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This article was previously published in 2016.
As we approach Simchat Torah, we come to the end of a beautiful and awe-inspiring process. Each and every step masterfully designed and prepared for us so that we can grow closer to ourselves and find our way back to the Creator. We were blessed to be visited with enormous energies that are the Emanations of the Light for the last 21 days, and we have made tremendous effort to both achieve greater wisdom and connection with all that has been given to us from the cosmic realm. Now, before the windows closes, we have a moment to look back and choose for ourselves the path we want to take as the verdicts are sealed.
And there is no better instrument to help us in this work than the Zohar itself. As the Zohar tells us in the portion of Pinchas, beginning with verse 27:
Rav Chiya said to Rav Elazar, “I should like to discuss these days from Rosh Hashanah until the last day of Sukkot.” Rav Elazar said, “The order of these days is the secret of wisdom… On the day of Shmini Atzeret, which is Simchat Torah, there is the mating of the body, namely the Central Column, called ‘body,’ taking place. This is the union of all parts, for it includes the mating of the Left side, of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur as well as the union of the Right side—the holiday of Sukkot, since the Central Column incorporates the Right and the Left. Thus all is one, and this is overall perfection. And this day, namely Simchat Torah, is definitely the day of the people as its portion belongs to them alone, for no other people has a part in it. Happy is the nation. About them it is written, ‘Because you are a holy people for God.’" (Deuteronomy 14:2)”
What are we to understand from this?
We know from a kabbalistic point of view that neither the Light nor the Vessel were of our choice or making: The Light and all that it emanates—the Right Column and our soul—always was, is, and always will be; the Vessel—the Left Column, our universe, our bodies and all of its detailed part is a product of Creation. The Central Column, on the other hand, is the result of our choices. Through our free will, to restrict our selfish desires and become ever more like our Source, we create the filament, and in this way become the cause of Light in our own lives and for this world.
With this perspective, we can open ourselves up to fully understand where to place our consciousness as we come to Simchat Torah.
In terms of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which are part of the ten days of judgment respectfully, there is infinite material to study, information to learn, steps prepared for us to utilize as we purify the Left Column. On Sukkot, along with the four days that proceed it, we have eleven days of busying ourselves in a prescribed manner to establish mercy in this world—the Right Column. The last step in this work is the one that actually activates all that was done before. Simchat Torah is the step that turns on the Light.
Rav Berg would always comment on how little is written about the Third Meal of Shabbat connection. He would discuss how few places still engage in this simple service of song, Kiddush, and the breaking of bread. And yet we know that Third Meal is the most powerful of all, as it brings the totality of the energy of Shabbat together, at this, the culmination point of the day. So, too, is it with Simchat Torah. If you research this holiday, there is conspicuously little to study. There is arguably little to do. All that is being asked of us is to choose, of our own free will, to accept the spiritual path from a space of certainty and happiness, from a place of fullness not lack, from love not need. With all of our joy, all the strength we have left to muster, we accept the Torah and dance. Activating all the Light that we have brought into potential until now.
From the Zohar we can understand that all the other connections that proceed Simchat Torah bring to bear a cosmic infrastructure and apparatus that was constructed for us and on behalf of us, but Simchat Torah is the greatest gift God bestowed—the free will to be our own maker. It is as if God is saying, “Now that I have put all the pieces in place perfectly for you, I leave the choice to you.” It is with our choice, with our consciousness and our actions on Simchat Torah that we accept the spiritual work and turn on the Light. This explains the message of the Zohar: “This portion belongs to them.”
From Rosh Hashanah until Sukkot, we have done all that we can to purify ourselves to receive the affections of our Beloved, to be worthy receivers of God’s Love. On Simchat Torah, it is our turn, as humanity, to express our love to God by accepting the Torah—the gift of His affection.
As the Zohar in this section so beautifully concludes, “Happy is the nation. About them it is written, ‘Because you are a holy people for God.’ (Deuteronomy 14:2)”