Rabbi’s Corner: Sh’mini Atzeret, Yizkor and Simchat Torah: A Metaphor for Life

Tomorrow morning we gather as a combined community with Shir Ha’ma’a’lot and Congregation B’nai Tzedek to observe Sh’mini Atzeret and Yizkor, the end of Sukkot and our service of remembrance for those whom we loved who are no longer alive. We have just completed our celebration of Sukkot, Z’man Simchateinu – Season of Our Rejoicing. We expressed our gratitude to God for the many blessings in our lives.

Tomorrow morning, as we observe Yizkor, we will reflect on the lessons our loved ones taught us and the values they instilled within us. Through our memories, actions and deeds of love and kindness, we will keep and honor their memory and ensure that their spirit endures.

We no sooner end our time of reflection with Yizkor than we begin our time of rejoicing anew, with our festival of Simchat Torah on Saturday evening. On Simchat Torah, we complete the annual cycle of reading the Torah, which ends with Moses’ death, and begin reading it anew, with the story of the creation of the world. It’s a time of dancing, singing, and great joy in the eternal wisdom and guidance in the cycle of life, growth and learning that Torah provides. It is a reminder that joy can be found in our spiritual journey, in our connection to the Divine, and in our connections with our vibrant community.

Taken together, these observances of Sh’mini Atzeret, Yizkor and Simchat Torah are a metaphor for life. Celebrations conclude as life, with all its ups and downs, continues. We humans have an infinite capacity for holding the emotions of remembrance and mourning, together along with the emotions of celebration and rejoicing simultaneously. Moses’ life ends in one breath, a whole new world is created in the next. We pause, grieve, and start anew. Moses lives in our hearts, in our minds, in our words and deeds, just as our loved ones live on. The Torah text tells us: “Never again did there arise in Israel a prophet like Moses who God singled out face-to-face…” (Deut 34:10) When we lift the Torah, we sing: “This is the Torah that Moses placed before the people of Israel… God’s word through Moses’ hand.) (Deut. 4:44; Num. 9:23).

We invite you to join us tomorrow morning to remember in sacred community, tomorrow evening for Shabbat, Shabbat morning for Torah study and Saturday evening for our “Dancing with the Torah” Simchat Torah celebration (details below).

Chag Sameach and Shabbat Shalom!

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