The Simhat Torah Morning Service

Ending -- and beginning -- the Torah cycle

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After this aliyah, the beginning of Genesis (1:1-2:3) is, read from the second Torah scroll. The person honored with this aliyah is called the chatan Bereshit--"groomof Genesis" (or kallat Bereshit --"brideof Genesis"). Again, a special piyyutis recited. As the first chapter of Genesis is read, the congregation recites for each day of creation veyehi erev veyehi voker--"therewas evening and there was morning"--which is repeated by the Torah reader. It is customary in many places to spread a tallit like a canopy over the chatan Torah and chatan Bereshit.

The lifting of the second Torah scroll is done in a special fashion. The person crosses his or her hands so that the scroll, when lifted, is reversed (i.e., the Hebrew script is facing the congregation).  [This is not done at all congregations.] This is done to symbolize turning the Torah back to its beginning--to Genesis.

The third scroll is the maftir scroll, from which the concluding Torah portion of Numbers 29:35-30:1 is read. This is followed by the chanting of the Simchat Torah Haftarah, from the first chapter of the Book of Joshua.

The Musaf Additional Service for Simchat Torah is the usual festival one, except that the joyous mood is maintained by the ingenuity of the reader. Latitude is given to merriment, and some synagogues allow tasteful "fooling around" in order to heighten the great joy of the day. Simchat Torah thus gives expression to the unbreakable chain--the Torah--that links past and future generations. In that chain lies the secret of the eternal validity of the Jewish people.

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Rabbi Ronald H. Isaacs

Rabbi Ronald H. Isaacs is the spiritual leader of Temple Sholom in Bridgewater, New Jersey. He has served as the publications committee chairperson of the Rabbinical Assembly.