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"A Crown of Supernal Joy"

by Yehoshua Metzinger


The main concept of Simchat Torah is simcha, or joy, as is indicated by the name of the holiday. It is from this special day that we derive all our happiness for the entire year. While it is true that all holidays, to some extent, are associated with simcha, especially Sukkot, which is called "the time of our joy", Simchat Torah brings an aspect of simcha which is greater than that of other holidays, and is the culmination of the simcha of Sukkot.

What is the source of the joy on Simchat Torah, and what sets it apart from the happiness we experience on other holidays? In the Zohar, parashat Pinchas, it is said that it is customary that Simchat Torah is a day of joy and happiness. This sets Simchat Torah apart from the days of Sukkot, which are characterized by joy because they are associated with the wheat harvest, whereas the elation of Simchat Torah is referred to as "customary", coming from a place beyond nature and the harvest.

Perhaps one could say that the simcha of Simchat Torah is derived from the reading of the Torah. However, the joy that comes from learning the Torah is also natural rather than customary, as the verse says, "The commandments of G-d are straight, gladdening the heart." (Psalms 19:9)

Perhaps the happiness of Simchat Torah comes from the dancing? Dancing is the G-dly service of the acceptance of Divine kingship. Dancing increases joy, but it isn't the original source of the simcha. It is similar to the way in which speech comes from the intellect and the heart, and, at the same time, increases emotion and understanding. However, one wouldn't say that the source of the emotion and the understanding was the speech itself, but the intellect and the heart. Likewise, simcha inspires the dancing, and the dancing increases the simcha, but the dancing is not the original source of the joy.

The focal point of the service on Simchat Torah is the hakafot, when we circle to Torah seven times; it is said that the simcha at this time is so great that even the feet are rejoicing. If the concept of Simchat Torah is so closely associated with dancing, why do we read from the Torah? The answer lies in the fact that, on Simchat Torah, the Jewish People brings down a higher aspect of Torah within the Torah itself, a joy which crowns the Torah from the aspect of keter.

There are two ways of understanding this simcha. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all of Israel, including Mashiach, are rejoicing in the Torah on Simchat Torah. In addition, the Torah itself is rejoicing, because on this day it receives its crown, a level that is higher than the head. Keter is an encompassing power which surrounds the Torah, and is on a higher level than learning, which penetrates the Torah and is associated with the concept of inwardness (pnimiyut). This level of Torah is compared to food as in the verse "create your own sustenance". The sustenance can take the form of bread, the most basic form of food, but, at this level, the Torah reflects the level of "fat meat", as in the verse, "eat fat meat". Bread is necessary to sustain life, but meat, especially fat meat, is above the level of mere physical existence the way that the inner aspect of the Torah is on a spiritual level - above basic survival. However, the level of keter is above even the level of the richness of the Torah, i.e. "fat meat".

It is said that the Jewish people gathered in front of King Solomon in the month of "Atanim", a word meaning both strength and age. It is in the seventh month, corresponding to the month of Tishrei. A verse explains how "Atan" will also be revealed in the future: "A Maskil [type of song] of Etan the Ezrachite." [in Hebrew, "Maskil L'aitan Haezrachi."] (Psalms 89:1) can also be read as "Intellect and strength will be shining." The word "ezrach" also means "citizen". This means that, in the future, the aspect of Atan will be shining, and that every Jewish citizen will sit in the Sukka, since this revelation is associated with the time of Sukkot, when G-d shines within all of Israel.

But isn't this aspect of shining already occurring during the time of Sukkot? The shining that occurs now and during the initial revelation of Mashiach is of a kind that encompasses and, at the same time, is settled within the Jewish People, but is still somewhat hidden. The shining during the time of Resurrection of the Dead, the time of ultimate reward, will be a shining that is openly revealed.

Why is the shining during the time of Resurrection of the Dead different from the shining that occurs now during Sukkot? The time of Resurrection of the Dead will be a time that is more refined, when the body will no longer depend on eating and drinking. How can it be that the bodies will not need food or drink when they are the same bodies that existed before? According the tractate Sanhedrin, the bodies will be cured of their blemishes and reach a state of completeness where they will be stronger than they were before. If the bodies will be stronger, it would seem even more likely that they would require sustenance. It is said that the bodies will be on the same level as the body of Adam. Why, then, did Adam need to eat (i.e. G-d gave him permission to the fruit of any tree but one) and these bodies will not require food? When Moses ascended the mountain for forty days, he did not eat or drink. It is said that he suffered because of this, even though he was communicating directly with G-d. This implies that there is a need for food, even as one occupies lofty spiritual levels. But, during the time of Resurrection of the Dead, there will be no physical suffering or hunger, because G-d has promised "to wipe away the tears from every face".

Eating and drinking do exist on very high spiritual realms. According to the Zohar, the verse "I ate the hive along with the honey"(Songs 5:1), refers to the Reading of the Shema (i.e. the honey) and the blessings before the Shema (i.e. the hive). The recital of the Shema and the blessings provides something akin to nourishment in the higher realms. Sacrifices are a way in which the Jewish people "feed" G-d, on the level at which G-d can be said to receive from below. What occurs there is similar to the way in which eating, on the human level, connects the soul and the body. G-d fills Creation when he is "nourished" by sacrifices.

During the exile, when we have no means of making sacrifices, the "food" is our prayer. Although His essence is beyond eating and drinking, even "spiritual food", on infinite levels where there is no concealment of G-dliness, nourishment from prayer and sacrifices are still received. This is not like the body and the soul, which require food and drink from a higher source; these levels give and receive nourishment below. The connection created by this nourishment is like the connection between the essence and the power of the soul. These powers, such as seeing and hearing, are separate from the essence of the soul, which, when connected with these powers, activates them. The spiritual food can connect G-d to the world, although the essence of G-d and the world are farther distant than the body and soul, which constantly require physical food.

Even though at infinite levels G-d can be said to give and receive nourishment, there is a higher level, keter, where the Infinite Light shines closely, and it is because of this closeness that there is no need for nourishment that would create a connection between distant things, such as the body and the soul. It is the aspect of keter that is the source of the simcha on Simchat Torah, and is beyond the level of Sukkot, which requires a sacrifice of 70 oxen. There is no special festive meal associated with Simchat Torah because it brings the aspect of keter, which is beyond eating and drinking, to crown the Torah. Keter is associated with closeness to G-d and closeness with higher levels, since, as it descends, each level settles closely, like a crown, on the "head" of the lower level. However, keter is higher relative to the lower levels only; within keter itself, there are no levels at all, since it is beyond levels and is associated with Ein Sof.

It is from keter, beyond levels of nourishment, distance and connection, that we draw simcha on Simchat Torah, adding a new dimension to the Torah and providing supernal joy for the entire year.

[Translated by Yehoshua Metzinger from Sefer Maamarim 5730-31, page 31]


Yehoshua Metzinger of Nahariya, a former counselor at Ascent, is now married and living in Jerusalem.


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