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Friday, 18 October, 2019 - 9:42 am

As joyous Holidays go, Simchat Torah (literally: The Joy of Torah) is high voltage. Sunday evening through Tuesday, Jews throughout the world - all types and stripes - will be dancing, enthusiastically showing their delight for this gift we call the Torah.  

What’s interesting is that we won’t actually be studying the Torah. While the Torah is best known as a source of great wisdom, we’ll be rejoicing with a closed and wrapped Torah. Interestingly, the party doesn’t seem to be about the Torah’s ideas; if fact, history has shown that many who can’t actually read from the Torah are jubilantly celebrating.

So what are we celebrating? What’s the gift worth if not its academic richness?

Conceptually, not just semantically, it’s important to note that the Torah is much more than a ‘gift’ per se. Scripture actually refers to the Torah as our ‘inheritance’. This is relevant because a gift is something that one party gives to another. An inheritance is a different type of transfer from benefactor to recipient.  

According to Torah law, a deceased person’s assets automatically transfer to his/her heirs, even if there is no indication of the deceased’s wishes. The transfer just happens (unless the decedent acts to stop or shape this natural transfer). Naturally.

The Torah recognizes and respects an organic transition from generation to generation. Conceptually speaking, one generation immediately shifts to fill the shoes of the previous one. Just like that.

In fact, the Hebrew word for ‘inheritance’ (nachala) is the same as ‘river’ (nachal), indicating the natural flow from one generation to the next.

This is why the Torah is called an ‘inheritance’. It’s ours, irrespective of whether we’ve taken actions to claim or deserve it. It passes from generation to generation, some appreciating it more than others. But it belongs to us all. Equally.

And, if you think about it, this IS something to celebrate. No matter how close you feel to the Torah right now, it’s your inheritance. Yours to claim, yours to study, yours to appreciate. Even if you’ve neglected it, no one can ever deny your fundamental right to it. There’s no statute of limitations, no need to deal with probate.


In a world that seems crazily volatile and unpredictable, our Jewish/Torah identity is stable and permanent. Your ancestors have bequeathed you a ‘piece of the Rock’.

See you on Monday for Simchat Torah: It’s time to dance!

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