by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths
Hundreds of Yeshiva students were dancing at the Kotel late Monday afternoon. Simcha Torah was ending and they were honoring the holiday by dancing in large circles, singing, and carrying Torah scrolls. There were many small children running between them. It was very joyful. Everyone was in a happy mood.
I sat there watching them, and although I was happy for them, I thought, “That’s not fun for me.” Maybe it has to do with age, or maybe I was raised in a different mood, but jumping up and down, and running around in circles just doesn’t do it for me. “It seems like hard work!”
So, I asked myself, “Well then, what does make you happy?”
I looked back over the holiday and tried to find the things that I really enjoyed. Well, I liked having guests over, but I do that every week.
I really enjoyed giving a class to 15 teens in my sukkah. They were moved in a direction they had never thought of before, and to change Jewish lives really makes me happy.
But neither of these were the one thing that I could say about the holiday that really made me happy. I looked back over each day and there were many joyful things. For instance, I was very pleased with my etrog this year (one of the four species taken for the holiday).
I was really happy when a very young boy led the singing for a while on Simcha Torah. He was only 8 or 9 years old, but he had a great way of intoning the songs.
Another thing that made me happy was listening to two very young Temeni (Yemeni) boys reading from the Torah scroll. Although all year long only bar mitzvah boys and older may be called to the Torah, on Simcha Torah even small boys put on their father’s tallis (prayer shawl) and say the blessings. Some were so small that their fathers had to pick them up so they could see the writing in the scroll. But when the two small Temeni boys came up, their father asked the Reader if the boys could read their portions instead of the Reader.
The Reader asked with wonder, “Can they read from the Torah scroll?”
The father quickly answered, “Of course!”
We were all so impressed with the little boys as each in his turn sang the portion, sounding just like their Temeni teachers must sound as they chant the Torah to them over and over again until the boys know it by heart. That really made me smile.
But as I looked back over the entire holiday there was one thing that really stood out. It not only made me very happy every minute I was doing it, but it makes me smile to think about it now.
There is an interesting law regarding shaking the luluv. It used to be a Torah law to shake it every day of the holiday in the Temple but not in the other areas where Jews lived. Actually, today it is a Torah law to take the luluv only on the first day of the holiday. The rest of the days of the holiday it is a rabbinical law to shake the luluv. However, according to the Rambam, even today, in the Old City of Jerusalem, it is still a Torah mitzvah to shake it all seven days.
This means that when religious Jews, who certainly are careful to shake their luluv every morning in their home areas, come to the Kotel on the holiday, they like to shake the lulav again to fulfill the mitzvah of shaking it, not only as a rabbinical law, but according to the Rambam, as a Torah law.
So every afternoon I would join the handful of men who stood at the Kotel holding a luluv, making the Torah based mitzvah available to anyone who wanted.
Hundreds of religious Jews came up to me and motioned, “Can I borrow your luluv?” And I handed the luluv to them. They get such a good feeling doing this. They were all so thankful for the opportunity. I saw their happy faces and I got such a good feeling, too. Each and every one of them made me feel good.
Surely, when I would bring in someone who had not taken it at all that day (or year) and I would help him make the blessings it was an even greater joy, but each and every one who borrowed my luluv made me happy.
And as you might suspect, when really serious Jews would shake it and not seem happy, I was quick to remind them that the Torah clearly says, “You have to do it with joy!” They always smile and do it again.
It was really a great holiday.