Simchat Torah is a holiday that marks the end of the annual Torah reading cycle and the beginning of a new cycle. On this day, the last Torah parasha, Parashat V’zot Ha’barachah, is read, and immediately after it the beginning of the first parasha, Parashat Bereshit.
There’s a story of a Rabbi that saw a simple Jew dancing on Simchat Torah very happily with the Torah. This person was not known as someone that was very much “busy” with the Torah during the year.
So the Rabbi asked him, I understand people that studied Torah throughout the year that they are happy on this day that they finished the Torah, but what are you so happy about? The man replied, “if brothers are happy, should I not join their happiness?”
On Simchat Torah there is a custom that everyone is called up to the Torah, even children that are not called up to the Torah during the year are called up, not only children that can say the blessings, but even babies are also called up together to stand under the Tallit with an adult that says the blessings for them. In some communities throughout history, women were given the opportunity to dance with the Torah (separately) to be part of this happy day.
The Midrash explains the meaning of the eighth day of assembly with a Mashal: A king who had a feast for seven days and summoned all the people in the country for seven days of the feast. Once the seven days of the feast had passed, he said to his lover: We have already given up all the people of the country - you and I will roll in whatever you find.
The Mashal is that during the seven days of Sukkot we sacrificed in the Temple 70 cows for all the nations of the world, and on the eighth day God says to the people of Israel: "Roll what you find, one cow and one ram." In another Midrash God is described as saying: "it’s on me your parting ", and therefore gave us another day of holiday.
Simchat Torah is a celebration that combines the whole community internally under the happiness of the Torah, finishing it and starting it again from fresh. Like everything in life, this is also a cycle, we are never finished with something without beginning something new, and this is what we are celebrating together.
Let us have a really happy Simchat Torah, with those who studied the Torah throughout the year and with those who didn’t, all as one, together as a holy community.