1. It is customary in this farbrengen to make Kiddush publicly. The significance of this custom is emphasized by the statement of our Sages: “A matter of holiness should not be recited unless in the presence of ten (Jews).” In Tanya, the Alter Rebbe explains the great effect the presence of ten Jews has on all matters of Torah and Mitzvos. This also applies to Kiddush and is particularly true when making Kiddush during a “festival for rejoicing.” Joy and happiness are connected with large numbers of people, especially in regard to Simchas Torah which is a continuation of Sukkos, “the season of our rejoicing.”
In the Talmud (Shabbos 118b) there is an expression: “In what [Mitzvah] was your father most careful.” Although every Jew must fulfill all 248 positive commandments and 365 negative commandments, each has one Mitzvah which serves as the gate through which the totality of his performance of Torah and Mitzvos are elevated. This is the Mitzvah in which he is “most careful.” Similarly, although a Jew. is obligated to perform Mitzvos at all times and in all places, there are certain days which are connected to a specific quality of service. There are also certain place which are conducive to good and others to the opposite. The Temple is called “the places which the L-rd chose to have His Name dwell therein,” and Eretz Yisrael is “a land which the eyes of the L-rd ... are upon it from the beginning of the year until the end of the year.” Similarly, even in the present times, there are “small sanctuaries” whose holiness reflects that of the Temple.
All of these reasons support the custom of making Kiddush in [a holy place, in] public. Furthermore, there is the general principle that “the greater the number of people, the more glory is given to the King.” Since Kiddush brings joy, then had we indeed waited until the farbrengen to make Kiddush, it is possible that, in the time between the start of Simchas Torah and the farbrengen, some people would lack that joy that comes from Kiddush. The importance of this overrides the previous reasons for making Kiddush at the farbrengen, so instead we make Kiddush prior to the farbrengen.
We find ourselves however, in the darkness of Golus and in the Diaspora. Although we have recalled the Mitzvah of Hakhel through gatherings held during the holiday of Sukkos, and now during Shemini Atzeres these influences have been gathered within the individuals, nevertheless, it is possible that certain individuals have not made Kiddush, whatever the reason may be. Hence, one of these individuals should make Kiddush in public, thereby also helping the others to fulfill their duty of Kiddush.
The holiness of Yom Tov began from the first moment of the holiday, even before Kiddush was made. However, by making Kiddush we add joy, which is, in turn, drawn down throughout the entire year to come and all the years to follow. The name Tishrei contains the same letters as the word Raishes, meaning “the head of.” The month of Tishrei carries out a function analogous to the role played by the head in the human body, exerting a general influence affecting the entire year. Thus, Simchas Torah will be drawn down throughout the coming year.
2. Simchas Torah is called “the season of our rejoicing.” The previous Rebbe explained that the plural form is used to indicate two types of rejoicing — the rejoicing of the Jews in Torah and that of the Torah with the Jews. However, the name Simchas Torah — the rejoicing of the Torah, is in singular form, which seems to stress only the joy of Torah. The Torah rejoices because Simchas Torah marks the completion of the weekly cycle of Torah readings. However, this joy is not open and appreciable to the eyes of all. In order for the Torah to dance, it is necessary for a Jew to become its feet and carry it around the reader’s platform. If so, why is the joy of the Jewish people not mentioned at all? This omission is particularly significant because the name of any object is of special importance, being, in the Baal Shem Tov’s words, the force that gives life to the object and communicates its meaning.
Furthermore, the simple meaning of the rejoicing of Simchas Torah is not the joy of the Torah, but rather the joy of the Jewish people with the Torah. We can openly see that on Simchas Torah the Jews rejoice with the Torah and reach a higher level of joy than they reach even during the celebration of Simchas Bais HaShoeivah, where the joy of the Jews reached great heights. Our Sages explained that this joy was powerful enough to bring about Ruach HaKodesh, the holy spirit. The prophet Yonah was granted the gift of prophecy at the Simchas Bais HaShoeivah celebrations. While the joy of Simchas Torah is on an even higher level, the joy of the Jewish people is not alluded to in the name Simchas Torah. All that is emphasized is the rejoicing of the Torah. The explanation of the concept is as follows:
Torah and Israel are One. Through the study of Torah, “a wondrous unity, of which there is no like unity” is established between them. The concept of Torah becomes one with the person who learns it and with his thinking process, when the mind “grasps the concept and encompasses it. This concept is (in turn] grasped, enveloped, and enclothed within the intellect which conceived and comprehended it.” This unity is compared to the unity of G-d with His wisdom which is described as: “He is the Knower, He is the Knowledge, and He is the Known Thing.” Just as that unity is perfect, simple and non-composite, so is the unity between the Jews and Torah.
This concept comes from the Talmud, which states that a Torah Sage is permitted to forego the honor due to him. He should be respected, not because of his personal qualities, but rather because of his Torah knowledge. (Therefore, one might suppose that since this token of respect is due to Torah, not him, he is not allowed to forego it.) Nevertheless, that knowledge has become his, to the point where he can choose to either accept or reject that honor.
The above raises a question: When does a Jew become one with Torah knowledge? When he has learned it in depth, appreciating the full extent of the idea. However, on Simchas Torah there is no stress on profound study. Rather, the entire Jewish people: men, women, and children, even those who cannot understand the Torah’s depth, gather together to dance with the Torah. Even very young children are given a miniature Torah scroll or a flag with a picture of the Torah with which to dance. Furthermore, even those individuals who could possibly understand Torah’s deeper concepts do not approach Torah in an intellectual fashion, but sing and dance in a manner which is the opposite of the intellect. While it is true that, after Simchas Torah, this rejoicing may bring one to greater heights of understanding, in the midst of his rejoicing it is impossible for him to study with the Torah. The Torah is closed and covered with a mantle. Thus, it appears that the union established between a Jew and Torah through study is not present and the original question still applies. Why is the joy of the Jewish people not alluded to in the name Simchas Torah?
That difficulty can be resolved as follows: The Torah (Devarim 6:24) declares, “The L-rd commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the L-rd our G-d.” Included among “all these statutes” is the study of the Torah. Hence, the purpose of the study of Torah is to bring a Jew to the fear of G-d. A similar concept is derived from the explanation of our Sages’ statement that “If there is no wisdom, there is no fear. If there is no fear, there is no wisdom.” The question arises as to where one should begin; and the explanation is given that there are two levels of fear — one which precedes wisdom and one which follows as a result of wisdom. Chassidus calls them a “lower fear” and a “higher fear.” The lower level of fear is necessary to study Torah: through the study of Torah, one comes to higher fear.
The fear that precedes Torah study is expressed through the blessings before the reading of the Torah in which we praise G-d for “choosing us from all the nations.” Even though “The earth and all therein is the L-rd; the world and its inhabitants,” G-d chose the Jewish people and every Jew in particular to give him the Torah. Furthermore, as the blessing continues, the Torah is “His Torah,” G-d’s hidden treasure which He gives in a generous manner to every Jew. This awareness will trigger great fear in a Jew, even if he has not achieved great levels of understanding.
Afterwards, through the study of Torah, he will reach a higher level of fear. This particularly applies at present after “the wellsprings of Torah have spread outwards,” for Torah’s wellsprings come to each individual. If he applies himself to Torah study he will achieve. He will “know the G-d of your fathers” and this knowledge will allow him to “serve Him with a complete heart.” The Rambam writes: “What is the path to love and fear Him? When one meditates on His works ...” In order to meditate properly, one must have the lower level of fear, and through the meditation one attains the higher rung. Thus, we see that the intent of wisdom is to bring one to a higher level of fear.
Furthermore, there are more than two levels of fear, for every step forward in the study of Torah brings an individual to a higher level of fear. Nevertheless, there is a relationship between all these levels. All of them, from the highest to the lowest, share a common denominator; all bring about Bittul — self-nullification. The service of love does not lead to that attribute. On the contrary, even a Tzaddik who serves G-d with the “love of delights” retains his own personality, he has not attained true fear. Hence, all the various levels of love are different, for love relates to the person within the context of his self. On the other hand, all the levels of fear are the same; each individual has negated his personality, there are no longer any differences. Although explanations are given mentioning specific levels of fear, the differences among them are only external. In truth, every level of fear brings about self-negation. In the lower levels of fear, however, the self-negation has not permeated the totality of one’s personality. Chassidus explains this concept in regard to a “simple slave. “ He does not appreciate the qualities possessed by his master and would prefer to be ownerless. However, he realizes that he has been acquired by his master and hence acts faithfully, to the same degree as a slave who does appreciate his master. Furthermore, everything he acquires becomes his master’s. Although his self-negation comes about because of a very low level of fear — fear of punishment — it totally nullifies his self-identity, even though (as is evident from his desires) that self-negation has not permeated every aspect of his being. Thus, we see that all levels of fear are equal and they all possess the quality of the highest level of fear — utter self-nullification.
Through the above, we can appreciate how, on Simchas Torah, the joy of both the Torah and the Jewish people become one. The joy of Simchas Torah is related to the completion of the reading of the Torah. Hence, as explained above, since Torah study brings about fear, the Jews attain the highest levels of fear at that time. Since fear brings about Bittul, on Simchas Torah the Jew loses all awareness of his self-identity. Hence, there is no need to allude to them in the name Simchas Torah. There is only one entity — Torah; for the Jews have become totally nullified and merged with it.
The above explanation still leaves a question open. Since Simchas Torah comes about at the completion of the study of Torah, and after having learned wisdom one attains the higher level of fear, this self-nullification should occur more often whenever we finish the study of a tractate of the Talmud. Nevertheless, the completion of such study for example on Erev Pesach when the first-born complete a tractate does not bring about a reoccurrence of Simchas Torah.
The question can be answered by comparing the Written Law (which is concluded on Simchas Torah) with the Oral Law (of which each tractate is a part). The Rambam writes that “Torah was given with its explanation.” That statement implies that there are two aspects: “Torah, “ i.e. , the essence of Torah; and “its explanation” — that which can be conceived of intellectually. The Written Law is the essence of Torah and the Oral Law, its explanation. Surely, the Oral Law is based on the Written — obvious from such expressions as “from where are these words derived,” and “the verse declares,” that are found in the Talmud; nevertheless, it is not on the level of the Written. For this reason, a common person, who does not understand what is being read, makes a blessing before the reading of the Torah. Even though it is a severe sin to pronounce G-d’s name in vain, he is obligated to make a blessing. The fact that he does not understand the Torah does not detract from his relation to its essence, its aspects which transcend understanding.
According to the above, celebrations similar to that of Simchas Torah should be held whenever a person receives an Aliyah, for that brings out the essence of Torah. However, the cumulative effort produced by the completion of the entire Torah on Simchas Torah also contributes to that joy. Therefore, although every letter in the Torah is Ivan entire world,” for “the entire Torah contains the names of G-d,” the joy that is produced by the completion of the Torah is incomparably greater than that produced by reading the Torah throughout the year.
Thus, Simchas Torah is the joy of the Jews and the joy of the, Torah, the two joys becoming one. This joy is felt by every Jew — men, women, and children — from the heads of the nation to the lowest of the nation. Every individual rejoices with the Torah, through every aspect of his being from his head to his feet. Similarly, the entire Torah also rejoices. Both these joys are true and genuine. Not only does one sing and dance, but “all my entire body will declare it,” the joy becomes “bound up with all the 248 limbs.”
The unity between the joy of the Torah and the joy of Israel becomes complete. The bond is even greater than that alluded to in the name “the season of our rejoicing” which refers to the joy of the Jews and of G-d. Even though the two joys are combined in one word, there is a difference between them. Although, “Torah, Israel, and the Holy One blessed be He are one,” on a revealed level, there is a difference among them, except on Simchas Torah when a perfect and total unity is established among them. On a practical level, the service required on Simchas Torah is actual singing and actual dancing. Through these efforts we draw down joy for the entire year making it a year of Torah and then a year of redemption in which we will learn the Torah of Mashiach.
3. The Maamarim of the previous Rebbe explain that the verses of Ata Horaysa describe the reasons for the joy of Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah. There are seventeen verses in Ata Horaysa, the ‘gematria’ of the word Tov — good. our Sages explain that “there is no good except Torah.” Each of the seventeen verses gives another reason for joy.
Since, on Simchas Torah every Jew: men, women, and children take part in the celebration, these verses must be understood by even a young child. Though there are deeper explanations to these verses, even explanations that are “secrets of Torah,” there must be a simple meaning that is relevant to every Jew.
The first word of the opening verse of Ata Horaysa, Ata — You — is a reference to G-d’s essence. The only aspect of G-d which can be addressed directly as “Ata — You” is G-d’s essence. No other aspect of G-dliness is present in every place. Thus, the verse can be interpreted “You — G-d’s essence — have revealed Yourself so that we may know You.” This explanation must be made clear even to a small child.
However, this is precisely the level of G-dliness that a child relates to. The previous Rebbe explained that the Baal Shem Tov would travel through the fields and villages to speak with Jews, even tiny children, and prompt them to say “Baruch Hashem.” When a child says Baruch Hashem, he refers to G-d’s essence.
The Kabbalah declares that we should pray “to G-d (‘s essence) and not to His qualities;” the quality expressed in the prayer of a child. When a child prays to G-d, he does not know of any intermediate levels. He is not aware of the different levels of Sefiros; he only knows G-d’s essence. For this reason, the Tzemach Tzedek writes that even an adult should pray “with the intention of a child.” A child cannot comprehend angels, spiritual worlds, etc.; he understands everything simply. G-d has only one meaning for him.
This concept is further brought out by the phrase “Baruch Hashem.” Hashem is not one of G-d’s names. It does not refer to an intermediate level of G-dliness but to G-d’s essence. Similarly, in Torah or, the Alter Rebbe explains that the expression “the name of G-d is fixed in the mouth of all” refers to G-d’s essence.
Thus, when a child makes a blessing, “Blessed are You ... whose word all things came to be,” he states that since G-d has made the water, he will bless Him before he will drink. A child does not know that for the water to reach him, it was necessary to pass through an entire series of intermediate levels. At any number of stages, it could have been held back. It had to pass the angel Metatron, who is charged with sustenance, and then many other spiritual worlds before it could come down to the material plane. A child cannot comprehend these intermediate levels; when he says Baruch Ata, he addresses himself to G-d’s essence.
The child might be asked: Who is G-d whom you bless with Baruch Ata? The child will answer that he has a father who gives him all that he needs, and he has a Father in heaven, who gives his father everything he gives him. When the child refers to G-d as his father, he does not know that the level of Chochmah is called Father, he refers to G-d’s essence.
The child may be asked: How can you approach G-d if you cannot see Him? He will answer that he knows of the existence of many things; that even though he does not see them, they exist. For example, the air is necessary for his very life, yet he cannot see it. Similarly, G-d exists in every place.
According to the above, we can understand that the expression of Ata Horaysa as referring to G-d’s essence can be understood by a child. A child can appreciate the fact that, through Torah, “G-d revealed Himself in order that He be known.” This realization brings the child to great joy.
The verse continues: “that the L-rd is G-d;” — this also can be understood by a child. When he makes a blessing over the water, not only does he praise G-d, he recognizes how G-d, Himself, becomes one with the water. Even if the child is too young to have learned the verse, “In the beginning G-d created...”, he knows that G-d created the entire world. This refers to the name Yud-Hay-Vov-Hay that is translated as “the L-rd” — for the root Hay-Vov-Hay means “bring into being.” When the child sees water, he realizes that G-d is the strength behind the water. This is alluded to in the name Elokim — which refers to G-d as “the Master of all potential.” Thus, he understands that “the L-rd is G-d”, i.e., G-d is one with the water.
The verse continues: “there is none else aside from Him.” The child must realize that not only when he makes the blessing before and after drinking the water, but also while he is drinking, while the water is becoming part of the flesh and blood, “there is none else aside from Him.”
Chassidus explains that there are two types of unity between G-d and creation. The unity from above to below, and the unity from below to above. A child can also appreciate this concept in his own words. When he gets up in the morning, he recites, “Modeh Ani — I offer thanks to You ... for You have restored my soul to me.” He implies two different concepts:
1) He has a soul which G-d has given to him. Thus, he states that his existence stems from G-d. This is the unity from above to below.
2) That the soul “was restored to him,” i.e., the soul arises from him. G-d causes his existence to cease and then returns his soul. This is the unity from below to above. As the verse declares, the child can “know” all of the above.
May this affect those of great intellect in the same manner it affects young children and may they feel similar joy. The joy felt by a child is very great. The intellect and understanding of an adult obscures his power of faith, so the impression made upon him is not so great. However, a child is a believer, the son of a believer, and has no obstacles holding back his belief.
Ata Horaysa concludes with the verse: “From Zion shall go forth the Torah; and the word of the L-rd from Yerushalayim.” Torah refers to Horoah — directive for action, as does the expression “‘the word of G-d’ — this refers to Halachah.” When we apply ourselves to Torah, straining to discover the Halachah, we come to complete fear in a personal sense — this is the meaning of Yerushalayim.
From Simchas Torah, we must draw down joy for the entire year to internalize it. We must make a firm decision to increase our study of Torah, to study diligently and with excitement. Also, we must study all aspects of Torah. This will bring about a year of Torah and a year of redemption with the coming of Mashiach.
- (Back to text) Sukkos is also related to “the season of our freedom.” The Torah explains that the reason for the Mitzvah of Sukkos is “so that your future generations may know that I had the children of Israel dwell in Sukkos when I took them out of the land of Egypt.” The exodus from Egypt marks “the season of freedom.”
Similarly, Sukkos is connected with “the season of the giving of our Torah.” Every day, we bless G-d as “the Giver of the Torah,” using the present tense. This relationship is further accentuated on days when we perform unique Mitzvos, like Kiddush; at this time we are involved in Mitzvos that were included in the revelation at the giving of the Torah. This connection is further emphasized at present. Nevertheless, Sukkos and Simchas Torah are called “the season of our rejoicing” and not the other names.
- (Back to text) In general, it is explained that there are two joys — the joy of G-d as the verse declares, “G-d will rejoice in His deeds” and the joy of the Jewish people as the verse declares, “Israel will rejoice in their Maker.” They are combined in one word, for “Israel and G-d are one.”
- (Back to text) The Sefer HaChinuch writes that the love and fear of G-d are constant Mitzvos required of both men and women at all times, in all places.
- (Back to text) The variance between one I s conscious thought process and one’s true spiritual state is emphasized by the Rambam’s statement. He writes that if a Jew refuses to do something that he is required to do according to Torah, he is beaten until he agrees to do so. Furthermore, that action is considered willful. Even though his consent was obviously forced, since by nature the true inner will of every Jew is to follow Torah, his deed is viewed as an expression of those desires. Though the Yetzer Horah may prevent him from realizing this concept, this is his true self.
- (Back to text) Since, as explained above, all the levels of fear are one, this state would seem to continue throughout the year. Actually it does, but it is not revealed to the same degree. On Simchas Torah, when after attaining wisdom (completing the Torah) the Jews attain fear, the higher level of fear where self-negation is openly revealed, their oneness with Torah becomes complete.
- (Back to text) Likewise, the Written Law itself includes reasons. For example, the Mitzvah of Hakhel is intended “in order to hear and learn.... “ However, the essence of Torah is not limited by reason and even the reasons given by the Written Law are part of that essence. In contrast, the reasons given by the Oral Law are merely explanations of the Torah.
- (Back to text) The Midrash states that when the Jews study Torah “The Holy One blessed be He smiles and states ‘You have conquered Me My son.’” Thus, we see there is a difference between G-d and the Jews.
- (Back to text) The study of the Torah of Mashiach is alluded to in the verse “He will kiss me with the kisses of His mouth. The “Kiss” of G-d brought about the death of Miriam, Aharon, and Moshe. [Trans. Note: It revealed a greater level of spirituality than could be contained within the bodies.] However, in Messianic times, this level will be internalized within the Jewish people. This can be compared to the level of Rabbi Akiva who entered the Pardes (a mystical experience that raised him to the level of the world of Yetzirah or Briyah). He “entered in peace and left in peace.” Similarly, the Jewish people will receive these spiritual influences in peace, within the context of this world. However, the spiritual influences will be of a higher nature than the Pardes, reaching above the world of Atzilus to the level of Yechidah. This is related to Simchas Torah for then the level of Yechidah is revealed uniting all Jews to the point where there is no difference between them.
- (Back to text) For that reason, it is customary to honor a different person with the recitation of each verse of Ata Horaysa.
- (Back to text) Hence, R. Yaisa Saba (Zohar II, 62b) would pray for his food even when it was placed before him on the table. Even though, the judgment for one’s sustenance has been made on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and hence food was provided for him on his table, nevertheless, it was still necessary for him to pray for his food and to pray in a true sense.
- (Back to text) That name also alludes to a deeper meaning that G-d is “past, present, and future” simultaneously. However, that meaning cannot be appreciated by the child. All he knows is that G-d is the Creator.