When you dance in front of God, when you dance in honor of God, and when you dance in honor of the Torah – there are no protocols or formalities. We are all equal.
The holiday of Simchat Torah, which is observed for one day in Israel and two days in the Diaspora, is observed at the end of the Sukkot Festival. Simchat Torah is the holiday in which we celebrate the completion of the Torah reading cycle. The Torah is divided up in such a way that it is read from beginning to end each year. Indeed, and as soon as it is finished we waste no time – we immediately begin reading it from the beginning on the very same day.
On Simchat Torah there is one “mitzva” that must be done – to dance, dance, and dance some more. If you’re not sure how much you have to dance, perhaps King David can show you how. There is a story in chapter six of the second book of Samuel which goes something like this: When King David was accompanying the Holy Ark back to Jerusalem we are told that he was dancing like crazy! He was dancing, twisting, turning, jumping – having a great time!
Now when King David got home that night, his wife, Michal gave him a scolding. “Are you out of your mind?!?! What were you doing out there? You can’t let loose like that! You’re the king of Israel! The king of Israel can’t be seen dancing wildly in the streets!!”
Michal might have been right, actually. Michal was not only the wife of a king, but she was also the daughter of a king – King Saul. She surely knew royal protocol and formality. She’d probably fit right into Buckingham Palace without any further training! Yes, a king, queen, president, and prime minister must act a certain way in public.
But King David was not caught off guard. He told his wife that he wasn’t dancing in front of the people – he was dancing in front of God! And when you dance in front of God, when you dance in honor of God, and when you dance in honor of the Torah – there are no protocols or formalities. We are all equal. The king must dance just like his subjects. We all unite and join together to serve and glorify God. That’s how it is.
When we dance with the Torah, the Torah remains wrapped up and dressed. It is not unrolled, exposed, or read from during the festivities. Why? In order that everyone feel united and connected with the Torah. If the Torah would be exposed, perhaps those lesser-learned would feel intimidated by the scholars who are “at home” with the text. Therefore, the Torah is kept wrapped and closed in order to symbolize that it is for everyone to enjoy, dance, and celebrate with. This is the unity of Simchat Torah. It doesn’t matter how well you know the Torah – it matters that you know the Torah is yours!
And so it is with our dear friends all around the world who are United with Israel. It doesn’t matter where you live or how often you visit. As the song goes: “This land is my land, this land is your land!” We are all united for the benefit of the People, Country and Land of Israel. And that is also something worth dancing in the streets about!
Chag Sameach (Happy Holiday) from Israel!
By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel