This week marks my favorite Jewish holiday: Simchat Torah. For those who are not familiar with it, every year the Jewish community works its way through the five books of Moses according to a set schedule. To celebrate, a Torah scroll is completely unrolled around the inside of the sanctuary with the ends close together. As the final verses of Deuteronomy are read, they are followed by the first verses of Genesis, indicating that the learning is never complete.
My favorite part of the service is when the rolled up Torah scrolls are brought out and paraded around by members of the congregation. In Orthodox congregations, this act is performed by men. In Reform synagogues like mine, there is the request that only Jews carry the scrolls, a request I respected leading up to my conversion. The very first time I held a Torah was actually not on Simchat Torah, but on the day I became Jewish.
After my meeting with the rabbis and the ritual bath, my congregation helped me celebrate. I was invited up onto the bimah at the front of the sanctuary, where I was handed the Torah scroll and given the priestly blessing.
Does the hand gesture look familiar? Star Trek got it from Judaism.
I had several of my friends as part of the congregation that evening, sharing the end of that special day with me. It was wonderful to look out and see them there, smiling and supportive.
What they don’t warn you about is how heavy the Torah scrolls are! All of that parchment and the thick wooden dowels add up in weight fast. I started to get a little afraid I might drop it, but I also was a bit reluctant giving it back. What a special honor I was bestowed that night.
Am I alone in having a minor holiday be my favorite? or When was the last milestone moment in your life that your friends were there to witness?