Rabbi Moshe Lieber
Succos is the climax of the most festival-filled month in the year — and Shemini Atzeres/Simchas Torah is the climax of Succos. The introspection and spiritual awakening of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and the Ten Days of Repentance prepare us for Succos, the “time of our gladness.” And then, after their seven days of joy, the Jewish people bursts forth in the ecstasy of Simchas Torah.
How natural. As Sfas Emes comments, when a Jew exults, he takes his happiness and dedicates it to a higher purpose. So when the festival season has elevated the Jewish people to heights of gladness, the nation celebrates with the greatest gift human beings have ever received — the Torah!
Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah combine the intensity of Geshem (the Prayer for Rain) and Yizkor (the Memorial Prayer), with the exultation of the Hakafos, the joyous circuits with the Torah Scrolls. As arms embrace the Torah, lips kiss it, voices sing of it, and feet defy gravity to rejoice with it, the Jew experiences the feeling that “We are fortunate — how good is our portion, how pleasant is our lot, and beautiful our heritage!”
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