Volume 41 Number 03
                 Produced: Fri Oct 31  6:14:48 US/Eastern 2003

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Cycles (was RE: Simchat Torah)
         [Sam Saal]
Simchas Torah dancing
         [Josh Zaback]
Simchas Torah Reflections (4)
         [Mark H. Goldenberg, Meir Possenheimer, David Charlap,
Simchat Torah Celebrattion
         [Yisrael and Batya Medad]
Simchat Torah Readings
         [Ben Katz]


From: Sam Saal <ssaal@...>
Date: Thu, 30 Oct 2003 09:34:02 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Cycles (was RE: Simchat Torah)

Immanuel Burton <IBURTON@...> wrote:

>If the Talmud gives a different Haftorah for Simchas Torah, where and
>?when did the custom to read Joshua 1 start?  Perhaps the reason it is
>read is to show continuity, i.e. even though Moshe's life had come to an
>end, we still carry on as the Jewish People.

For some reason, this year was the first time I really seemed to have
paid attention to the choice of haftorah. I usually focus on the words,
trope, and meaning, but not the choice of haftorah itself.

One of the themes that fascinates me is the concept of cycles,
especially in Judaism.

Our holidays come in both annual and seasonal cycles, yet we also look
at a monthly lunar cycle.  Our wives' lives - and therefore our own -
are intimately tied to a monthly cycle There are lots of others. but
lets end with the fact that we read the torah with an annual cycle (it
seems to have originally been a three year cycle).

Simchat Torah, of course, is a celebration of this last cycle

And yet, Judaism also celebrates what I'll call "gateways": brit milah
(entering the covenant), bar/bat mitzvah (starting to be responsible for
mitzvot), marriage (starting a life together), and others

Not everyone is responsible for passing through each gateway: some are
automatic (bat mitzvah), some are a goal that many may not attain (G-d
forbid, marriage).

Simchat torah seems to provide both a cycle and a gateway. We start
over, reading b'reishit, immediately after "finishing" the Torah. And
reading the first part of Y'hoshua is the gateway to new learning, new
books, and new study. It is not good enough to only start over (cycle),
we must push forward (gateway) to N'viim.

Sam Saal


From: Josh Zaback <heshyzaback2@...>
Date: Tue, 28 Oct 2003 15:30:37 -0500
Subject: Simchas Torah dancing

From: <Smwise3@...>
<<Hakafos seems more an event for the young, namely young yeshivish men and 
younger. They obviously are caught up in the spirit of the occasion, but why 
must they go on for a half hour or more? The dancing consists of little more 
than being crushed as you walk around in a circle, and the "older" men sit 
it out, learn or talk with others during the bulk of the time spent. While I 
realize the young yeshiva boys bring spirit, they also show little 
consideration or respect for the people around them. It seems to me that 
even in this playfulness, they display disrespect and disregard for 
others--antithetical to the teachings of the very Torah they dance with. 
Coupled with the drinking, and in some places, the pranks, Simchas Torah 
starts resembling Purim. Quite honestly, when they get so caught up in the 
singing and dancing--a natural release after the intensity of the holiday 
season--do they still realize why they are doing it?>>

S. Wise raises a few interesting issues in his post. First, the drinking
in shul on Simchas Torah and on Purim, I think all would agree, is
definitely out of control. There is no reason for teenagers, even
post-teen Yeshiva Bochurim, to drink alcohol on Simchas Torah. It adds
nothing to the general ruach except rowdiness and occasionally has
serious health-related consequnces. The same goes for pranks and tricks,
which can show a lack of mussar and sensitivity for others. If the
drinking and the pranks become the focus of the celebration,
something's wrong.

Perhaps the Yeshiva Bochrim do stretch the hakafos out, but as you say,
they add a lot to the atmosphere of the dancing. [An aside- when the
dozen or so Bochuim left the hakafos at the Young Israel where I davened
for a quick stop at a neighboring shul, the dancing literally died until
they returned.]  But remember, these Bochurim learn Torah all day and
sometimes all night, and they have a much greater Simcha over the Torah
than your average Ba'al Habos, who might learn for a couple of hours a
day. The Bochurim really live and breathe the Torah and Yiddishkeit in
Yeshiva and they feel the Simchas HaTorah more. Perhaps the Ba'alei
Batim are a bit more cynical and can't put the same face forward in
dancing with the Torah. But I try to be a bit understanding when the
Bochurim dance leibidig. When they sing "Ki Heim Chayeinu" they really
mean it. This is their life!


From: <GOLDDDS@...> (Mark H. Goldenberg)
Date: Tue, 28 Oct 2003 11:37:08 EST
Subject: Re: Simchas Torah Reflections

     A number of years ago, in our shul, the Young Israel of Century
City in Los Angeles, we instituted two shiurim for women during Hakafos,
precisely because the women felt "left out" of the celebration.  The
shiurim are very well attended and received, and the participants feel
that have made good use of their time and quite literally, turned the
day into a "Simchas Torah."

Mark H. Goldenberg DDS

From: Meir Possenheimer <meir@...>
Date: Wed, 29 Oct 2003 10:00:32 -0000
Subject: Re: Simchas Torah Reflections

> From: <Smwise3@...>
> I know Simchas Torah is supposed to be a joyous celebration, but each
> year, no matter where I go--sometimes far away from my Brooklyn
> community--I find myself bothered by the same two issues: ultralong
> hakafos and what is in it for women.

These comments on both issues say it all - I could not have put it
bettter myself. Indeed, I often feel that Yomtov "ends" with Mincha on
Shemini Atzeres. The protracted dancing(?) and singing (shouting?) of
both the evening and the following day mean that there is virtually no
time left for a Yomtov Seudah with the family, to pick up a Sefer or
simply to enjoy Yomtov and relax with the family.  But, other than
leaving Shul in the middle of the proceedings, which on Simchas Torah at
least means not being able to hear Krias Hatorah and davenning Musaph
with the Tzibur, I feel that there is little else one can do. Perhaps if
the time comes when those left in Shul see that there is no minyan left
with which to continue, they may finally get the message..........

From: David Charlap <shamino@...>
Date: Tue, 28 Oct 2003 12:10:02 -0500
Subject: Re: Simchas Torah Reflections

<Smwise3@...> wrote:
> Then comes the women who are relegated to siting and watching.

Why are they just sitting and watching?

At the Chabad shul where I attended services, the women were dancing
their own hakafot on their side of the mechitza.

> Perhaps more modern shuls do have dancing for them, but what about
> the more right-wing contingency?

I suppose some communities may consider Chabad to be a liberal movement,
but I doubt there are many of them.  And I suspect a woman like yourself
living in such a community would have a lot more than hakafot to
complain about.

-- David

From: <Phyllostac@...> (Mordechai)
Date: Wed, 29 Oct 2003 08:53:59 EST
Subject: Re: Simchas Torah Reflections

I would like to salute Mr. (?) S. Wise for his very on-the-mark

I will not focus on the women's issue that he wrote about, but rather on
the male / general side of the matter.

Simchas Torah is like a siyyum - celebration when one finishes a
tractate of the Talmud, e.g. - albeit on a larger scale. Just as at a
ordinary small-scale siyyum there is a combination of learning, prayer
and celebration (out loud recitation of the text finished, beginning of
next text, special kaddish), so too should the basic form seemingly be
at the large scale siyyum of simchas Torah. If at a 'regular' siyyum,
the dancing and singing is only a small part of the event, with Torah
addresses occupying a larger part of it, one would think that a similar
proportionality should prevail on Simchas Torah. Instead, among some,
the day is given over almost totally to dancing, singing, drinking,
etc., with very little or no Torah study (beyond hearing the krias
haTorah). Is such proper ? A similar situation has long prevailed on
Purim, which, parenthetically, some people seem to treat as Simchas
Torah's twin in some ways (e.g. drinking, wearing masks, pranks, etc.) -
despite the fact that such is not prescribed by our Torah. In recent
years there have been some improvements, boruch Hashem, e.g. in the
forms of a movement ('Yeshivas Yosef HaTzaddik'), promoting Torah study
on Purim, and growing criticism and cracking down against improper and
irresponsible drinking then. Perhaps these improvements will spread to
Simchas Torah soon (they have already started to with regard to

Re ultralong hakofos - I agree that it is improper to extend the hakofos
against the will of the tzibbur / gabboim. The way I see it, there are
supposed to be seven hakofos (hakofo = circuit of bima), as on hoshanna
rabba, on which Simchas Torah hakofos are modeled. In many congregations
I think there are actually tens if not hundreds of hakofos instead ! It
would seem that people are not obligated to take part in more than seven

Tircha ditzibbura (not unnecessarily burdening the congregation) is an
important inyan in Judaism. If the youth want to dance more, they can
get together later in the day on their own, but to hold up the whole
tzibbur due to their youthful enthusiasm and exuberance is seemingly

On Simchas Torah people also have certain regular Yom tov obligations to
fulfill - e.g. simchas yom tov, eating with family, etc. - which carry
more weight than certain questionable relatively new Simchas Torah
'customs'. If services get so out of hand length and other wise,
upsetting people and causing unnecessary major disruptions, it could be
a case of 'yotzo sechoro bihefseido' (gain exceeded by the loss), making
it therefore improper. Perhaps young single students are not fully aware
of the havoc caused by some of their actions and their repercussions.

We are taught that 'binyan neorim stira' (the 'building' of immature
youth is actually destruction), while 'stiras zikeinim binyan' (the
[seeming] 'destruction' of wise elders is actually construction).

I think it is time for the elders to take back the leadership of things
re Simchas Torah !

I think that many people share the feelings of the poster actually, and
I know that a significant amount of people attend early, streamlined
'hashkomo' or vosikin minyonim on simchas Torah to avoid (at least
somewhat) situations of the type described by the poster.

Finally, re 'pranks' on Simchas Torah, such as tying up the chazan,
carrying him out, etc. - those would seem to be totally forbidden and
should be not be tolerated, IMO.



From: Yisrael and Batya Medad <ybmedad@...>
Date: Wed, 29 Oct 2003 20:05:50 +0200
Subject: Re: Simchat Torah Celebrattion

      I would like to hear comments from others.  Maybe I am missing
      something, but Simchas Torah, even when I enter it with my best
      attitude, always leaves me a little disappointed and bewildered.

In Shiloh a neighbor initiated a new custom a few years ago.  She and
other women and young girls go dancing to the homes of the old and
infirm who can't get out on the Holiday.  This really makes a simcha
during the hakafot of Simchat Torah.



From: Ben Katz <bkatz@...>
Date: Wed, 29 Oct 2003 11:09:12 -0600
Subject: Re: Simchat Torah Readings

>From: Immanuel Burton <IBURTON@...>
>In MJv40n96, Josh Backon wrote:
> > The custom of completing the reading of the Torah on Simchat Torah is
> > mentioned in a braita in Megilla 31a "l'machar korin V'Zoht haBracha".
>The Talmud in Megilla 31a does indeed say that on Simchas Torah the
>reading is "Ve'zos Ha'bracha".  However, I would like to suggest that
>this is NOT because the reading of the Torah is specifically completed
>on Simchas Torah, but for another reason.
>The passage of Talmud cited continues and says that the Haftorah on
>Simchas Torah is "Va'yamod Shlomoh" (1 Kings 8:55), which is not the
>Haftorah that we read (Joshua 1).  The Haftorah for Shemini Atzeres is
>given as "Va'yehi Kechalos Shlomoh" (1 Kings 8:54), which starts one
>verse earlier than the one given for Simchas Torah.
>The Torah reading on Yom Tov usually has a connection to the theme of
>the day.  For example, on Shovous we read from Yisro about the Giving Of
>The Torah.  The Haftorah given in the Talmud for Simchas Torah talks
>about Solomon blessing the people, and the only parallel to that in
>Torah is in Ve'zos Ha'brochoh, when Moshe blessed the people.  (Usually
>the Haftorah is dictated by the Torah reading, but here it's the other
>way round!)  If the lehening was fixed as Ve'zos Ha'brochoh, then maybe
>the celebration of concluding the cycle of reading the Torah was then
>fixed for Shemini Atzeres/Simchas Torah - in other words, the cause and
>effect are the other way round, i.e. the fact that we happened to read
>the last sidra of the Torah (because of relevance to the day) lead to
>celebrating the conclusion of the cycle.

         Mr. Burton makes a very good point, as Simchat Torah is not
mentioned anywhere in the Talmud (it dates to geonic times).

>If the Talmud gives a different Haftorah for Simchas Torah, where and
>when did the custom to read Joshua 1 start?  Perhaps the reason it is
>read is to show continuity, i.e. even though Moshe's life had come to an
>end, we still carry on as the Jewish People.

         I believe Tosafot in megillah mentions the practise of reading
Joshua 1 as the haftarah for Simchat Torah.  Many of the piyutim added
to the davening on Simchat Torah deal with Moshe's demise, giving
credance to Mr. Burton's speculation (above).  What I find interesting
(and there are many more examples of this) is that not everything in the
Talmud is binding.  The Talmud gives us the order of the sifray Tanach
(BB 14b-15a) yet there is nary a single printed Hebrew Bible that
follows it.  The Talmud tells us the haftarah for the second day of
shemini atzeret - and yet we read something else.  Times and
circumstances can change (albeit slowly).


End of Volume 41 Issue 3