A Simchat Torah Welcome
from JOI's Founding Director Dr. Egon Mayer z"l
The Torah. Is it history? Is it God's word taken as dictation
by Moses? Or, is it a compilation of wisdom produced by
a group of writers whose identities are long lost in history?
The questions are as numerous as the answers, and none
are conclusive. For a great many Jews it is not merely
a "book" or even "the book," it is the foundation of Jewish
collective existence. It is not just words written on
parchment scrolls, but the ideas, ideals, legends and
personalities that constitute the heart of a civilization
called "Jewish." For that reason, it is read and re-read
in a cyclical pattern.
In most traditional Orthodox and Conservative synagogues
the entirety of the Five Books of Moses is read in fifty-four
weekly portions, starting with the creation story of Genesis
and concluding with the death of Moses in Deuteronomy.
The holiday of Simchat Torah celebrates the conclusion
of that reading cycle. Interestingly, the celebration
is capped by starting from the very beginning. No sooner
do we conclude than we begin all over again.
The book never ends, because in a very real sense it is
about the evolving life of an ever growing people.