Simhat Torah- Appreciating the Roadmap to This World and the Next
Simhat Torah is one of the happiest and joyous holidays of the year. However, Simhat Torah appears to be, chronologically, “out of order.” Since we received the Torah after Pesach, on Shavuot, we would expect the celebration of the Torah to occur on Shavuot, and not months later, after Sukkot.
We can understand this based upon the following parable: There was once a man who wished to be married. The “shadchan” (matchmaker) told the man about a young lady with wonderful qualities and attributes. After agreeing to marry her, at the wedding, he graciously thanked the shadchan, and all of those responsible for the wedding. However, after living with his new wife for a few months, he once again went back to the shadchan, and thanked her again, as only now he fully realized and appreciated what a great gift he received.
Similarly, although we thank God for the gift of the Torah on Shavuot, are gratitude is somewhat limited, as we are not yet familiar with the Torah. On Simhat Torah, however, after finishing reading the entire Torah, we begin to understand the depth of the Torah, its ethics, and the direction and guidance of the Torah. Therefore, months later, we once again thank God for the Torah, and we dance with the Torah again, as we now understand the sweetness and beauty of the Torah.
Also, there may be another reason why we celebrate the Torah on Simhat Torah, and not on Shavuot. Unfortunately many believe that the Torah restricts and shackles a person and that one cannot live a normal life with the Torah. After learning the Torah, we realize that the Torah is pleasant and its ways are peaceful - “deracheha darchei noam vechol netivoteha shalom.” The Rabbis teach us that the Torah is a guide for a regular, normal, meaningful life. The laws of the Torah are for our benefit, and provide us with a roadmap of how to get from this world, a vestibule, to the World to Come. On Simhat Torah we thank God for giving us guidance and direction to the world to come.
Interestingly, immediately after finishing the Torah, we return to the beginning of the Torah: Bereshit. Parashat Bereshit begins with the letter “bet”- which is the numerical value of two. It is possible that the beginning of the Torah, life’s roadmap, begins with a “bet” to hint to us that the Torah provides instruction and guidance for two worlds- This World (olam hazeh) and the World to Come (olam haba). Those who follow the Torah receive not one “world,” but two.
Only after having learned, studied and lived according to the Torah for a period of time does one truly appreciate this, and then, on is ready to celebrate the Torah.