Crown of Supernal Joy"
by Yehoshua Metzinger
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,