together Sunday to comfort each other, celebrate our story and discover the lessons that the circle of life continues to teach us.

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